The Los Angeles Wolves got a pair of first half goals from Sam Higgins to earn a 2-1 win over Cal FC in the second round of the 2016 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup qualifying tournament.
The win eliminates one of the more popular amateur teams in recent US Open Cup history. Cal FC got worldwide attention under direction of their head coach Eric Wynalda in the 2012 tournament when they traveled north to Oregon and eliminated Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers. But now, the Wolves are one win away from qualifying for the Open Cup and possibly making their own history.
The Wolves, whose name was inspired by the NASL team by the same name from the 1960s, advance to the final round of qualifying and will likely play against one of the other three remaining Southern California teams: La Maquina, Outbreak FC or San Nicolas FC. Their opponent will be announced on Jan. 7, 2016, and the game will take place during the first week of April.
Both goals by the Wolves were scored by Higgins, a local standout from Palos Verdes, Calif., and in similar fashion. Around the 22nd minute, the Fram SC youth product who has had trials with English clubs, received the ball on the right side from Duncan Capriotti and after beating a couple of Cal FC defender, fired a shot past the goalkeeper from 15 yards out.
Just a few minutes from halftime, Higgins added a second. This time, receiving the ball from Sori Kieta and finishing nearly the same way to help the Wolves take a 2-0 lead into the halftime break.
Cal FC would pull one back in the second half, but the Wolves defense was able to keep them off the scoresheet for the final 15 minutes of the match to preserve the victory.
“Getting the win was our goal and we achieved our goal as there is no tomorrow in the US Open Cup if you lose,” said Wolves president and general manager Yan Skwara. “We wanted to see our forwards take advantage of goal scoring opportunities and not miss our chances. We really pushed team defense and asked everybody to push for 90 minutes including our forwards.”
Of the four remaining Southern California teams, the Wolves are one of three from the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL). They have a talented roster, but are hoping to one day taking the Wolves to the next level.
“As we’ve grown, we’ve picked up new sponsors, new investors that agree with the vision that we have, which is a professional vision for the club,” said Wolves president and general manager Yan Skwara told SoccerNation.com. “We would like to see the club at a professional level. At this point we’re reviewing the different options that are available, and at the same time I think it’s important to stay focused on the product on the field, because things come a lot easier when you perform and put wins on the board.”
The Wolves entered this open division qualifying tournaments as one of the favorites. They finished the regular season in the very competitive UPSL undefeated with a 20-0-1 record, leading the league in goals scored (77) and goals against (14).