Luke Winter added to his growing list of achievements as his two goals propelled Chattanooga FC to a historic US Open Cup win in Round 2. By defeating the Wilmington Hammerheads 3-1 on May 14, the Tennessee club became the first NPSL side to register a win against professional competition. Prior to CFC’s victory, NPSL clubs were 0-15-0 against professional teams. Winter’s role in the significant victory earned him TheCup.us Player of the Round Award for the 2014 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup’s Second Round.
The award is voted on by TheCup.us staff and a select panel from the North American Soccer Reporters.
With a slate of Modern Pro Era record 23 games on the schedule for the Second Round of the tournament there were bound to be some standout performances. The teams and players involved did not disappoint with as many as 13 different players receiving votes for the award.
The wide open vote came down to Winter and four other players: Heviel Cordoves (Charleston Battery), Darius Madison (Reading United AC), Alfredo Rodriguez (North Texas Rayados) and Josh Trott (NY Greek American Atlas). In the end, Winter’s historic brace was enough to separate himself from the pack to earn Player of the Round honors.
Winter also makes a little individual history as he joins Gustavo Villalobos of FC Hasental (2013 Preliminary Round) as the only two NPSL players to ever win Player of the Round.
Winter could do no wrong during his shift against Wilmington. In his time of the field, he proved more than a handful for the Hammerheads defense. The CFC forward took advantage of a poorly executed Wilmington offside trap to volley home his first goal of the game in the 21st minute. From there his night only got better. In the 63th minute, taking advantage of a Wilmington team down a man, Winter headed in a scintillating cross from Luis Trude. The goal proved to be the game winner as Chattanooga became the first Tennessee club to win a tournament game since the PDL’s Memphis Express in 2002.
“It was a great team performance,” said Winter. “Everything worked well together and things just clicked for us. I scored two goals but both assists were spot on, making it easier for me.
“Now we’re eyeing up and can’t wait for the challenge,” he added.
Winter is no stranger to producing award-winning performances. The Norwich, England native scored three consecutive hat tricks in NPSL play in 2012, and racked up multiple awards during his collegiate career at Tennessee Wesleyan University. In addition to his TheCup.us Player of the Round Award, Winter also received considerable attention for NPSL National Player of the Week honors for the week of May 12-18. Ultimately, FC Buffalo’s Russell Cicerone forward edged out the CFC forward for the award.
Winter is also familiar with, and up to, the level of play in the US Open Cup, notching a goal and an assist in CFC’s loss to the Carolina Dynamo (PDL) in the first round of last year’s tournament. His brace against Wilmington provided a victory that mollified the sting of CFC’s two previous first round exits to professional opponents in 2011 and 2013, and helped the club earn the first victory for a Tennessee club since 2002 (Memphis Express – PDL)
2014 TheCup.us Player of the Round winners
Round 1: Vlad Baciu (RWB Adria – USASA)
Round 2: Luke Winter (Chattanooga FC – NPSL)
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