- READ MORE: Christos FC, USL, NASL Big Winners in 2017 US Open Cup Third Round
- WATCH VIDEO: Christos FC Brotherhood Chase Open Cup Glory
Christos’ well-earned windfall
It’s not about the money for Christos FC, everyone’s favorite underdogs and the lone part-timers left in the competition. But their win over Chicago FC United earned the club, sponsored for 20 years by a discount liquor store on the outskirts of Baltimore, $15,000 as the amateur side to make it farthest in the 2017 Open Cup. And if they didn’t burn through it all at the bar celebrating, the dough will come in handy for these boys from Maryland – who all pay dues and fees to play while working day-jobs – when time comes to arrange travel for their Fourth Round date with the well-paid and top-notch pros of D.C. United (MLS).
Omens’ Late-Round Knockout
GPS Omens were hanging on for dear-life in the dying moments of extra-time on the road against Rochester’s Rhinos (USL). It looked like the talented amateurs from Boston had done enough, arms wrapped in the ropes to guard against the knockout blow, to force the ‘99 Open Cup champs into a shootout. But Sammy Edoung-Biye’s diving header in the 120th minute – the last act of the game – sent Omens out. They’d traveled a long way, taking time off from day-jobs, and although they admitted to being “gutted” by the loss, they still managed to tweet out their customary pic of the boys sharing beers after game. Add style and class to their chops on the pitch, and let’s all raise a glass to GPS Omens.
Cincinnati Bite Back
It was always going to be a heated derby when FC Cincinnati hosted Louisville City FC. Let’s just say the two teams have history. Last time they met, Cincinnati striker Djiby Fall was judged to have bitten Louisville’s Niall McCabe, earning a stiff five-game league ban for his efforts. Whether there was a bite or not is a matter for the USL disciplinary panel and there will be vigorous debate between Cincinnati and Louisville fans for as long as the clubs shall live. But one thing is certain: Fall is taking full opportunity of his minutes in the 2017 Open Cup. He scored in the Second Round against AFC Cleveland and sunk his teeth into Louisville again – figuratively of course – with the only goal of their Third Round game. Up next for Cincinnati and the free-scoring Fall is a date with ‘02 Open Cup champs Columbus Crew SC, the MLS side from Ohio who wait with jaws wide open.
Top Shelf Buck
Remember this name: Francis Atuahene. While his Michigan Bucks were unable to survive past the Third Round, their shining star striker scored what might be the goal of the tournament in a losing effort against USL pros St. Louis FC. Atuahene, a lively front-runner from the University of Michigan who can put even the best defenders on their heels, was alive to a long-ball from his goalkeeper. A little flick-on helped it along and the Ghana-born ace swiveled and slammed the ball, that hadn’t yet touched the ground since leaving the gloves of ‘keeper Drew Shepherd, into the top corner. The Bucks, who compete in the Premier Development League (PDL) and are the Open Cup’s all-time top giant-killers, have unearthed a talent worthy of praise, and perhaps like club alums Pat Noonan and Kofi Opare before him, a place among the pros in the years to come.
Bond, Jake Bond
Reading United AC’s big win over the New York Cosmos was one of the sensations of the previous round. “We played nearly the perfect game,” said midfielder Marco Micaletto about the win – one of the biggest in the 21-year-old amateur club’s history. Reading scored three times and could have had more against the pros from the Big Apple, but they weren’t as sharp in the Third Round. They spurned a raft of golden chances in front of goal, and as any coach will say, you’ll be punished if you don’t take your chances. It’s a good lesson for any would-be pros and one the sharp band of international youngsters from Reading, PA will do well to take to heart. No-nonsense defender Jake Bond of Harrisburg City Islanders – Reading’s opponent on the day – showed how it’s done. He scored twice in a simple, clinical and totally professional performance.
Poku, Miami’s Heartbeat
Miami FC bossed their all-South-Florida derby against Tampa Bay Rowdies from the opening whistle. And at the heart of every substantive action was one man: Kwadwo Poku. He was a colossus pushing up through midfield and the rhythm of the game – a 2-0 win for the home side – seemed to flow through the Kumasi-born giant. The once-capped Ghanaian international seems to have a special knack for the Open Cup. As an unknown playing for Atlanta Silverbacks in 2014, he scored a late winner in a shock Fourth Round upset of Real Salt Lake. It spurred then-coach Eric Wynalda to say Poku might actually “be too good for MLS.” An up-and-down season for New York City FC proved otherwise, but he’s humming with Miami now. Up next for Alessandro Nesta’s men is a date with MLS outfit Orlando City, who would do well to keep an eye on Poku.
Heinemann’s Late-Show Double Feature
It all happened late in Arizona when hometown Phoenix Rising hosted San Francisco Deltas. The first goal came after 81 minutes from a Kyle Bekker free-kick, which Phoenix’s former Mexico international Omar Bravo equalized from the spot shortly after. The game looked set for extra-time when, a deep five minutes into stoppage time, 30-year-old veteran Tommy Heinemann popped up to steal advancement for San Francisco. It was a match-winner, and his first touch of the game – something he’s making a habit of. He pulled off the same trick two weeks before in the win over amateur side Burlingame Dragons. Note to Deltas coach Marc dos Santos: put the wild-haired Heinemann in if the game’s on the line in the mid-June Fourth Round match against San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer.
The Fondest of Farewells
The Open Cup is nothing without its part-time strivers, those amateurs that pile in vans and get out on the long, lonesome road. They make their own plans and their own choices. Some wash their own kit and their socks won’t always match, but they let us share, for a few weeks at least, in their dreams. And in that spirit, we say thank you and goodbye to the Michigan Bucks, who’ve earned the admiration of everyone watching what’s happening in their echoing indoor home in Pontiac. Adieu also to GPS Omens of Boston – may your post-game beers always be ice-cold. Adios too to lively youngsters Chicago FC United and the fiery L.A. Wolves, whose sacrifices in reaching the Third Round of the Open Cup are many and recognized. We hope to see all of you again soon.