A dull, cold drizzle. A high school turf field with football lines. No concession sales. No livestreams over the web. Maybe not even a functioning scoreboard. These are the humble beginnings of Cinderella’s trip to the dance, as one hundred and two local amateur teams around the United States competed in similar circumstances this weekend, seeking a berth in the 105th edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. That includes fourteen Colorado teams hoping they can represent the Centennial state in the Cup next spring. Two Boulder teams would face each other on Sunday, but only one would progress to the second round.
Harpos FC took on FC Boulder in US Open Cup local qualifying Sunday, emerging with a hard fought win on penalty kicks, 6-5, after the teams concluded 120 minutes of soccer still knotted at two goals apiece.
The self-styled #bullshitpubteam, comprised of amateur soccer players, came into the match with a boisterous supporters group and the swagger of being a two-time local qualifier, in 2015 and 2016. After an energetic and aggressive start, Harpos fell behind to FC Boulder 1-0 when an FC Boulder free kick dropped into the box, and the defense and goalkeeper failed to clear at the 20-ish minute mark. It was FC Boulder striker Michael Jordahl who calmly finished the ball into the goal from 5 yards out with his right foot.
Harpos came out at the half more composed and with better possession as they pressed for an equalizer. The breakthrough happened in the 55th-ish on a blistering shot from the left side by Ross Van Osdol. Harpos would take the lead a few minutes later as a left-sided attack led to a smoothly centered pass to forward Daniel Whittle, who slammed it home for a 2-1 lead.
It looked like it would end that way, but on a 90th minute corner kick for FC Boulder, the in-swinging ball dangerously pinged off several players heads in and around the box. Boulder’s Alex Dickerson popped a perfect floating ball into the upper left corner of the net, drawing the match even at the death. Although it appeared the ball had been cleared off the line by a Harpos defender, the linesman declared that the ball had completely cleared the plane of the goal line and signaled for a goal, and it was 2-2 as regulation concluded a few seconds later.
Thirty minutes of tired-legged extra time didn’t settle matters, so the game went to PKs. Each team coolly converted their first five penalties without the keepers so much as touching the ball. After Harpos converted the sixth PK, FC Boulder fired their reply into the falling outstretched body of goalkeeper Marc Herzberger for the save. The Harpos fans rushed the field, beers in hand, the celebrate their team’s skin-of-the-teeth victory.
Several players stood out on the pitch. Central defender Juddy McKinney (#24) combined pace and instinct with strong on-ball skills to lead the back line, along with his nimble, crafty sidekick at right back, Mac Hemmi (#27), who defended fiercely while causing problems up field in the attack. Attackers Daniel Whittle (#11) and Shane Wheeler (#9) created problems for the Boulder backline all game and took the lions share of shots for the BSPT.
Harpos owner and manager Johnny Freeston was thrilled with his teams victory, but knew they hadn’t played as well as they should have. “An unnecessary two goals we let in. But the game was a true test of character, and the team came through. Definitely cheers and props to our keeper Marc Herzberger. We knew we would make all our shots, and that he would come up big and save one for us, and that’s what he did.”
In other action, teams from the two top local amateur leagues, United Premier Soccer League and Colorado Premier League met in their first round matches. On Saturday, FC Denver defeated GAM United 3-0, while last year’s local Open Cup qualifier, Azteca FC beat Denver Metro FC, 2-0. On Sunday, Colorado Springs FC beat Colorado Rovers 2-0. In a match in Highlands Ranch, Colorado Rush outlast Club El Azul, 2-1, in extra time, and Indios FC thumped Union Jerez 6-1. In the nightcap up in Northern Colorado, Fort Collins United hammered FC Greeley, 5-1.
Matchups for the second round, to be played the weekend of October 21st and 22nd, were announced Monday morning. USSoccer tweeted out the following draws via @opencup :
Moving on to the Colorado/Oregon Region..— U.S. Open Cup (@opencup) September 25, 2017
-FC Denver hosts Fort Collins United
-Azteca FC hosts Colorado Rush#USOC2018
More from the Colorado/Oregon region:— U.S. Open Cup (@opencup) September 25, 2017
-Indios Denver FC hosts IPS/Marathon Taverna
-Colorado Springs FC hosts Harpos FC#USOC2018
IPS/Marathon Taverna will be traveling from Oregon for the match. All times and locations are TBD.
Ninety-eight teams entered the 2018 edition of the Cup, and after the three rounds of qualifying, the twelve surviving teams will enter into the main Open Cup competition beginning sometime in mid-spring of 2018.