2015 US Open Cup qualifying: Harpo’s FC from Boulder, Colorado punches ticket despite losing USSSA final to KC Athletics (updated)

Posted by | March 14, 2015

USSSA_New_Logo_1UPDATE: The Kansas City Athletics defeated Harpo’s FC 3-1 in the USSSA championship game. Since KC already qualified through USASA Region II, Harpo’s FC has qualified as runner-up. They are the first Boulder, Colorado team to qualify since 2004 (Boulder Rapids Reserve, PDL).

The brilliance of individual players is one of things that makes soccer “the beautiful game.” Individual brilliance was on display in Harpo’s FC’s 3-2 win over Colorado Rovers Saturday afternoon, when forward Shane Wheeler’s 25-yard strike off the post in the 88th minute snatched a dramatic 3-2 victory and clinched a spot in the 2015 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The game-winning goal was doubly sweet as they become the first Boulder, Colorado club to qualify for the US Open Cup since 2004 (Boulder Rapids Reserve, PDL) but they also knock out their rival, two-time defending champion Colorado Rovers.

There was some controversy after the game, however. Many of the coaches were upset with the tournament setup where teams played cross-group games instead of teams within their own groups. This was done after several teams dropped out earlier in the week to ensure every remaining team got to play at least three games. Because he felt the tournament structure was unfair, KC Athletics player/coach Kyle Perkins offered to give up his team’s spot in the final since his club already qualified for the tournament through USASA Region II last fall. However, tournament director Craig Scriven decided the final would go on as planned with Harpo’s meeting KC at noon on Sunday, meaning that Harpo’s will be the USSSA’s Open Cup representative.

2015-usssa-trophy-bigWheeler’s strike was the culmination of an open and entertaining game. The scoring started almost instantly when Ian Marcheschi wrong-footed the Rovers’ goalkeeper after Daniel Whittle fed the forward’s smart, diagonal run into the box.

Rovers quickly leveled at 1-1 with a controversial goal. Harpo’s failed to clear a corner and the ball was headed back into the box and a Rovers player collided with Harpo’s goalkeeper Marc Herzerger. The referee elected not to blow his whistle, allowing a Rovers player to poke the ball over the line.

“I thought the goal they scored was definitely a foul [against] our keeper,” said Harpo’s coach John Freeston. “They [Rovers] moved the entire goal and net when it happened.”

Harpo’s retook the lead 12 minutes into the second half thanks to some good footwork from Wheeler. The forward beat a Rovers defender to the ball and touched it past, only to be tripped. Kevin Harber stepped to the spot and sent the keeper the wrong way to make it 2-1.

Things got crazy from there. A Rovers player was shoved to the ground while trying to get a head on a dangerous cross and the referee had no hesitation making what was an easy penalty call. As Colorado tied the game at 2-2, the ASC New Stars took the lead on the KC Athletics in the day’s other important group game. Harpo’s suddenly went from a potential spot in the Open Cup to heading home if the scores held up. Harpo’s needed at least a tie in both games to go through.

The chances of that looked dire when ASC padded its lead over KC with a second goal late in the game and Harpo’s missed a flurry of chances. Sawyer Frank skied an open chance over the bar from six yards out in the 81st minute and Wheeler had a shot roll inches wide of the post a minute later. Captain Dan Campbell slammed a shot off the crossbar in the 83rd. But with two minutes to go, Wheeler pulled off some cup magic. The forward danced around a defender before unleashing a rocket from 25 yards that the Rovers’ goalkeeper could only deflect off the post on its way in.

Harpo’s staved off a few late chances from Rovers to secure the spot in the final and the USSSA’s Open Cup berth.

4’ Ian Marcheschi (Dan Whittle)
6’ Unknown Rovers player
57’ Kevin Harber (PK)
62’ Unknown Rovers player
88’ Shane Wheeler

89’ Shane Wheeler (removing his shirt)

2015 USSSA Open Cup qualifying tournament
Overland Park Soccer Complex – Overland Park, Kan.

Group A GP W L D Pts GF GA GD
KC ATHLETICS 3 1 2 0 3 6 8 -2
Colorado Rovers 3 0 1 2 2 4 5 -1
Monaco FC 3 0 3 0 0 2 15 -13
Group B GP W L D Pts GF GA GD
HARPO’S FC 3 3 0 0 9 13 3 +10
ASC New Stars 3 2 0 1 7 8 2 +6
CO Sporting Premier 3 1 1 1 4 7 7 +0

Friday, March 13 
Colorado Rovers 1:1 CO Sporting Premier
Harpo’s FC 4:1 KC Athletics
ASC New Stars 5:1 Monaco FC

Saturday, March 14
KC Athletics 5:2 CO Sporting Premier
ASC New Stars 1:1 Colorado Rovers
Harpo’s FC 6:0 Monaco FC

Saturday, March 14
Harpo’s FC 3:2 Colorado Rovers
ASC New Stars 2:0 KC Athletics
CO Sporting Premier 4:1 Monaco FC

Sunday, March 15 (12 p.m. CT)
Championship game: KC Athletics 3:1 Harpo’s FC
*Harpo’s FC qualifies for 2015 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup because KC Athletics have already qualified through USASA*

Saturday morning recap

The Kansas City Athletics bounced back from an opening day loss with a resounding 5-2 victory over Colorado Sporting Premier on Saturday morning in the USSSA’s US Open Cup qualifying tournament. The win eliminated Sporting and put KC in command of Group A.

The goals came early for the Athletics. John Markey converted a spot kick after Brian Williams drew a penalty in the fifth minute and Martin Johnston doubled the lead four minutes later off a beautiful early cross. KC continued to pad its lead after halftime, adding a goal from Kyle Perkins and two from Brian Williams to make it 5-0. Sporting pulled two back late, a disappointment for KC when considering goals allowed is the first tiebreaker to determine a spot in Sunday’s final.

“Lapses of concentration in the back,” explained Perkins about the late goals they allowed. “We were subbing everybody in and out and sometimes you can get markers switched and lose a man here and there.”

The win sets up an interesting slate of afternoon games. Four teams – KC, Colorado Rovers, Harpo’s FC and ASC New Stars – are still alive for a berth in the final after Rovers tied ASC 1-1 and Harpo’s won 6-0 over Monaco FC.

The Athletics now sit atop group A on three points, one ahead of Rovers and can assure itself a place in the final with a win over ASC Newstars.

6’ John Markey (PK)
9’ Kyle Perkins (Brian Williams)
71’ Brian Williams
77’ Brian Williams (Skelly Kellar)
80’ Craig Jarvis
83’ Kaleb Romero

Evan Sizemore (yellow, reckless tackle)

Friday recap

Beauty. Controversy. Late drama. Friday night’s match between Colorado Rovers and Colorado Sporting Premier was the lowest scoring of the tournament’s opening round, yet it was anything but boring. Sporting’s Joseph Cover won and converted a 90th minute penalty kick to salvage a 1-1 draw from an eventful game to kick off the 2014 United States Specialty Sports Association Open Cup tournament in Overland Park, Kan.

In other action, Boulder, Colorado club Harpo’s FC thumped the Kansas City Athletics 4-1, while Houston’s ASC New Stars cruised to a 5-1 win over Denver’s Monaco FC.

The Rovers and Sporting combined for just two shots in the opening 20 minutes as both struggled to connect passes, but Rovers settled in from there and took the lead in the 24th minute. Former Major League Soccer player Richie Kotschau started the move by winning the ball back in Sporting’s half and hitting a well-weighted pass out to the left wing. He followed that up with a perfectly-timed run into the penalty box, latching on to a teammate’s cutback pass and hammering a first-time shot into the left corner to put Rovers up 1-0.

“I thought we had a defensive lapse on the opening goal,” said Sporting head coach Gerard Louison “That was the only mistake we made all half.”

Kotschau led a Rovers midfield that shut down Sporting’s single-forward look for most of the first half. The few opportunities Sporting did get came courtesy of Aaron Chin and Elliot Levett’s work down the right flank. It was their clever combination play that led to the team’s best chance to equalize on a dangerous 41st minute cross, the kind of play that Louison said was lacking throughout the game.

“We just didn’t get enough crosses in,” Louison said. “That’s the way to really break [Colorado Rovers] down.”

Sporting struggled to create chances in the second half even after subbing on a second forward and eventually moving to a desperate 3-5-2 in an attempt to tie the game. With time ticking down, it was the captain who stepped up to save the day.

The play started down Sporting’s right flank and ended with Cover bursting into the Rovers’ box with the ball. He went down while trying to cut across a defender and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. Sporting’s captain coolly slotted home the 90th minute equalizer.

“We didn’t finish,” said Rovers head coach Erick French. “There’s a certain amount of professionalism at the end of a game that you don’t provide them with opportunities, they should never get to our box at that point. We should be playing in the corner by the corner flag, not in our box.”

Both coaches had predictably conflicting views on the validity of the penalty call, but neither was happy with the referee in general.

“The whole game was a little bit sketchy,” said French. “The referees didn’t know the rules.”

Part of Louison’s frustration stemmed from the head official mistakenly sending off one of Sporting’s players after only one yellow card. The error was quickly corrected, but the Sporting coach was not pleased.

Both teams play their final two group games Saturday. Those games, along with the others will be at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. (Details below)

Scoring Summary
ROVERS: Kotschau – 24th min.
SPORTING: Cover (PK) – 90th min.

51’ Unknown CO Sporting player (yellow, reckless tackle)
62’ Eric Wilson (yellow, reckless tackle)
76’ Craig Jarvis (yellow, reckless tackle)

Other Notes:
* As was reported in the tournament’s preview, if the Kansas City Athletics are able to rally to win the tournament, the tournament’s runner-up will be the 2015 US Open Cup entry from the USSSA. The Athletics have already qualified for the US Open Cup through the USASA and are using this tournament as preparation.
* Colorado Sporting Premier coach Gerard Louison said he thinks Harpo’s is the best team at the tournament. Louison knows the team well because Sporting lost to Harpo’s in the Colorado State Cup final.
* Rovers coach Erick French said after the game fitness is a concern because of the two Saturday games. French rotated guys frequently against Sporting. When asked what the plan is to recover tomorrow he laughed and said, “Ice baths.”
* The ASC New Stars are aiming to qualify for the tournament for the fourth time in club history. They competed in the US Open Cup in 2008, 2011 and 2012 while representing the USASA’s Region III. They lost their opening game in each tournament appearance.