One of two newcomers from Region II of the USASA, KC Athletics is eager to show its worth when it faces the NSC Minnesota Stars in the first round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Founded in 2001 as a merger of Legends Soccer Club and the Kansas City Football Club, KC Athletics won regionals in its first year competing in the Snickers Nationals and ended up finishing third nationally in the competition. The following year, their Under 20 team won the national championship, but then the club went on hiatus with many of the players joining nearby PDL clubs like the Des Moines Menace and the Kansas City Brass. In 2004, the KC Athletics were reborn.
With many of the players from the Under-20 team still with the club, the Athletics entered US Open Cup qualifying for the first time this year. They became the first Kansas-based team to enter the tournament in several years.
Kansas City’s first qualifier was a thriller on the road against the Des Moines Menace USASA side. The Athletics overcame a 3-1 second half deficit, but then fell behind 4-3 late in the game, but battled back to tie it up. Player/coach Kyle Perkins scored three of the team’s four goals, as the match went into a penalty kick shootout. In the ninth round of the tiebreaker, goalkeeper Zach Brennan saved Des Moines’ attempt, and then immediately turned around to score the game-winning spot kick to send the Athletics into the semifinals.
In their final four match against AAC Eagles of Illinois, a “Win & You’re In” match, they played another high-scoring nail biter, this time in front of their home fans. The Kansas City Wizards offered the team a chance to play their Open Cup match against the Chicago-based Eagles at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, immediately following the Wizards Major League Soccer match against the Chicago Fire.
In the pouring rain, some loyal fans, as well as some of the Wizards players, stuck around to watch the Athletics come back to tie the game up twice and then took the lead in the 59th minute on Perkins’ second goal of the match. However, the Eagles would equalize in the 75th minute, and just like their previous game, a scoreless extra time period would send the match into penalty kicks. Just one save needed to be made, as KC advanced 5-3 in the shootout to qualify for their first US Open Cup
According to Perkins, one of the biggest surprises the team had was facing the level of organization that the other sides brought to the competition, something which he feels put them at the start at a bit of a disadvantage, as the amount of training time available for the team has been less than he would like.
They will travel to the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minn. for their opening round match with the NSC Minnesota Stars on Tuesday. They are dealing with a number of injury and scheduling issues, as any USASA team does, so they will be without key players like former Kansas City Wizard Brian Roberts, and former Kansas City Comet Jason Woods. To replace them, the team has recruited former MLS player Scott Vermillion (Kansas City Wizards, Colorado Rapids, DC United),and local college standouts David Russell and youngster Larry Mason.
Perkins feels that they are better prepared moving forward and hope that their mix of former pros and local soccer talent will provide them with the ability to play up to the level of the 2nd Division Stars. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, he has been able to watch a few of the Stars’ matches and they have a gameplan, but knows that it’s hard to know how the team is going to react to playing against a professional team.
“I don’t know what to expect really [with Tuesday's match],” said Perkins. “We’ve got a starting 11 that we believe in and I think we’ll be alright.”