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US Soccer

The Great Eight Rd. 2: Brothers Opposed, Swollen Scorelines & Seven Cupsets

Fans of the 105-year-old Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup live by its magic moments. And the Second Round of the 2018 competition tossed up a good few of those on May 16. Join ussoccer.com for a look back at eight moments of note from the 24 games, in which a pair of brothers squared off in Carolina, nine amateur strivers booked places in the Third Round, things got weird in Vegas and we said goodbye to a band of merry part-timers who will be missed.

The Mice that Roar
The light was strange on the outskirts of Phoenix – a burnt red like pulverized brick – when amateurs Sporting Arizona FC finished the 24-game Second Round late with a shootout win over Phoenix Rising - a pro USL club part-owned by Didier Drogba (who also lines up for the team, though not on this night). The celebrations were raucous and grateful and full of emotion – and they seemed to speak to something pure about the Open Cup. There was magic dust in the air elsewhere as well. Ocean City Nor’Easters, out of Jersey, rolled over pros Charlotte Independence. FC Wichita and NTX Rayados (both amateurs) will meet in the Third Round after beating full-timers, guaranteeing one of them a date with an MLS team in the Fourth Round. Mississippi Brilla became the first team from the Magnolia State to reach the Third Round of an Open Cup after a slim 1-0 win over Indy Eleven that sparked the kind of celebrations only the Open Cup generates. In all, seven amateur teams beat pro opposition and nine of them live to fight another day in next week’s Third Round. Stand up, boys, and take a bow.


(The sky turned red when Sporting Arizona FC knocked out full-pros Phoenix Rising - photo Christopher Viveros)

Lou City’s Tough Love
Louisville City just don’t give a damn about your Open Cup romance. The USL pros proved it for a second year straight when they beat up-by-the bootstraps amateurs Long Island Rough Riders (PDL) 5-0 in the teams’ Second Round contest. They stomped on the gas early and never let up. Just like they did last year, opening their account then by beating pub club hopefuls Tartan Devils Oak Avalon – a team with a dream out of Pittsburgh – by a whopping 9-0. The coach on that day (same as now) was Irishman James O’Conner, who remembers his playing days in the FA Cup fondly. He’s no bully, and neither is his team. Far from it. “It’s important to approach a game, any game no matter who or what level – MLS or pub team – the same way,” he told ussoccer.com. “That’s how you show a team and the Cup respect.” It’s a fact, and the Rough Riders can consider themselves respected (heavily).

Brother Against Brother in Cary, N.C.
The Lansdowne Bhoys, most Irish-born with heavy accents, call their giant goalkeeper from the Gambia Kabo for short. It’s easier that way – Abdoukarim Kabo Dansomakes is more than a mouthful. North Carolina FC’s players call their burly defender Futty – again, it’s simpler. The two brothers, Abdoukarim of the double national amateur cup winners, and Mamadou – a full professional veteran with stints in MLS before landing in USL – squared off in the Open Cup’s Second Round on Wednesday. After the game, a 3-0 loss in which the Bhoys were outplayed all over the field, the big brothers who hail from Africa’s northwest corner (Futty wears No. 98 & Kabo wears No. 99) wore a pair of giant smiles and shared in an embrace. One was a winner on the day, the other a loser – as the Open Cup dictates – but they’re brothers for life.


(Kabo & Futty, brothers from the Gambia, lined up against each other in the Open Cup's Second Round - photo Rob Kinnan)

Goals, Goals, Goals & a Reno Jackpot
For the second round in a row, the tournament produced zero goalless draws (after 90 minutes or extra-time) – proof, irrefutable and notarized, that a good offense is the best defense against getting eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup. In all, there were 93 goals scored over the 24 games played (an average of nearly four per game). Ten of them came in Reno, Nevada. Portland Timbers U23, who scored five times in an opening-round rout of Kitsap Pumas, began the scoring on the night by taking a 2-0 lead over Reno 1868 – the Biggest Little City in the World’s USL pro team. The home boys woke from their slumber in the second half and didn’t stop scoring until they were 7-3 winners on the day. Yep, you heard that right. And kudos to the young Timbers who scored eight goals in two games – there’s no better way to go out of an Open Cup than riding a wave of goals.

What Happens in Vegas…is Weird

There’s something strange going on in Las Vegas – which is normal. But now it’s happening on (and around) the soccer field. Is that Flava Flav turning up to Las Vegas Lights games? Yes. Are the team’s mascots a pair of long-eye-lashed (live) Llamas named Dolly and Dotty? Yes. Does Freddy Adu play for this team in pink and yellow neon jerseys? Yes. Did their goalkeeper, Gage Rogers, take a free kick and hit the crossbar in their first-ever Open Cup game in #USOC2018’s Second Round? Why yes, he did. Las Vegas Lights – a first-year USL team from the City of Sin – lit up their first taste of American soccer’s oldest competition, beating spirited amateurs FC Tucson 4-2 in a game that swung back-and-forth like a Cirque du Soleil trapeze artist. Up next, the Lights travel to Orange County to take on FC Golden State Force. We’ll find out if the circus act works on the road or if what happened in Vegas, stays in Vegas.


(A pair of Llamas - Dotty & Dolly - line up with USL's Las Vegas Lights - nothing to see here - Photo L.E. Baskow)

FC Cincinnati v. Detroit City – On & Off the Field
They’d been going at each other all week on Twitter. Detroit City’s fans were better, their club more authentic, they insisted. FC Cincinnati’s supporters, unsurprisingly, disagreed. It wasn’t always friendly. There was irritation that the home side decided to play at a smaller venue than their usual Nippert Stadium (a pivotal character in FCC’s run to the semifinals of last year’s Open Cup). Detroit fans, unsurprisingly, were miffed at the small number of tickets made available to their traveling band of die-hards. In the end, as has been, is and will always be, the matter was settled on the field. There was nothing between the teams in the first-half. The scrappy amateurs from the Motor City held their own, taking the lead before finishing regulation tied 1-1. Extra-time proved a different story and Emery Welshman used his superior pace (and professional fitness) to send DCFC out of the Cup while collecting a hat-trick for his troubles. Their disappointment at the defeat didn’t keep the traveling Detroit City fans from helping to pick up trash left behind in the bleachers. Class – on and off the field. 

Mother Nature – Open Cup Ever-Present
It’s springtime and the weather can be tricky across the plains and mountains and swamps and deserts and coasts of this huge and at times uncooperative land. Four games in Florida had to be delayed for fast-moving storms. A derby in Nashville, Tennessee between Nashville SC and Inter Nashville FC, had to be stopped and restarted after a 45-minute break. The heat in Midland, Texas where San Antonio FC hammered the Midland-Odessa Sockers, reached 101 degrees at kick-off. And over in Phoenix, where Sporting AZ FC and their veteran goalkeeper Andrew Weber made magic, there was sand in the air and the sky glowed an ominous red. Snow was spotted in Reno, Nevada before kick-off. Penn FC were waylaid by human nature when they got caught in rush-hour traffic. This is the Open Cup: many moving parts, but much to savor amid the unforeseen frustrations.


(How's that for some weather rolling in? The sky went wild over Nashville on Wednesday)

Fond Farewell
In among the upsets and the dreams, we’d be wrong not to spare a thought for those clubs who took their leave. With every rise, a fall; this is the Open Cup after all. There’s no winner without a loser – no draws here. Nothing to share. So, let us wish all the best to Sean Kelly and all the Bhoys from Yonkers, who are back at work today, building the offices and high-rises of Manhattan, wishing they’d gone a little farther – one round more maybe. And Reading United, those plucky young men from PA, who leave the Open Cup undefeated after winning in a shootout in the First Round and losing by that same sword in the Second. We’ll have to wonder what they might have done with a few more weeks to get to know each other. And Detroit City, we’ll miss you noisy folks, too. Thanks for bringing your own brand of magic to the Open Cup – and showing us into your lovely home in Hamtramck. To you and all the other dearly departed, thanks for showing us what grassroots soccer really means to America.

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U.S. Open Cup May 17, 2018
US Soccer

Seven Amateur Teams Upset Professional Sides in Second Round of 2018 U.S. Open Cup

CHICAGO (May 16, 2018) – The Second Round of the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup provided a bevy of upsets as local amateur qualifiers NTX Rayados and Sporting AZ FC along with the Premier Development League trio of Ocean City Nor’easters, Mississippi Brilla and FC Golden State Force and National Premier Soccer League duo Jacksonville Armada and FC Wichita all took down Division II professional sides to be among the 24 teams that advanced to the Third Round of the 2018 U.S. Open Cup. The Third Round is set for May 22-23, with the winners earning a Fourth Round date against a Division I, Major League Soccer side two weeks later.

Out east, Ocean City was the only amateur side able to overcome professional opposition, knocking off Charlotte Independence 3-1. However, the Nor’easters weren’t the only Open Division side to advance from the Northeast region as Elm City Express (NPSL) grabbed a late 2-0 win against PDL opponents Seacoast United Phantoms.

In the Southeast and West regions, the shock results rolled in, beginning with Mississippi Brilla’s unforeseen 1-0 win against established pros Indy Eleven, while NTX Rayados and FC Wichita both found themselves in high-scoring affairs against OKC Energy (USL) and Tulsa Roughnecks (USL), respectively.

And the surprises weren’t done until the final kick of the night when Sporting AZ FC slipped past local professional foes Phoenix Rising 5-4 on PKs.

The Third Round pits the 24 winners from the Second Round against one another with the victors advancing to take on Division I Major League Soccer clubs in the Fourth Round. The Third Round is made up of 15 Division II USL sides and nine Open Division clubs (four from NPSL, three from PDL and a pair of local amateur qualifiers).

A minimum of two teams from the Open Division are guaranteed to reach the Fourth Round and face MLS sides: the winner of Jacksonville Armada FC (NPSL) vs. Miami United FC (NPSL) and winner of NTX Rayados (Texas) vs. FC Wichita (NPSL). There is the potential for up to five other Open Division teams to join them:

  • Ocean City Nor'easters (PDL)
  • Elm City Express (NPSL)
  • Mississippi Brilla FC (PDL)
  • Sporting AZ FC (Ariz.)
  • FC Golden State Force (PDL)

U.S. Soccer will conduct the Fourth Round Draw for the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Thursday, May 24 at Soccer House in Chicago. The Fourth Round is scheduled to be played June 6.

SECOND ROUND RECAPS :

North Carolina FC (USL) 3, Lansdowne Bhoys (N.Y.) 0
Goals at the start and end of the first half fueled North Carolina FC (USL) in its 3-0 win over Lansdowne Bhoys (Cosmopolitan Soccer League) at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. Only two minutes into the match, Connor Tobin tallied on his first touch of the season off a Kyle Becker feed. Marios Lomis chipped the Lansdowne goalkeeper off a Dre Fortune feed to double the margin in the 44th minute against the defending National Amateur Cup champions. Bernhard Luxbacher closed out the scoring with his first NCFC goal off Becker's second assist in the 74th. North Carolina FC will host the Ocean City Nor'easters in Cary, N.C. in the Third Round.

Erie Commodores FC (NPSL) 1, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (USL) 2
Donning the black and yellow that is synonymous with its city, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC found the back of the net twice in the first 30 minutes and held off the upset-minded Erie Commondores FC, 2-1, in the Second Round of the 2018 U.S. Open Cup. Thomas Vancaeyezeele got the scoring started just four minutes into the match, heading home a corner from Kevin Kerr. Twenty minutes later, Kerr got a goal of his own when he buried a penalty from the spot. Cam Philpot pulled one back for Erie just before halftime, but the hosts were unable to find the equalizer in the final 45 minutes. Pittsburgh moves on to host FC Cincinnati in the Third Round on Wednesday.

Reading United AC (PDL) 1, Richmond Kickers (USL) 1 (3-4 PKs)
Goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg made two saves in a 4-3 shootout win to boost the Richmond Kickers over Reading United AC and into the third round at Alvernia University Stadium in Reading, Pa. The teams played to a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes. Spangenberg denied Alexander Lipinski on Reading's third penalty before making a diving save on Khori Bennett's attempt on the final penalty kick. Midfielder Neil Hlavaty converted what proved to be the game-winning PK on Richmond's fifth attempt. The Kickers grabbed the lead in the eighth minute as Koby Osei-Wusu scored his first goal for the club. Reading managed to knot things up in the 70th minute. Richmond will host Penn FC (USL) in the third round at John Gurski Stadium at Wilson H.S. in West Lawn, Pa. on Wednesday, May 23.

Louisville City FC (USL) 5, Long Island Rough Riders (PDL) 0
Louisville City FC turned in one of the most dominant victories of the young 2018 U.S. Open Cup over the Long Island Rough Riders, winning 5-0 in the Bluegrass State. After Long Island's barnburner first round victory, the reigning USL champions proved too much to handle. The USL side broke through in the 25th minute when Kyle Smith knocked in a ball from Ilija Ilic to give the Boys in Purple a lead they would not relinquish. Ilic notched a goal of his own in the 37th minute, burying a header to double Louisville's lead before half. The Derby City side continued to pad its lead after the half. Luke Spencer netted in the 68th minute and Brian Ownby blasted a shot to the top right corner in the 81st to put the game firmly out of reach. Cameron Lancaster provided a final exclamation point in the 86th minute, launching a free kick into the back of the net. After a dominant performance, Louisville will look to ride the momentum into the Third Round against St. Louis FC on May 23.

FC Motown (NPSL) 1, Penn FC (USL) 3
Faced with a one-goal deficit on the road entering the final 11 minutes, Penn FC struck three times to seal a comeback victory at Ranger Stadium on the campus of Drew University in Madison, N.J. Miguel Jaime equalized in the 79th minute before Prince Baffoe put the Pennsylvania side into the lead a minute later. One minute into stoppage time, Pedro Fidalgo Galvão added an insurance tally. Former MLS midfielder Dilly Duka, the hero of FC Motown's first-round win, scored in the 54th minute when Chris Katona intercepted and fed Duka, who worked his way into the penalty area and drilled a shot into the far side netting. Penn FC will meet Richmond Kickers (USL) in the Third Round on Wednesday, May 23.

Seacoast United Phantoms (PDL) 0, Elm City Express (NPSL) 2
Two rounds of the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup have seen Elm City Express take down two Premier Development League sides on the road. A week after seeing off perennial PDL power Western Mass Pioneers, the Connecticut club traveled back to Massachusetts for an encounter with Seacoast United Phantoms. Just like last week, Shaquille Saunchez opened the scoring for the visitors in the 80th minute and as the hosts pushed forward for a late equalizer, added his second of the match and third of tournament to seal the 2-0 victory for the NPSL side. Elm City Express moves on to a Third Round date at USL side Charleston Battery on Wednesday, May 23.

FC Cincinnati (USL) 4, Detroit City FC (NPSL) 1 (a.e.t.)
The upstarts from Detroit City FC made last year’s professional Cinderellas sweat, but FC Cincinnati’s quality shined through in extra time as the hosts pulled away for a 4-1 victory. The amateurs struck first in the 31st minute when Danny Deakin found Shawn Lawson on the counter wide open in front of net. The advantage did not last, however, as FC Cincinnati responded just four minutes later on an Emery Welshman header. The two sides remained level for the rest of regulation before FC Cincinnati fired home two goals in five minutes of the first period of extra time to put the game to rest. Corben Bone got the first, followed by a screamer from Welshman to bag his brace. Welshman completed his hat trick in the second period of extra time, beating the Detroit City FC ‘keeper far post on a counterattack. FC Cincinnati moves on to face Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in the Third Round of the 2018 U.S. Open Cup.

Charlotte Independence (USL) 1, Ocean City Nor'easters (PDL) 3
The Ocean City Nor'easters (PDL) pulled off a major upset, stunning the Charlotte Independence (USL) by connecting for three first-half goals en route to a 3-1 win at Mecklenburg County Sportsplex in Matthews, N.C. In fact, the visitors bolted out a 2-0 lead within seven minutes behind two Kyle Gurrieri goals. Gurrieri slotted home the rebound of a Williams N'Dah shot from atop the penalty area before he converted a Deri Corfe feed at the back post three minutes later. Corfe continued his playmaking in the 44th minute, finding Fredlin “Fredinho” Mompremier at the top of the box before he finished at the near post. Jorge Herrera pulled one back for the hosts in the 58th minute. Ocean City will visit North Carolina FC for a Third Round encounter at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. on Tuesday, May 22.

Charleston Battery (USL) 1, South Georgia Tormenta FC (PDL) 0
The Charleston Battery held off a tenacious effort from PDL side South Georgia Tormenta FC to win 1-0 and secure its place in the Third Round of the U.S. Open Cup. Last week, Tormenta used a late rally to stay alive in the tournament but the Battery’s lone first half goal proved too great a deficit to overcome. Charleston dictated the tempo in the early-going. After a spell of patient build-up midway through the half, Nico Rittmeyer made a run from the right wing to the center of the field before dishing wide to Victor Mansaray. He chipped it up above the six yard line, where Patrick Okonkwo headed it to the near post for the game’s lone score. The Battery advance to face reigning NPSL champion Elm City Express on May 23. 

Jacksonville Armada FC (NPSL) 1, Tampa Bay Rowdies (USL) 0
Severe weather delayed kickoff for over an hour, but it didn’t take away Jacksonville Armada FC’s appetite for victory, as the NPSL side outlasted Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-0 at Southern Oak Stadium. An even first half gave way to the game’s only goal just before the hour mark, as a build-up down the left gave Armada attacker J.C. Banks an open look at goal. The son of 1990 U.S. World Cup defender Jimmy Banks made no mistake in slotting a low effort inside the left post in the 58th minute. Pushing for an equalizer, Tampa Bay almost pulled level, but saw Zac Portillos’ 71 st minute effort clang off the cross bar before Armada FC closed out the victory. With the win, Jacksonville advances to the Third Round where they’ll host Miami United FC on Wednesday, May 23.

Miami FC 2 1, Miami United FC 3
Miami FC, quarterfinalists in last year’s Open Cup, hosted Miami United FC in a Miami derby dubbed the “Magic City Clasico.” Dylan Mares provided a strong start for the hosts when he powered in a half volley to put Miami FC on top in the 17th minute. But in first half stoppage time, his teammate Kristopher Tyrpak was shown a straight red card for an off the ball foul and everything changed. Miami United took control of the match early in the second half; David Ochoa leveled five minutes after the interval. Three minutes later, Ochoa scored again, and United was over the hills and far away. Miami FC goalkeeper Daniel Vega gave the hosts a fighting chance with several great stops in the second half. But United’s Victor Pelae scored in second half stoppage to send the visiting “La 12 United” supporters into a frenzy as Miami United wrapped up the 3-1 win. Miami United travels to Jacksonville to face the Armada in the Third Round.

Mississippi Brilla FC (PDL) 1, Indy Eleven (USL) 0
Making just their fourth U.S. Open Cup appearance, Mississippi Brilla FC bent, but didn’t break in order to come away with one of the night’s “Cupsets”. Indy Eleven carried the play throughout much of the match, with their best opportunity coming in the 71st minute when Justin Braun’s effort was tipped over the bar by Brilla goalkeeper Jordan Bell. The save kept things scoreless until an 82nd minute restart saw Bastien Oberli cross for Koray Eastering, who buried the game’s only goal. With the win, Mississippi Brilla FC will make their first-ever foray into the tournament’s Third Round where they will face Nashville SC on Wednesday, May 23.

Nashville SC ( USL ) 2, Inter Nashville FC ( NPSL ) 0
In a Music City derby, it was all Nashville SC (USL), taking down the NPSL's Inter Nashville FC 2-0. A brace from Tucker Hume separated the squads on the scoresheet, but SC dominated attacking opportunities from the start and claimed a victory in its first-ever Open Cup match. Upstart amateur Mississippi Brilla awaits Nashville SC in the Third Round on May 23 in a Southeast Region showdown.

Tulsa Roughnecks FC (USL) 3, FC Wichita (NPSL) 4
Three separate times FC Wichita trailed on Wednesday night. But on each occasion, the amateurs answered the call. FC Wichita overcame three deficits to stun Tulsa Roughnecks FC, 4-3, in the Second Round of the U.S. Open Cup. After a first half that saw Tulsa emerge with a 2-1 advantage, Franck Tayou put FC Wichita back on level terms in the 48th minute. The two sides traded goals in the 52nd and 60th minute before Tayou scored one of the goals of the tournament thus far. With the score locked at three goals apiece in second-half stoppage time, the striker pulled down a deep cross in the box, pushed it away from the ‘keeper, and snuck in a shot from an impossible angle for the winner. Tayou ripped his jersey off in celebration, his heroics clinching the upset and a date with NTX Rayados in the Third Round next Wednesday.

Duluth FC (NPSL) 0, Saint Louis FC (USL) 2
Kadeem Dacres and Corey Hertzog tallied in the opening half as Saint Louis FC blanked Duluth FC, 2-0, at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth, Minn. Dacres lifted the visitors into the lead in the 25th minute before setting up Hertzog as Saint Louis FC doubled its advantage 10 minutes later. Saint Louis FC will play fellow USL side Louisville City FC at Lynn Stadium in Louisville, Ky. in the Third Round on Wednesday, May 23 at 7 p.m. ET.

NTX Rayados (Texas) 5, OKC Energy FC (USL) 2 (a.e.t.)
Another “Cupset” came in the Lone Star State, where NTX Rayados rode a 120-minute roller coaster before upending OKE Energy FC. A cagey first half saw Rayados take a 1-0 lead into the locker room thanks to Alberto Rodriguez’s 40th minute strike, but Energy FC pulled things back around after the break. A 50th minute hand ball led to an OKC penalty kick, which Philip Rasmussen converted and nine minutes later, Miguel Gonzalez gave the USL side a 2-1 lead. It Looked like OKC would cruise out of North Texas with a 2-1 victory, but Rayados had other ideas as Christian Okeke’s 90th minute penalty kick sent the match to extra time. Full of momentum, Okeke added the go-ahead goal – and also his third of the tournament – just before halftime. With the onus on Energy FC to push for an equalizer, the hosts put the match out of reach thanks to Lucio Martinez’s 109th minute penalty and Rodriguez’s second of the match in the 118th minute. With the win, NTX Rayados will host Wichita FC in Third Round play on Wednesday, May 23.

Midland-Odessa Sockers FC (NPSL) 0, San Antonio FC (USL) 4
For much of the night, Midland-Odessa Sockers FC pushed their professional counterparts to the brink, but as the match wore on, San Antonio FC found its stride. The visitors scored three goals after the 87th minute to run away with a 4-0 victory. Darnell King recorded the opener for San Antonio FC on a header in the 34th minute, but his squad would have to wait almost an hour for insurance. The floodgates finally opened when Mikey Lopez buried a free kick to double the lead. Maxi Rodriguez and Owayne Gordon tacked on two more strikes in the waning moments to put a bow on San Antonio FC’s win. The USL side advances to meet Colorado Springs Switchbacks in the Third Round.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks ( USL ) 3, FC Denver ( Colo .) 2
The Centennial State provided the stage for a wild back-and-forth affair on Wednesday night, as the USL’s Colorado Switchbacks escaped amateurs FC Denver 3-2. The Mile High City squad found the game’s first goal late in the opening half. Switchbacks goalkeeper Moise Pouty made a save, but then found himself out-of-place for the follow-up from Magallanes in the 38th minute. A formational shift saw the Switchbacks rewarded soon after the break as Josh Suggs found Pascal Eboussi in front of the net, where he headed it home. Colorado Springs struck again soon after when Uriel Macias volleyed home a booming service from Saeed Robinson to give the Switchbacks a 2-1 advantage. FC Denver refused to go down without a fight. A few minutes after a booming 50-yard free kick goal was ruled out by the offside flag, Joel Millere was fouled in the box, and Castillo, who bagged a brace last week, nailed the penalty to knot things up at two. Colorado Springs drew a penalty of its own in the 84th minute, when Robinson went down in the box. Jordan Burt went to the spot with the game on the line, and nailed it home to the top corner. Colorado Springs advances to take on San Antonio FC on May 23.

Sacramento Republic FC (USL) 3, San Francisco City FC (PDL) 1
Central California native Villyan Bijev scored the game-winning goal and had an assist as Sacramento Republic FC of the United Soccer League (USL) controlled the second half to win at Sacramento State University’s Hornet Soccer Field. Republic FC scored first when Canadian international Kevin Aleman tucked in a rebound in the 23rd minute, but SFCFC’s Arron Lombardi netted an equalizer – his second goal of the tournament – less than 10 minutes later as the partially fan-owned club held its own over the first 45. Bijev came in to start the second half and put the home team ahead in the 60th when he got the final touch on a cross from center back Mitch Taintor. Birthday boy and captain Adam Moffat added an insurance goal in 68th minute, putting away a Bijev assist to capitalize on abundant pressure from Republic FC, which moves on to play Reno 1868 in the Third Round next Wednesday.

Sporting AZ FC (Ariz.) 1, Phoenix Rising FC (USL) 1 (5-4 PKs)
The Battle for Arizona came down to a shootout, with Sporting AZ FC of the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) pulling a harrowing upset on Didier Drogba’s Phoenix Rising FC at Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Chandler, Ariz. Captain Chris Cortez netted Rising FC’s first goal with a left-footed blast in the 64th minute, but Sporting AZ FC’s Danny Arrubia found the equalizer in the 67th as the teams finished regulation locked at one goal apiece. Sporting AZ had an opportunity to seal the victory several times, and it took a double save by goalkeeper Andrew Weber in the sixth round of penalty kicks to set the table for Eijin Kishimoto to send the crowd into frenzy with a game-winning spot kick. Sporting AZ will host a second straight USL squad, Fresno FC in the Third Round on May 23. 

Fresno FC (USL) 2, Orange County FC (NPSL) 0 (a.e.t.)
With assistant coach and former Welsh international Robert Earnshaw manning the touchline, Fresno FC of the United Soccer League (USL) scored two overtime goals to slip past Orange County FC at Clovis High School’s Lamonica Stadium. The teams played a scoreless 90 minutes, but Terran Campbell’s goal off an assist from Jose Cuevas gave Fresno FC a lead in the 95th minute. Campbell then provided the helper for Renato Bustamante to add an insurance goal in the 118th minute as the Foxes earned their first Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup victory and a matchup against Sporting AZ FC in the Third Round on May 23.

Orange County SC (USL) 2, FC Golden State Force (PDL) 4
Gritty FC Golden State Force of the Premier Development League (PDL) continues to power in goals and move forward after a dominating second-half performance to beat Orange County SC at the Championship Stadium at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif. An early goal from OCSC captain Christian Duke opened the scoring, but a series of referee decisions went the way of the Force as the visitors tied the game with a penalty kick in the opening minutes of the second half. Samuel Goni gave FC Golden State Force the lead for good in the 67th minute, and Pedro Fonseca added another at the death to cap the scoring and set a home date with Las Vegas Lights FC (USL) in the Third Round.

Reno 1868 FC (USL) 7, Portland Timbers U23 (PDL) 3
Jerry van Ewijk scored three times as Reno 1868 FC (USL) turned on the offense in the second half to overcome a halftime deficit and blow past Portland Timbers U23 at Greater Nevada Field in Reno. Ryo Shimazaki and Wouter Verstraaten had Timbers U23s’ first two goals off set pieces, but van Ewijk got Reno 1868 on the board less than 10 minutes before halftime and again two minutes into the second half to lead the comeback. An own goal gave Timbers U23s a brief lead, but former San Jose Earthquakes forward Danny Musovski scored twice midway through the second half and van Ewijk finished off his hat trick in the 81st minute for Reno 1868 FC, which will host Sacramento Republic FC in a Third Round game.

Las Vegas Lights FC (USL) 4, FC Tucson (PDL) 2
Veteran striker Sammy Ochoa had two second-half goals and even Freddy Adu made an appearance as Las Vegas Lights FC from the United Soccer League (USL) won its first Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game, defeating FC Tucson at Peter Johann Soccer Field in Las Vegas. Carlos Alvarez had a goal and an assist, Adu came on as a late substitute, and Ochoa, the former Seattle Sounders (MLS) and Sacramento Republic FC (USL) standout, started up top for the Lights but waited nearly an hour to punch in two goals in a 10-minute span (56’ and 65’) to break a 2-2 deadlock and send the expansion club to Southern California to face FC Golden State Force (PDL) in a Third Round game next Wednesday. 

2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Second Round Results


Northeast Region

Date

Game (home team listed first)

Result

Venue

May 16

North Carolina FC (USL) vs. Lansdowne Bhoys FC (N.Y.)

3-0

Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park; Cary, N.C.

May 16

Erie Commodores FC (NPSL) vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (USL)

1-2

Gannon University Field; Erie, Pa.

May 16

Reading United AC (PDL) vs. Richmond Kickers (USL)

1-1, 1-1 AET (3-4 PKs)

Alvernia University Stadium; Reading, Pa.

May 16

Louisville City FC (USL) vs. Long Island Rough Riders (PDL)

5-0

Lynn Stadium (Univ. of Louisville); Louisville, Ky.

May 16

FC Motown (NPSL) vs. Penn FC (USL)

1-3

Ranger Stadium (Drew University); Madison, N.J.

May 16

Seacoast United Phantoms (PDL) vs. Elm City Express (NPSL)

0-2

Seacoast United Sports Park; Amesbury, Mass.

May 16

FC Cincinnati (USL) vs. Detroit City FC (NPSL)

1-1, 4-1 AET

Gettler Stadium (Univ. of Cincinnati); Cincinnati, Ohio

May 16

Charlotte Independence (USL) vs. Ocean City Nor'easters (PDL)

1-3

Mecklenburg County Sportsplex; Matthews, N.C.

Southeast Region

Date

Game (home team listed first)

Result

Venue

May 16

Charleston Battery (USL) vs. South Georgia Tormenta FC (PDL)

1-0

MUSC Health Stadium; Charleston, S.C.

May 16

Jacksonville Armada FC (NPSL) vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies (USL)

1-0

Southern Oak Stadium (Jacksonville University), Jacksonville, Fla.

May 16

Miami FC 2 (NPSL) vs. Miami United FC (NPSL)

1-3

FIU Soccer Stadium; Miami, Fla.

May 16

Mississippi Brilla FC (PDL) vs. Indy Eleven (USL)

1-0

Clinton High School; Clinton, Miss.

May 16

Nashville SC (USL) vs. Inter Nashville FC (NPSL)

2-0

Vanderbilt Soccer/Lacrosse Complex; Nashville, Tenn.

Central Region

Date

Game (home team listed first)

Result

Venue

May 16

Tulsa Roughnecks FC (USL) vs. FC Wichita (NPSL)

3-4

Hurricane Soccer & Track Stadium; Tulsa, Okla.

May 16

Duluth FC (NPSL) vs. Saint Louis FC (USL)

0-2

Public Schools Stadium; Duluth, Minn.

May 16

NTX Rayados (Texas) vs. OKC Energy FC (USL)

2-2, 5-2 AET

Richland Community College (Field 10); Dallas, Texas

May 16

Midland-Odessa Sockers FC (NPSL) vs. San Antonio FC (USL)

0-4

Grande Communications Stadium; Midland, Texas

May 16

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (USL) vs. FC Denver (Colo.)

3-2

Weidner Field; Colorado Springs, Colo.

West Region

Date

Game (home team listed first)

Result

Venue

May 16

Sacramento Republic FC (USL) vs. San Francisco City FC (PDL)

3-1

Hornet Soccer Field (Sacrament State Univ.); Sacramento, Calif.

May 16

Sporting AZ FC (Ariz.) vs. Phoenix Rising FC (USL)

1-1, 1-1 AET (5-4 PKs)

Chandler-Gilbert Community College; Chandler, Ariz.

May 16

Fresno FC (USL) vs. Orange County FC (NPSL)

2-0 AET

Lamonica Stadium (Clovis H.S.); Clovis, Calif.

May 16

Orange County SC (USL) vs. FC Golden State Force (PDL)

2-4

Orange County Great Park – Championship Soccer Stadium; Irvine, Calif.

May 16

Reno 1868 FC (USL) vs. Portland Timbers U23 (PDL)

7-3

Greater Nevada Field; Reno, Nev.

May 16

Las Vegas Lights FC (USL) vs. FC Tucson (PDL)

4-2

Peter Johann Soccer Field; Las Vegas, Nev.

2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Third Round Schedule

Date

Game (home team listed first)

Time

Venue

May 22

North Carolina FC (USL) vs. Ocean City Nor'easters (PDL)

7 p.m. ET

Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park; Cary, N.C.

May 23

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (USL) vs. FC Cincinnati (USL)

7 p.m. ET

Highmark Stadium; Pittsburgh, Pa.

May 23

Richmond Kickers (USL) vs. Penn FC (USL)

7 p.m. ET

City Stadium; Richmond, Va.

May 23

Jacksonville Armada FC (NPSL) vs. Miami United FC (NPSL)

7 p.m. ET

Southern Oak Stadium (Jacksonville University), Jacksonville, Fla.

May 23

Charleston Battery (USL) vs. Elm City Express (NPSL)

7 p.m. ET

MUSC Health Stadium; Charleston, S.C.

May 23

Louisville City FC (USL) vs. Saint Louis FC (USL)

7 p.m. ET

Lynn Stadium (Univ. of Louisville); Louisville, Ky.

May 23

Nashville SC (USL) vs. Mississippi Brilla FC (PDL)

7:30 p.m. CT

Vanderbilt Soccer/Lacrosse Complex; Nashville, Tenn.

May 23

NTX Rayados (Texas) vs. FC Wichita (NPSL)

7:30 p.m. CT

Richland Community College (Field 10); Dallas, Texas

May 23

San Antonio FC (USL) vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (USL)

7:30 p.m. CT

Toyota Field; San Antonio, Texas

May 23

Sporting AZ FC (Ariz.) vs. Fresno FC (USL)

7 p.m. MST

Chandler-Gilbert Community College; Chandler, Ariz.

May 23

FC Golden State Force (PDL) vs. Las Vegas Lights FC (USL)

7 p.m. PT

Rio Hondo College; Whittier, Calif.

May 23

Reno 1868 FC (USL) vs. Sacramento Republic FC (USL)

7:30 p.m. PT

Greater Nevada Field; Reno, Nev.

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U.S. Open Cup May 17, 2018
US Soccer

The Old (Post-) College Try in New Haven

Players on the Elm City Express excelled in their post-graduate work last season at Yale, winning the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) championship in their first season. This spring, they’ve moved to the Southern Connecticut State University campus, where they hope to continue their quick-study ways in league play and the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

The transfer has nothing to do with classwork. The Express relocated a few miles, to Jess Dow Field, while Reese Stadium in New Haven is being resurfaced. But the storyline continues. It took just one year for the Express to establish itself as a state-wide magnet for former college players, who were searching for a local soccer outlet after their varsity careers in Connecticut. The Express, established last year in 2017, became an instant success by attracting some of the best players from nine different colleges across the state.

That was the idea from the beginning, when Zack Henry and Brian Neumeyer – a pair of Long Island transplants to South Central Connecticut – founded the club in New Haven. They figured correctly that this was a college-rich area where they could mine local talent, while luring the university crowds to matches.


(The Elm City Express pulled large crowds on the campus of Yale University in their first year as a club.)

There was still one problem, however: How do you get a roster composed of recent rivals to ignore past enmities and link hands with an eye to a common goal?

Old Foes Make a Fighting Edge
“There was an edge between us, but we knew that bonding together would be better than fighting with each other,” said Kevin Ipina, a 28-year-old outside back who played his college soccer at Post University in Waterbury. “It’s good to know the best of each school are here now, but we need to bring that best out. So we use that edge to get after each other.”

Not every member of the amateur team is an ex-Connecticut college player. There is a trio of Brazilian-Americans and Brazilians on the roster, too, providing creative attacking quality. But the Express roster is dotted with coaches and players from Post, UCONN, the University of Hartford, Central Connecticut, Southern Connecticut, Quinnipiac, and Sacred Heart.

“There are several universities in the area that we used for sourcing players and other fronts,” said Henry, one of the club’s founders. “The funny thing about this league, we couldn’t do a whole lot of scouting. I wasn’t sure how it would go, how we would stack up.”


(The NPSL club out of New Haven, CT won a national title in their first year - 2017) 

But it stacked up just fine. The players got a hint of just how good they could be early on in their 2017 expansion season, during a dominant performance in a friendly against UCONN, a top division-one college side and three-time NCAA national champions. When they beat the New York Cosmos B team, everyone knew this could be something special. “The Cosmos being the Cosmos, that was when some of us started to believe,” Henry said.

The season ended triumphantly, almost impossibly, with a 5-0 victory over the Midland-Odessa Sockers out of Texas, and the NPSL title. That championship earned the Express a spot in the U.S. Open Cup, leading to a 2-1 win in the First round over the Western Mass Pioneers at their Lusitano Stadium in Ludlow, MA. Next up for the side from the Elm City is a Second Round match in Amesbury, (again in Massachusetts) against Seacoast United Phantoms, and a chance to strut their stuff before a growing audience.

A Second Chance after Graduation
“It’s awesome, there’s a lot of history behind this Cup,” said Sean O’Brien, a 30-year-old central defender who played at Southern Connecticut (SCSU), who have been NCAA division-two powers for a half-century. “It’s the sort of experience I haven’t had since college. If we keep winning, it would be a heck of an experience to play against pros who train every day.”

The Express players train twice – maybe three times – a week, and no longer get paid a stipend of any kind (some players received money last season). Instead, many of them earn paychecks training regional youth teams, or holding down unrelated day-jobs.


(Elm City Express will try to go as deep as they can in #USOC2018 & avoid a Sophomore Slump in NPSL)

This was the vision that Henry and Neumeyer had in 2015, when they came up with the idea of a team in this area. Henry was living in Brazil with his wife, from Rio de Janeiro, and was working with K2Soccer South America, which operates CA Tubarao, a club now playing in the South American country’s national Serie D. He decided to start a sister team in the U.S., through a K2 Soccer North America subsidiary. There would be player transfer possibilities between the Brazilian and U.S. sides, as well.

Henry’s former Long Island teammate and friend, Neumeyer, was working in Connecticut and suggested that New Haven would be the perfect place. The region is a hotbed for soccer and for university students. In addition, it didn’t seem as if Major League Soccer had any plans to expand into the neighborhood any time soon. The club could even use college students and programs to help on the business end of things.

Staffing Local from South Central, CT
Henry took over the club infrastructure, while Neumeyer became general manager. The club soon hired local people – head coach Teddy Haley and assistant Luis Figueiredo, from Post: technical advisor Eric Da Costa, from Quinnipiac, and goalkeeper coach George Kostelis, from Yale, Southern Connecticut and Western Connecticut – to train the players and identify former collegians who were ready to play and up for the challenge. It didn’t take long for the gathered talents to gel.

“For us, it was a pretty smooth transition,” said O’Brien, who played a couple of years in Germany’s lower leagues after finishing his collegiate days as a Southern Connecticut State University Owl. “We’d played many years before this team came together, stayed in shape with weekend warrior stuff. And I knew most of the guys from college, and even when I got out of college. Not a lot of people find it easy to hang up the boots.”


(The club focus was on the soccer last year; this year its on building local ties to the community in & around New Haven)

Still, it was fairly amazing that the club was able to navigate the NPSL playoffs successfully, rarely blowing out opponents until that final victory over Midland-Odessa. “I think what we did, we didn’t lift our heads up until after the national championship,” Neumeyer said. “We didn’t celebrate anything over the course of the year. We just thought about the next game. We just kept moving along. It was kind of surreal at the end of the year to be at the top of the league. You put 96 teams in a pool, and to come out the best, that’s pretty amazing.”

Nobody expects Elm City to come out on top in the U.S. Open Cup, of course, but the Express will travel to Northern Massachusetts on Wednesday to face the Phantoms – among the top Premier Development league (PDL) teams in the country. There, the former university stars will have another opportunity to surprise even themselves.
College was fun, anyone will tell you, but a reviving run in the U.S. Open Cup might even be better.
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U.S. Open Cup May 16, 2018
US Soccer

Chuka Aruh’s Second Chance

He’s soft spoken to begin with, but Chuka Aruh goes a little quieter when you ask him about his upcoming Second Round game in the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. “This one feels a little personal,” said the Inter Nashville FC forward, on break from working at an assisted living facility run by his parents on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee. “I tried out for Nashville SC [his opponent this Wednesday] and they cut me.”
Anyone who’s ever trialed for a team knows that feeling. The stress to do your best. The worry you might not measure up. Someone pins a number to your chest and you go out there and give it your all and hope you're what they’re looking for. It’s a kick in the teeth if your name doesn’t get called out – or if it does, only on the wrong side of the list. It’s worse still if you scraped together the 100-plus dollars Nashville SC, in only their first season as a United Soccer League (USL) pro team, were asking young, local hopefuls just for the pleasure of trying out. “I didn’t have the money at first,” said Aruh, still just 21. “I even missed the deadline by the time I got the money together, but they told me I could try-out anyway the day before it was scheduled to begin.”


(Aruh, standing and 6th from left, is a crucial piece of the Inter Nashville puzzle)

Chance to Settle a Score
Nashville SC’s coach and technical director, Gary Smith, may already have a sense of what he missed out on when he passed on Aruh. The Nigerian-born striker, raised in London, is a finely balanced combo of pace, power and precision. Just ask reigning Premier Development League (PDL) champions Charlotte Eagles, who were on the wrong side of a 6-1 loss that had this striker’s fingerprints all over it. The Eagles had a nightmare of a time trying to lock Aruh down in last week’s First Round. He scored three goals in the space of 35 first-half minutes – a close-range volley, a sizzling counter-attack that showed off all of his attributes as a player, and a goalmouth scramble where he simply wouldn’t take no for an answer. Aruh admits he’s never scored three goals so fast in a game played at such a high level and now he’s ready to give some of that same medicine to the team that spurned him, cutting him on the final day of a two-day try-out.

“This is my chance to show them what they missed out on,” said Aruh, who admits he didn’t have his best day that Sunday when he was cut by the Nashville SC decision-makers, but maintains the quiet confidence that they made a big mistake letting him go. “It’s a chance at redemption and to prove something to them.”

Aruh was born in Enugu, in Nigeria’s Southeast. When he was just a youngster, he moved with his parents to London, England. It was there that the passion every Nigerian kid is born with blossomed into something more. “I remember playing in the parks and the streets with my friends whenever we had a spare minute,” said Uruh, who recalls being laughed at by his London-born mates for insistently supporting Manchester United in a world of Chelsea, Arsenal and West Ham fans. “I developed a strong passion for the game in London. From the age of five or six on, I was always playing with my friends and my dad just loved the game, so it was always a part of my life.”


(Aruh had a couple of collegiate years with Cumberland University - there he turned from a back to a No9)

He’s powerful, tall and strong. In England, Aruh was pigeonholed early as a defender. In organized games, coaches pushed him back to hold the line with his size and physicality. But in his heart, Aruh always wanted to score the goals. He was most comfortable expressing himself in the attack, pushing defenders on to the back-foot and spinning them around with his ability and vision. “It was never natural for me to be a defender, but the coaches liked how effective I was back there, so I went along with it.”

He played two years at Cumberland University in nearby Lebanon, Tennessee after his parents moved to the States – first to Atlanta, Georgia and then to the Nashville area – to start an assisted-living facility where the focus is on helping folks with disabilities live a life of dignity and respect. “It was here in the States, at college, that my coach saw that I could be good up front and it was only then that I became a striker officially. At that point, he had to talk me into it because I was used to defending by then.”

Back-to-Front for Aruh
When he made the switch, it quickly became obvious that Aruh was a natural No. 9. It's something he’s been showing in the amateur ranks of NPSL week-in and week-out, and last Wednesday again in the Open Cup when he ran rampant around, over and through the Charlotte Eagles defense. The born-again striker has come to think of Nashville, Tennessee as a home, and he can’t help but laugh when asked if he’s taken country music – his adoptive city’s signature sound – to his heart. “It’s everywhere here,” he laughed. “And there’s a couple tunes here and there that I think are all right, but it’s not really the kind of thing you’ll find on my everyday play-list.”


(Inter Nashville are all smiles after an NPSL game in Chatanooga in 2017)

Aruh knows about the excitement of Cup play from the FA Cup runs his beloved Manchester United went on when he was living in London. And he can’t help but feel the magic of his first run at the Open Cup, a cousin of the FA Cup here in America. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t dreaming about going all the way to facing an MLS team,” said Aruh, a crucial cog in a team of local players from the greater Tennessee area who are dangerous in transition and shaping up to be a handful for anyone they might meet along the way. “It’s a dream for us as a team and also for us as players who want to still be able to make our dream of playing professionally come true.”

The striker turns 22 on Thursday, the day after the much-anticipated Open Cup derby with Nashville SC – the very team that ended (at least temporarily) Aruh’s dreams of the big professional stages. Facing them on the field in a one-off game, with that hurt still fresh and a point to prove, might just give the striker a chance to dream even bigger.
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U.S. Open Cup May 16, 2018

Enter the USL Pros: #USOC2018 2nd Round Preview

Cupsets are on the cards ahead of the Second Round of the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Count on it. It’s the first stage when professional teams join the fray – in this case it’s the 22 members of the Division II United Soccer League (USL). The Second Round is traditionally a breeding ground for shock results and embarrassing stumbles. Twenty-four games are scheduled for Wednesday, May 16 when the Davids and Goliaths plunge into action across the country in America’s oldest soccer tournament, currently in its 105th year.
Reading & the Bhoys Hunt Cupsets up North
Keep a close eye on Cary, North Carolina, where Yonkers-based national amateur cup and national amateur open cup champions Lansdowne Bhoys take on North Carolina FC. In their second Open Cup since reaching the Third Round in 2016, the Bhoys, who are led by captain and former Arsenal youth player Sean Kelly, made light work of two-time Open Cup champs the Brooklyn Italians in the First Round and are among the small crowd of amateur teams likely to cause an upset or two. “This a chance for us to step up to the next level and show that we can get it done up there too,” said Kelly, who also had stints with League of Ireland sides Cork City and Pike Rovers before heading to New York to work construction and turn out in the famed Cosmopolitan League.


(The Lansdowne Bhoys, out of Yonkers, are among the best amateur teams in the country)

Reading United are back for their 10th straight Open Cup (12th overall), a remarkable achievement for a team out of the Premier Development League (PDL). Even more noteworthy is the fact that they haven’t lost a First Round games since 2012. USL pros Richmond Kickers won’t want to take the PA-based youngsters lightly, especially if they’re keen to avoid early elimination at amateur hands for a second straight year (they lost to Christos FC in this same Second Round stage in 2017). “We have a way of doing things here,” said former Reading player and new coach Alan McCann, who helped orchestrate the elimination of last year’s Cinderellas Christos FC in the First Round last week. “It’s about bringing intensity to everything, relying on our returning players and being the best we can be.”

FC Motown were impressive in their opening-day win over the New York Red Bulls U23s. Coach Sacir Hot, just 26-years-old, showed surprising panache with some in-game tactical switches that allowed his ace in the pack Dilly Duka (a veteran pro with stints at a raft of MLS teams) to have his way with the young opposition. Another MLS veteran, Hunter Freeman, and Chris Katona (also of Cedar Stars and top-scorer in NYC’s Cosmopolitan League) were dynamite on the day too – and USL Pros Penn FC, currently mid-table in league play, should be careful they don’t get caught cold.

Detroit City FC of NPSL rode the passion of their core supporters to a First Round victory (on penalties) vs. the Michigan Bucks. This time, however, they won’t have the home comforts of their Keyworth Stadium to rely on. And up against FC Cincinnati, the Hamtramck-based amateurs are taking on USL’s leaders – a team that knows about going a good, long way in the Cup. The Ohioans roared to the Semifinal of last year’s tournament and were minutes away from reaching the Final only to be undone by the New York Red Bulls of MLS and their ace striker Bradley Wright-Phillips.

 
(Detroit City will have to get it done on the road against last year's heroes FC Cincinnati)

Elsewhere in the Northeast, The Erie Commodores of NPSL host Pittsburgh’s Riverhounds, a team with solid Open Cup pedigree. Louisville City, who went out last year to USL rivals FC Cincinnati, open their doors to the resurgent Long Island Rough Riders of the PDL – who roared back in the First Round to beat Kingston Stockade 6-3. Seacoast United Phantoms, of Northern Massachusetts, were fortunate to get past 10-man debutantes Kendall Wanderers in their first game and they’re fortunate again to have a second straight home tie against amateur opposition – this time its last year’s NPSL champions Elm City Express out of the New Haven, Conn. The eighth and final contest sees famed Cup specialists Ocean City Nor’easters of the PDL (second only to the Michigan Bucks in the number and quality of pro scalps taken) travel to meet USL’s Charlotte Independence with a Cupset on their mind.

Florida Derbies, Denver Dreams in the Southeast & Central
USL’s Charleston Battery, founded in 1993, were the last non-MLS team to the reach the Final of the U.S. Open Cup (in 2008) and they begin every successive campaign with the aim of getting back there. This year, they play host to surprise First Round winners South Georgia Tormenta in their first contest.

You’ll not want to miss out on a pair of tasty all-Florida affairs coming out of the Sunshine State. Miami FC 2 of the NPSL reached last year’s quarterfinal as members of the North American Soccer League (NASL). They’re set for their second game of the campaign at home against Miami United FC (also of NPSL), who hammered FC Kendall 5-2 last week. The other all-Florida contest pits Jacksonville Armada, also NASL orphans now playing in NPSL, at home against fellow-former NASLers Tampa Bay Rowdies (now of the USL), who will want to set right their early exit last year.


(Miami FC reached the quarterfinals last year as part of the NASL - now they're with NPSL & aiming high again)

The other two Southeast Region games pit hosts Mississippi Brilla – a club that doubles as a Christian Ministry – in their second game against an always-strong Indy Eleven who are currently fifth in the USL standings. And finally, in a Nashville, Tennessee derby, NSPL men Inter Nashville FC will hope to keep the party going against the Music City’s USL team, Nashville SC. “I have a kind of personal score to settle,” Inter striker Chuka Aruh, fresh off a scintillating first-half hat-trick against PDL powers Charlotte Eagles in the First Round, told ussoccer.com. He was cut by the USL side after scraping together the hundred-plus dollars the club charged to local hopefuls for the pleasure of trying out. “Now I want to show them what they missed out on.”

In the Central Region, Duluth FC of the NPSL are hoping to keep their miraculous run alive. A club founded only three years ago as “a joke” by a Romanian-born soccer-playing priest, they rode out a 4-4 goal-fest to a shootout win over Dakota Fusion in their First Round game and now face USL professionals in the form of Saint Louis FC. “It’s like a dream,” said their founder, first coach, former player and current Greek Orthodox priest Tim Sas.

FC Denver, in their first Open Cup, have a date away to the USL’s Colorado Springs Switchbacks, while FC Wichita (the lone entrant from the great state of Kansas) travel to Oklahoma to take on the Tulsa Roughnecks of USL. The amateur NTX Rayados won their First Round game last week and will now host OKC Energy of the USL in the Second Round. The Central region concludes with the Midland-Odessa Sockers of Texas and NPSL opening their doors to San Antonio FC, who are currently mid-table in the USL standings.

California Leads the Charge Out West

The West Region of the 2018 Open Cup Second Round is, as ever, heavy on the California. Six of twelve teams in action hail from the Golden State. First up, Sacramento Republic – among the most ambitious of the USL stable – play host to San Francisco City FC, an amateur team who won their opener by a comfortable 4-0 scoreline.


(Sacramento Republic of USL have loads of fans and big ambitions) 

Orange County FC, out of NPSL and coached by former U.S. Men’s National Team legend Paul Caligiuri, looked sensational in their 3-0 opening-day win over debutantes Santa Ana Winds. One of Daniel ten Bosch’s two goals on the day, a screamer from long range, was among the best of the First Round. Next up for the OC men is a road-trip to take on Fresno FC of the USL. The third and final all-California affair pits Orange County SC of USL at home against FC Golden State Force, who had a surprisingly easy night against L.A. Wolves in the First Round.

Elsewhere, and off the coast, USL’s Las Vegas Lights play host to FC Tucson of the PDL. There’s no confirming that former Public Enemy hype-man and reality TV fave Flava Flav (rumored to be a Lights super-fan) will be in the house for the game, but there will be a Llama in the building. USL’s Reno 1868 FC also host Portland Timbers U23 (PDL).

Finally, Sporting Arizona FC – a group of amateurs with a former MLS Cup winner in goal (Andrew Weber) and a former English Premier League goalkeeper on the touchline (Aidan Davison) are hoping to pull a shock when they meet Phoenix Rising. There’s no indication yet whether Didier Drogba (part owner and player for the Rising) will line up for his first-ever Open Cup game, but here’s hoping.

Fans can stream all available #USOC2018 Second Round games on ussoccer.com, the Open Cup’s official website. Follow all the action, have your say and join in on the fun @OpenCup on Instagram and Twitter @OfficialOpenCup on Facebook.
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U.S. Open Cup May 15, 2018
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