Harpos FC were just one of dozens of amateur soccer clubs here in Colorado, kicking around at tournaments and leagues... until 2015. That’s when the local club won two U.S. Open Cup matches, and found themselves cast as Cinderella at the ball, playing against a big professional team from USL, the Colorado Springs Switchbacks. Harpos lost that match 2-1 in a tightly contested game. But ever since then, the self-titled #bullshitpubteam has become a lower-league juggernaut, and they spent this past summer running every club they met right off the pitch.
As the Rapids fade into irrelevance, we thought we’d provide our readers with some options to watch exciting, winning, grassroots soccer right here in Colorado. Harpos opens its fall season in the Colorado Premier League against FC Atlas this Sunday at 1 pm at Broomfield Commons. They will begin local qualifiers for the 2018 U.S. Open Cup sometime in the month of September at a time and location to be determined.
We traded emails with Johnny Freeston, the owner and manager of Harpos FC about their past, present, and future of the lower-league club that others would like to emulate. Thanks to Johnny for taking the time to tell us more about Colorado’s most successful football club.
Rapids Rabbi: Hey Johnny. For those new to the Harpos story, can you sum up the origin of the team and some of the high notes in the club's history to this point?
Johnny Freeston: Harpos FC was founded 1997 by several CU-Boulder students who wanted to continue playing beyond high school and club ball. They were former NCAA college players but came home to Colorado to be closer to their families and friends to complete their undergraduate degrees. We became friends with these bros in 2000, joined the team in 2005, and took over the team as Manager in 2008. Then we dominated City of Boulder outdoor and Boulder Indoor Soccer leagues the next four years. 2012 saw us start building an elite team, move to Colorado Premier League, start playing in the top state and regional tournaments and now here we are 21 trophies, several U.S. Open Cup runs and many epic journeys later.
RR: You had a remarkable spring and summer, winning the Colorado Premier League, the Colorado State Cup, the Vail Invitational, and the Alianza de Futbol Hispano tournament. How did this amazing run come about?
JF: Thanks so much for your kind words. We believe strongly in the Seneca philosophy: "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." We work diligently to ensure that we cover all of our strategic and tactical bases when it comes to organizing everything with our club. Along these lines we set squad goals that mesh with our personal development knowing that we take it one training/scrimmage/game at a time. We planned our runs to win Colorado Premier League, State Cup, Vail Invitational, and Copa Alianza months in advance. In the build up to these competitions we had to work carefully through several on and off the field challenges to help our squad prepare as best as possible mentally, physically and psychologically. Since we are a tight-knit group full of best friends it makes it much easier to manage expectations so that everyone is on the same page and pulling in the same direction. However, we know that we can only control the controllables and this mindset helps us focus on only the most important and most valuable initiatives for our club.
RR: With an amateur team like Harpos, there must be a certain degree of roster flux inherent to the process. How do you maintain and recruit players so successfully? Are all the players Colorado locals?
We are always recruiting top quality people to join our band of brothers. It's our passionate culture and loyal commitment to each other that makes Harpos FC special. Everyone who becomes part of our futbol family understands and respects that no one is bigger than the club and that the team always comes first. Currently we have 14 different states represented in our squad while several bros hail from Colombia, El Salvador, Germany, Japan and Mexico. We have a player pool of roughly 70 players, 35 consistently train every Wednesday night and we select 18 each Sunday to win league games and prestigious tournaments.
The majority of our squad are young professionals with full-time jobs, some are married, and others have kids which makes it essential to have a big squad full of quality starters to ensure that everyone plays to the required standard, moreover, to raise the bar to help make us better. Our club has a number of former professionals who played in MLS, NASL, USL, MASL and abroad in countries such as Australia, Finland and Germany.
Keeping these statistics in mind all of the players are on our roster are Colorado residents. We have not brought in paid hired guns and professional ringers from out of state to win titles although it is our right to do so and definitely within our means for competitions such as Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. We are exploring these options moving forward, but it's not a priority for us, as we have the utmost confidence and trust in our current players.
RR: What goals have you and the team set for the near future? What trophies do you have your sights on for this fall and beyond? And what are your bigger, long term dreams for this club?
JF: Our goals this fall season 2017 are to win Colorado Premier League ($2K to winner), to win our U.S. Open Cup Qualification Tournament matches (entry into 2018 USOC 1st Round in May 2018), and to win Copa Alianza Nationals ($40K to winner)!!! We know that there is a target on our back, but we still embrace the role of underdog and relish all challenges from local, national and international opponents. We respect everyone, but fear no one. Bring it!
Our club is on the rise and we are working very hard to get our community embedded in the euphoric experiences ahead. We are determined and excited to help take Colorado and U.S. Open soccer to new unprecedented heights.
To learn more about Harpos FC, check out their website here, or read some of Burgundy Wave’s coverage of the team over the past three years here. Good luck to Harpos and all the CPL teams as they begin the fall season.