Costigan & Cal FC Keen to Crash Gates Again

Amateurs Cal FC, authors of one of the biggest underdog runs in recent U.S. Open Cup memory, are back for the 2019 edition and hungry for more.
By: Anthony Massey

Keith Costigan remembers being in Germany when Cal FC made its historic run during the 2012 edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

A long-time contributor for FOX Soccer and FOX Sports, Costigan was on assignment for the network that summer as all-amateur Cal FC played its way to the 2012 tournament’s Fourth Round, beating MLS’ Portland Timbers along the way. “If I’m not mistaken we were in Munich at the time covering a Champions League Final,” said Costigan. “And I remember [co-host] Eric [Wynalda] saying, ‘Hey, we keep winning and your guys are going well.’”

(Cal FC's shock 1-0 win over Portland Timbers of MLS in the 2012 Open Cup)

Costigan, who previously served as an assistant coach at CSU-Bakersfield, helped Wynalda scout some of the players for that now-legendary Cal FC team.“Even though we were far away from it we were so excited for that run because of the players that I had sent down in Richie [Menjivar] and Beto [Navarro] and Pablo [Cruz],” Costigan said.

In the Caf FC Saddle
Fast-forward seven years and Costigan is now the head coach for Cal FC, the West Region open qualifier for the 2019 installment of the U.S. Open Cup. Cal FC, making a fifth tournament appearance, host FC Mulhouse Portland at 7:30 p.m. PT on Tuesday, May 7, at Irvine (Calif.)’s Orange County Great Park.

“A Portland team is going to come ready to play and be top level because why else would they be at this stage of the competition?” Costigan said.

Seven years has passed since 2012, but Cal FC has changed by staying the same.
“One of the reasons I think I was an attractive proposition to Cal FC owner Michael Friedman is because I knew pretty closely about Cal FC’s run in 2012,” Costigan said. “He knew I knew some of the same players like Richie, and obviously I know Eric very well from working together at FOX, so I was helpful there, and I think Michael knew I had that same list of players that fit together so well then.”  

(Richard Menjivar, a veteran of 2012 and a Salvadoran international [#16], is back again for Cal FC)

Menjivar was a student-athlete at CSU-Bakersfield during Costigan’s tenure, and last played for Penn FC (USL) before finding his way back to Cal FC. “I think it’s pretty cool because I had him in college and that was different times in our lives,” Menjivar said. “We went our separate ways for a little bit and I think it’s kind of interesting and really cool to see where our lives have gone and that we have the chance to work together again. I always thought he was a good coach in the way he approaches the game and it’s fun to see he’s still working toward the same goal of finding good players and creating a good style of play.”

Salvadoran International Returns
Now 28, Menjivar is an El Salvadorian international with a little more perspective on the club’s current run.“I’m just enjoying it so far and hopeful we can make some noise like we did a few years back,” Menjivar said. “I know that the club’s goal is to have a great run like we did last time and I think it’s definitely possible but we’re playing professionally-minded players so each game gets the attention it deserves.”

Menjivar is joined by Daniel Barrera as this year’s roster echoes that of the 2012 team.
“There are some similarities, in terms of some players who got overlooked in that sense that you wonder, ‘Why aren’t bigger teams taking a look at these guys?’,” Costigan said. “And I like having players like that on the field that have a point to prove.”

(The Open Cup is built on underdogs meeting big dogs - but rare are the days the former win out against the latter)

Among its many changes, Cal FC currently plays in the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL), and is unbeaten this season with a 7-0-1 league record. “We’re definitely not in U.S. Open Cup if we’re not playing in the UPSL,” Costigan said. “It’s been a massive factor to helping us get to where we want to be. I love the UPSL.”

Costigan remains under contract and continues to do regular TV and radio appearance for FOX Sports. “I do the TV work, but I’ve always worked hard on the coaching side so for me it’s about getting good players together that I know in the community and trying to utilize my coaching skills to develop a good team,” Costigan said. “It’s certainly a nice bonus to be in this competition.”

Relationships & Similarities
Costigan, who has been in Southern California for more than 15 years, intends to bring the same level of success to Cal FC in 2019. “I’ve built good relationships with players over the last decade,” he said. “Players who have been undervalued by teams at other levels, but they’ve always been players where I said, ‘If I had a team,’ then I would certainly get them.”

(To hear the 2019 team - and coach Keith Costigan - tell it, Cal FC are eager for more #Cupsets) 

Look a little deeper at the two groups of Cal FC players and you’ll find one shared characteristic, Costigan said. “Above all, I think that the key is both groups are humble groups of guys. Neither group thinks, ‘We have a God-given right to be here.’ They know they have to go out and work hard.”

Costigan had one experience in the U.S. Open Cup as a player back his USL days with Portland Timbers, so now he’s experienced the competition from all angles. “This is really fun to be around. I helped a bunch of these guys the first time at Cal FC, but this time, to be in amongst it, is really, really fun,” he said.