[Vereinigung Erzgebirge Photo Courtesy of Carl Gulbish]
The 35 games of the First Qualifying Round of the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup produced lopsided routs, last-second drama and all the chaos you’ve come to expect from the early, and mostly amateur, stages of American soccer’s oldest tournament.
Half of the 70 teams in action suffered the heartache of elimination at the first hurdle while the other half lived on to fight another day when the Second Qualifying Round kicks off between 15-16 October.
Star Turns in Queens
Call him King Jona, or Jonaniho – even his given name of Jonathan Santillan will do. Whatever you prefer, the Anaheim-born striker turned up the heat as soon-to-be USL Championship side Queensboro FC, launched to much fanfare with celebrity ownership back in 2019, made a memorable Open Cup debut with their reserve team. The 18-year-old LA Galaxy product, who was crowned top-scorer in the most recent UPSL national playoffs and scored 30 goals in that league’s Spring Season, went on a tear with four of his side’s five goals in a rout of New Jersey’s historic Scots-Americans.
Kurt Cameron (the former Seton Hall standout and Cosmopolitan League scoring machine) hit a hat-trick of his own for the New York Greek Americans in a pulsating game out of the Northeast on Sunday. The former Shamrocks striker nabbed all three of his side’s goals on his club debut in a 3-3 draw against 2019 National Amateur Cup champions Newtown Pride FC from the Connecticut Soccer League.
Kurt Cameron makes his debut for the Greek Americans in the Lamar Hunt Open Cup with a hat trick on Newtown Pride. 🇬🇷⚽️🇬🇷@EPSLsoccer @opencup @CosmoLeague @LISFLSoccer @USASARegion1 @ENYSSASoccer pic.twitter.com/EHrZJswELQ— Greek American SC (@NYGreekAmerican) September 19, 2022
The game needed extra-time and eventually penalties to separate the sides. And the marathon shootout required 21 kicks from the spot to settle the affair 11-10 in favor of the four-time Open Cup champions from the 1960s and 70s.
Historic Clubs and New Blood
While the Greek Americans rolled back the glory years, some of the other traditional amateur powers – with their own historic pedigree in the tournament – didn’t fare as well. Three-time champions from the 1980s, the NY Pancyprian Freedoms lost 1-0 to SC Vistula of New Jersey.
The Ukrainian Nationals (born of the Philadelphia-based side that won four Open Cups in the 1960s) started strong against amateur powers West Chester United only to lose out to Blaise Santeangello’s well-drilled side 2-1.
The game, played at the Ukrainians’ complex in North Wales, Pennsylvania, was tight the whole way and eventually decided by a Derek Ramirez penalty kick late in second-half stoppage time.
The United German Hungarians of Philadelphia, who twice reached the Open Cup Final, recaptured the energy of old with a 3-0 win on the road at Kensington SC, while Vereinigung Erzgebirge, founded in 1931 and playing at their tree-lined home in Warminster, Pa., also booked a place in the next round.
Aiming for Repeat Open Cups
Oyster Bay United, out of Long Island and only founded as a club last year, are targeting a second straight appearance in the Open Cup proper. Their 2-1 win over New Jersey Alliance was no cake-walk, though, and needed extra-time to find a winner. It was also a tense one for 2022 Open Cup alumni Nova FC out of Leesburg, Virginia – who suffered through 120 minutes of scoreless play against Steel Pulse FC to win a via shootout 3-1 and move through to the Second Qualifying Round.
Lansdowne Yonkers – hunting a place in a second-straight Open Cup and led by former captain and defender Sean Kelly – had no such troubles in their first outing. A 5-0 rout of the Manhattan Kickers at their home field of Tibbets Brooks Park means the Bhoys have now outscored their opponents in league and Cup play 18-1 this term.
City Soccer FC took a step closer to reaching their second Open Cup in a row with a 3-2 win over 2019 tournament sensations the Florida Soccer Soldiers in one of seven games down in the Sunshine State.
First Round Qualifying Results in the East
Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals 1-2 West Chester United SC
Oyster Bay United FC 2-1 New Jersey Alliance FC
Florida Soccer Soldiers 2-3 City Soccer FC
Club de Lyon 3-0 Deportivo Lake Mary
Juventus Academy 4-3 Doral SC
Germantown City FC 2-1 Aegean Hawks
SC Vistula Garfield 1-0 NY Pancyprian Freedoms
Nova FC 0-0 | (3-1 pen) Steel Pulse FC
Lansdowne Yonkers FC 5-0 Manhattan Kickers
Ruggles Pro FC FC 0-0 | (8-9 pen) Boston Street FC
Vereinigung Erzgebirge 2-1 Philadelphia Lone Star
Lancaster City FC 2-3 Lancaster Elite
Team Tevez 2-4 DCFC
NY Greek Americans 3-3 | (11-10 pen) Newtown Pride FC
Clearwater Chargers 0-4 Florida Premier FC
Kensington SC 0-3 United German Hungarians
Miami United FC 3-1 Florida Brothers
Real Central NJ 2-4 Jackson Lions FC
Scots-Americans AC 0-5 Queensboro FC II
Miami Soccer Academy 2-1 O’Shea’s FC
International Soccer Assoc. 5-3 West Palm Beach Academy CF
Goal Glut out West
Houston FC fed the Galveston Pelicans the worst drubbing of the 35 First Round games with a 10-1 result in the all-Texas contest. And while it wasn’t quite the same double-digit affair when D’Feeters Kicks Soccer Club bested FC Fort Worth on the road, the 5-1 victory was still enough to see the outstanding Dallas-based club take a step toward reaching a second consecutive (and second-ever) U.S. Open Cup.
There were two more lopsided routs out West. The Valley FC Raiders made easy work of FC Arizona 6-1 and the Bay Area’s Inter San Francisco, on the strength of a pair of goals from former Chicago Fire player Matt Fondy, strolled past Marin County Union SC by a score of 5-0.
Another Colorado Clasico
FC Denver edged out near-neighbors and Colorado amateur rivals Harpos FC with a 2-1 result that saw them through to the Second Qualifying Round and a shot at a first Open Cup appearance since 2018.
California to the Fore
The Golden State will send eight representatives to the Second Qualifying Round. There the octet will meet up with fellow Californians Desert FC, Real San Jose, Temecula FC and Elk Grove Blues – who all moved through the next round with byes.
Among the California clubs with winning starts in the First Round were Orange County FC, who, led by former USMNT star Paul Caligiuri, ranked among the darlings of the 2019 Open Cup. Back then they beat USL Championship sides Orange County SC and Las Vegas Lights in a run to the Third Round.
First Round Qualifying Results in the West
Houston FC 10-1 Galveston Pelicans
FC Fort Worth 1-5 D’Feeters Kicks Soccer Club
LA Monsters FC 3-0 Irvine FC
FC Denver 2-1 Harpos FC
FC Arizona 1-6 Valley FC Raiders
Laguna United FC 3-0 Olympiacos CA
UC DAvis Club Soccer 3-4 Davis Legacy SC
AC of Sloan’s Lake 3-0 Peak Eleven FC
Colorado Rovers 1-3 Azteca FC
Inter San Francisco 5-0 Marin County Union SC
Outbreak FC 0-0 | (4-2 pen) A.S. Los Angeles
Rebels Soccer Club 2-2 | (3-4 pen) Escondido FC
OC Kings FC – Capo FC (win by forfeit)
Trojans FC 1-3 Orange County FC
Fontela is editor-in-chief of usopencup.com. Follow him at @jonahfontela on Twitter.