All For One and One For All For FORO SC’s Dream Weavers

FORO SC are one of seven amateur teams who bested pro opponents to move through the 2024 Second Round – and we caught up for a chat with a few of the Dallas club’s ambitious part-timers.
By: Dan Vaughn

The story of the Open Cup will forever be the story of the underdog.

Sure, the odds are always stacked against their deep runs – or them getting to a Semifinal, let alone a Final. But rooting for a club that’s battling against those long odds touches us somewhere down deep as soccer fans and human beings. It’s why amateur clubs like FORO SC get involved in the competition – and grind it out through a four-game Qualifying Round every fall.

They believe in the improbable, because it’s not impossible. Upsets happen, underdogs win, scripts get flipped. FORO SC are living proof of it.

The Dallas-based amateurs traveled to play Austin FC II – an MLS NEXT Pro club – last week in the First Round of this year’s Open Cup. The hosts were fully professional and stocked deep with talent ready for a move up the ladder of the American professional scene.

“I think the boys knew we were the underdogs going into that game, of course,” said FORO defender and team captain Ivan Bengono about the mood in the locker room ahead of the match. “But we went in with heart. We believed that we could win.

FORO SC’s Shootout win over Austin FC II was their first in Open Cup play

“We believed that we have good quality, as well,” said the Scotland-born player who graduated from Lubbock Christian University. “So I don't think we were scared. I think we went in more excited and thrilled by the challenge of facing Austin.”

Up & Down Affair in Austin

That belief saw FORO go toe-to-toe with the home side in the first half of the match. In fact, it was the amateur side that drew first blood, scoring on the stroke of halftime. In the second half, Austin FC II equalized before going up a man up after a late red card to the visitors. After exchanging goals in extra-time, the match was settled via a penalty shootout – and it was the amateurs who traveled home with a song in their heart and a road win against a professional club to boast about.

When asked about the match with Austin FC II, Bob Peinado, the CEO and founder of FORO SC, sees the win as the next step in a journey that started years ago.

“We've been to the UPSL Championship three times. We have one of the best squads that's not paid in the country. We’ve got some really great committed players, who just love soccer, who have day jobs, who still aspire to go further.” Peinado added.

That winning feeling from the First Round in Austin

Peinado feels it's the wins and losses – all the experiences – that have made the club believe they can win regardless of who they’re facing on the day. “I think there's a lot of belief in the club,” he said. “I think the players that we have, and the coaching staff that we have, helps a lot with that belief.

“A good bunch of lads I think have grown more through the season, especially to this tournament,” added Peinado. It’s that belief that sparked this group of amateurs to overcome setbacks and long odds and find the will to win in the 2024 Open Cup’s First Round.

Amateur-on-Amateur in Second Round

FORO’s bold triumph over a professional side has brought them to a more even matchup in the Second Round  – at least on paper – with another amateur club from the Lone Star State, the Lubbock Matadors. But Peinado doesn’t see this match as any easier.

“Soccer is unpredictable,” he said. “Anybody could beat almost anybody at a given moment at a given game. I think that our boys know what they're capable of now and they're gonna go in and not take things for granted.” Bengono is on the same page as his club owner: “I think we're not gonna go into that game thinking, oh it’s another amateur club. We're going in thinking it's another tough opponent – another tough challenge that we're gonna have to take on, but we’re excited about it.”

With the match taking place in Lubbock, the atmosphere should be electric. The Matadors are known for drawing great crowds and producing spectacular game-day experiences and their First Round upset of Arizona Monsoon (the Div. III NISA pros) was no exception.

Both clubs are riding high after knocking off professional teams in their first matches. And FORO SC will now have to lean on their past experiences of road challenges, both wins and losses, in order to be up to the newest test they face in this historic Open Cup run.

Dan Vaughn is a veteran soccer journalist and the founder and editor of Protagonist Soccer. Follow him at @TheDanVaughn on X/Twitter.