Star forward Tyler Reinhart scored two goals, tallied an assist, and drew a penalty in a man-of-the match performance that helped the Fresno Fuego Future qualify for the 100th edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup with a 5-1 victory over APJCC Los Gatos Storm on Saturday.
The championship game of US Club Soccer’s Open Cup qualifying tournament took place at Chukchansi Park in Fresno, Calif. Saturday. The Fuego, who also compete in the USL’s Premier Development League, didn’t qualify for the 2013 tournament based on their 2012 PDL results, but entered a team in the US Club Soccer tournament.
The Fuego will begin Open Cup play on May 7 in the Play-In Round against NPSL club FC Hasental. According to a local media report, the Fuego claim they will host that game at Chukchansi Park, but no official announcement has been made.
Reinhart opened the scoring in the 34th minute when a shot saved by Storm goalkeeper Jairo Zermano dropped right to him in the penalty area.
The Cal Poly Pamona product expertly finished the chance with a one-time shot that seemed minutes in the making as Fuego had been controlling much of the match to that point.
Just seven minutes later, Chivas USA Supplemental Draft pick Paul Islas made a long run through the midfield before playing a smart one-two with Rienhart at the top of the box. Islas side-footed the ball into the corner of the net to give Fuego a deserving 2-0 lead just before the break.
“We really wanted to come out strong,” said Reinhart. “Luckily we were able to get a couple of early goals.”
If there was any question to the result, Reinhart ended all speculation when he completed his brace, finishing from a tight angle after some nice interplay down the left side from Islas and Robert Garcia in the 49th minute.
Islas, who described his own play as “mediocre” was a nuisance for the Storm all day, continually making probing runs from midfield, and losing his marker with deft touches and quick interplay with teammates.
The Fuego weren’t close to being done though. When Storm defender Felix Alvarez misplayed a back-pass, Reinhart was the quickest to pounce, getting the ball behind the defender with just the keeper to beat. The hulking Alvarez was left with no choice but to pull down Rienhart, earning Fresno a penalty kick and a red card for Alvarez.
Fuego captain Caston Cignetti coolly converted the spot kick in the 57th minute, ending any chances of a Los Gatos comeback.
As the result was assured, both teams played out the rest of the game somewhat nonchalantly in the 90 degree heat.
In the 63rd minute Storm captain, and former California Cougar, Enrique Tovar played a lofted through ball to Steven Sanchez who finally beat Fuego keeper Gilbert Vega with a low shot that shaved the inside of the left upright.
Three minutes later, another Paul Islas run drew the keeper off his line. Islas slotted the ball back to the onrushing Robert Garcia who finished the ball in the corner of the back of the net to end the night’s scoring at 5-1.
“We’re playing really well right now,” said Islas. “The Open Cup opens up opportunities for us so hopefully we can be a part of it for as long as possible.”
In the 73rd minute Enrique Tovar hit the crossbar with a penalty kick after Fuego defender Eddie Gonzalez brought down a Storm player in the box. Gonzalez was immediately substituted afterwards.
2013 will mark the third time a team from the Fuego organization will be a part of the US Open Cup. In 2003, the team’s inaugural season in the PDL, they put together one of the top Open Cup runs of the Modern Professional Era (1995-present). After defeating MPSL (now known as the NPSL) side Chico Rooks , they upset two professional teams (Utah Blitzz and the El Paso Patriots) before falling to Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy.
It would be almost a decade before they would qualify again, reaching the tournament last year. The Fuego defeated last year’s US Club Soccer representative Stanislaus United Turlock Express 2-0 in the opening round before they were eliminated by the NASL’s Fort Lauderdale Strikers .
2013 US Open Cup qualifying: US Club Soccer
|x-San Ramon SC||9||3||0||0||+11|
|North Coast Tsunami||3||1||2||0||-4|
|Southern Oregon Fuego||0||0||3||0||-13|
Cap FC 0:3 San Ramon SC
North Coast Tsunami 1:0 Southern Oregon Fuego
Southern Oregon Fuego 0:5 San Ramon SC
Cap FC 4:2 North Coast Tsunami
San Ramon SC 3:0 North Coast Tsunami
Southern Oregon Fuego 0:7 Cap FC
|x-Fresno Fuego Future||7||2||0||1||+3|
|x-APJCC Los Gatos Storm||6||2||1||0||+3|
Fresno Fuego Future 1:0 APJCC Los Gatos Storm
APJCC Los Gatos Storm 3:2 Stanislaus United
Bullard United 0:3 APJCC Los Gatos Storm
Stanislaus United 2:2 Fresno Fuego Future
Fresno Fuego Future 3:1 Bullard United
Bullard United 1:1 Stanislaus United
Semifinals (April 6)
Cap FC 2:10 Fresno Fuego Future
Semifinals (Replay – April 21)
San Ramon FC 0:2 (AET) APJCC Los Gatos Storm
* Original match on April 6 suspended when the lights went out at the stadium with the score tied 1-1 in extra time.
Final (April 27)
Fresno Fuego Future 5:1 APJCC Los Gatos Storm
Chukchansi Park (Fresno, CA)