San Diego Flash and FC Hasental players battle for the ball in their 2014 US Open Cup qualifying final match. Photo: FC Hasental
Two west coast National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) teams have presumably qualified for the 2014 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup with wins Saturday. While the US Soccer Federation has yet to announce the format for the 2014 edition of the tournament, the game between the San Diego Flash and FC Hasental and the match between CD Aguiluchos USA and Spartans Futbol Club were largely predicted as “Win & You’re In.” The Flash and Aguiluchos both won their games 2-1, and are now awaiting the final word from USSF.
For San Diego, if you include the club’s past history, it will mark the sixth time the Flash have qualified for the US Open Cup and the first time since 2001 when they were an A-League team (2nd Division). In fact, the last time the Flash qualified for the Open Cup, their head coach Warren Barton was still playing for Newcastle United in England.
Now, in their fourth season as an NPSL side, they have returned to the tournament by avenging last year’s qualifying tournament final loss to FC Hasental.
“We think [presumed qualification] is great for our city of San Diego,” Flash CEO Clent Alexander said. “It’s great for our players. We re-started the organization about four years ago. We’ve been knocking on the door. This means that we got through. It’s great for our players and staff. It’s great for our organization overall.”
The match, hosted by Hasental at Oak Park High School Stadium in Oak Park, Calif., started out slow but the home side finally took the lead with a penalty kick by Moises Orozco in first half stoppage time.
However, the scoreline was reversed early in the second half when Flash forward Justin Picou scored a pair of goals in the 58th and 63rd minutes to lead the Flash to victory.
“This loss stings considering we have to wait an entire year for another shot at qualifying,” Hasental head coach Eric Warner said after the match.
The last time the Flash qualified for the Open Cup, they were knocked out thanks to a brace by then-Chicago Fire forward Eric Wynalda at Milwaukee Sports Complex in Franklin, Mil.
Wynalda is now a part-owner of the club. That performance by Wynalda continued the trend of the San Diego club getting knocked out with a brace from a US National team star as they were also knocked out in 1999 thanks to a two-goal effort from Clint Mathis, then with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The farthest they have ever gone in the tournament was in 1999 and 2000 when they reached the third round before losing to the Galaxy both times.
“The last four years has been a magical ride, getting my partner [owner] Warren Barton involved,” Alexander said. “Warren Barton is here to put San Diego on the map in outdoor soccer. And [Wynalda’s] ride with Cal FC a few years ago was special. If we can do anything like he did, we’d like to see our local media involved with what we do.”
Meanwhile, CD Aguiluchos USA of Oakland, Calif. continued their dream run towards qualifying for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup by defeating Spartans Futbol Club of Vancouver, Wash. Saturday night at Raimondi Park in Oakland.
Aguiluchos, the Golden Gate Conference Open Cup Qualifying tournament champion, faced the Spartans who won the qualifying tournament for the newly-formed Northwest Conference.
“[Qualifying is] a big opportunity for all the fans that we have in the whole of the United States,” said Aguiluchos chairman Roger Amaya, who’s club is named as an homage to 15-time Salvadorian champion C.D. Aguila. “We have a lot of fans from Maryland, New Jersey and LA where there is a big concentration of Salvadorian people.”
“They’re watching us,” Amaya added. “We’re showing all the fans that we’re working hard to compete at a good level.”
The home side was the first to score when Jorge Ruiz collected a ball in the midfield, then dribbled the ball to the top of the box and unleashed a right-footed shot that caromed off of the post and into the net.
The Spartans then tied the match when defender Jordan Selland found forward Nino Ayala for the equalizing goal shortly before halftime.
Late in the match, Aguiluchos won a penalty and up stepped former Salvadorian international Rudis Corrales, who scored for El Salvador as recently as 2011.
The veteran converted the penalty to give Aguiluchos the win. CD Aguiluchos are now expected to take part in the US Open Cup for the first time in just their second season under head coach and former CD Aguila player Hugo Coria.