Harpo’s FC (USSSA) rode two first half goals to an away victory at Albuquerque Sol (PDL) in the First Round of the 2016 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Casual fans may see it as an upset, but after last year’s run to Round 3, nobody should be surprised by the veteran and in-form group from Boulder, Colo.
Harpo’s opened the game with a 3-5-2 lineup intent on allowing the hosts maintain possession amongst their defenders but cutting down every attempt out of their own half. Eventually defensive miscues and some timely passes by the Harpo’s counterattack gave the visitors the lead and they never looked back.
Harpo’s opened the scoring in the 14th minute when midfielder Chris Salvaggione pounced on Dan Campbell’s long ball that was misplayed by the Albuquerque goalkeeper Andres Seazzu and his backline. Salvaggione and the rest of the Harpo’s full team press continued to pressure the Albuquerque defense corralling the hosts back into their own half. Seventeen minutes later long free kick picked up by Kyle Luetkehans forced the Albuquerque defense into another precarious situation. Luetkehan’s cross in side to penalty area was defected, by a handball not called by the referee, but collected by forward Shane Wheeler whose first touch drove the ball into back of the net for the second goal.
Albuquerque Sol’s playmaker Patrick Pacheco and second half substitute Elliot Prost provided the hosts with a number of second half attacking combinations, few which tested Harpo’s goalkeeper Zac Gibbons. Harpo’s Chris Salvaggione, on the other hand, never took his foot off of the gas, testing Seazzu numerous times in the second half including a disallowed finish from an offside position in the 53rd minute and a long-range effort that required a diving Seazzu fingertip save.
The victory sets up a Centennial State rematch with second year USL side Colorado Springs Switchbacks. The Switchbacks ended Harpo’s three-game Open Cup run before setting off on a three game run themselves in last year’s tournament. The 2015 match turned into a fierce back and forth battle on a cold, rainy evening. This year’s matchup is guaranteed to be equally as heated with both teams confident and eager to push into the later rounds of their second U.S. Open Cups.
Man of the Match: Team effort. Chris Salvaggione’s pace along with Dan Campbell and Kyle Luetkehans’ passing created many of the highlights for Harpo’s however it was defender Joey Matibag that held a very high and very consistent three man backline throughout the match. As the field was compacted the counterattack was pushed higher and higher into the Albuquerque backline eventually forcing the pivotal mistakes.
Moment of the Match: Shane Wheeler’s goal in the 31st minute. At this point Albuquerque was already a goal down, but they were establishing possession and starting to build into dashing attacks led by winger Patrick Pacheco. The offensive foul by Wilkinson and ensuing long free kick by Joey Matibag led to a messy situation that if the missed handball on Kyle Luetkehans’ cross passed without effect perhaps the tide could have turned in the host’s favor. Instead Shane Wheeler blasted the deflected ball into the net and pushed the game out of reach.
Based in Denver, Robert Wilson has covered the US Open Cup matches in the Centennial State since 2014. He has enjoyed doing his part to grow the game in his part of the United States while balancing a career outside of soccer. Robert can be contacted by email at robertLwilson.email@example.com