UPDATE: The US Open Cup committee denied Ventura County Fusion’s appeal
Shortly after the Ventura County Fusion defeated the Los Angeles Wolves, TheCup.us learned that the Wolves would be filing a protest. The following morning, they did just that, on the grounds that one of the Fusion players who played in Wednesday’s US Open Cup First Round match had played for Cal FC during the open division qualifying tournament.
The new roster rules that were adopted prior to the 2016 US Open Cup stated that any player that plays for a team during the qualifying tournament is cup-tied to that team for the remainder of the entire tournament.
Gabriel Gonzalez played for Cal FC in both qualifying games against Valley United FC (Oct. 25, 2015) and the LA Wolves (Nov. 21, 2015). Since the Wolves had already played against him, it was easy for them to notice the familiar face playing for the Fusion on Wednesday night, and as a result they filed the protest.
The US Soccer Federation announced on Friday that the protest would be upheld and the Fusion were disqualified. The Wolves would move on to Round 2 to take on the Orange County Blues of the USL on May 18.
Shortly after the announcement, Fusion spokesperson Polo Ascencio told TheCup.us they were planning to appeal the decision.
The reason for the appeal is very familiar to those who have followed the US Open Cup in recent years, but we will get to that shortly.
According to Ascencio, the Fusion were completely unaware of the fact that Gonzalez was cup tied. His registration was approved by the federation, so as far as they knew, he was eligible.
“We are embarrassed by the situation,” said Ascencio. “We registered our players and they all came back cleared. That is why we played [Gonzalez].”
Ascencio says they asked the players if they had played previously in the tournament. Two players came forward, but Gonzalez was not one of them.
There has been a situation very similar to this in recent years. On April 7, 2013, the New York Pancyprian Freedoms defeated Connecticut’s Newtown Pride SC 1-0 in a US Open Cup qualifying match, but were later disqualified for using an ineligible player. Back then, .
Here is what happened (TheCup.us – April 20, 2013):
According to the Cosmopolitan Soccer League’s official website, New York player Andreas Chronis was sent off in a league game on Dec. 9 against Hoboken FC 1912 for “rough play … insulting a referee with [a] racist remark, [and] also trying to assault a referee with [a] headbutt.” Chronis was suspended until August 31, 2013 as a result of his actions.
According to George Halkidis, general manager of the Freedoms, the CSL website’s description is wrong and Chronis attempted to headbutt an opposing player, and not the referee. Regardless, the overall offenses, most of all the verbal abuse he inflicted upon the match official during and after the game, were seen as a serious offense, and thus making him ineligible for league and cup play.
Serious offenses, such as assaulting match officials, is a ban that stretches federation-wide, therefore, since the incident occurred during league play, it would carry over into cup competitions, such as the Open Cup. The bottom line is that Chronis was not eligible to participate in the April 7 game against Newtown SC.
Had the newly-renamed Newtown Pride SC not discovered the suspension listed on the CSL website, no one would have noticed the error. The Freedoms GM, like all teams do, submitted his roster to his league prior to the match and it was cleared, which is the main reason why Halkidis’ team has been given a lifeline.
The Freedoms appealed the disqualification and since their league mistakenly approved the player for the tournament, and the team acted on that advice, the federation ordered a replay. Newtown won the replay in penalty kicks.
Back then, the federation authorized local officials to approve team rosters. For the Open Cup proper, the federation themselves are responsible. If the federation is at fault, and if the Freedoms/Newtown situation is any indication, we could see the Fusion and the Wolves on the field again soon.