Every year, the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup includes a new batch of amateur clubs hoping to be the tournament’s latest Cinderella story. And every year, TheCup.us introduces soccer fans across the country to these teams that have been the heart and soul of this competition for more than a century. This year, we are expanding our annual “Meet the USASA” series to include the USSSA and US Club Soccer. We bring you “Meet the Underdogs.”
A photo of PSA Elite’s starting XI from in its Lamar Hunt US Open Cup fourth-round match of 2014 against Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders begs at least two key questions.
First, who looks better and brighter in neon green, PSA Elite or the Sounders? PSA Elite wore highlighter green/yellow kits that day in Tukwila, Wash., at Starfire Sports Complex. Answer: Debatable, but give the visitors credit for the ploy.
Second, which team is one of only three USASA sides ever to get to the US Open Cup’s fourth round in 101 years of the tournament? Answer: PSA Elite.
The Orange County-based club makes its fourth consecutive Open Cup appearance this year, opening on May 13 against Golden State Misioneros FC at East L.A. College’s Weingart Stadium.
Five of the 11 players PSA Elite started last year in that match against Seattle are back and healthy this season. Former US youth internationals Aaron Simmons, Nathan Smith and Michael Amick, will join Belize international Michael Salazar and UC Irvine standout Mats Bjurman on the new-look roster.
One key player that is missing is Earl Edwards Jr., the UCLA product who received a lot of attention after his performance in last year’s Open Cup. He earned TheCup.us Player of the Round honors in the Third Round for his 14-save, 120-minute shut out of USL PRO’s LA Galaxy II, which ended with him stopping two penalty kicks in the shootout to help his club advance to Round 4. Edwards is now playing in Major League Soccer for Orlando City SC and recently made his debut for the expansion team.
PSA Elite qualified for the tournament as a wild card entry by the USASA. The fact that they advanced to the Fourth Round of the tournament last year, made it difficult for them to field a full squad in the 2014 USASA Region IV tournament, so they sent a B-squad to the tournament in Orem, Utah and finished 1-3-0 as a result. However, since the reason for their shorthandedness was because of their success in the Open Cup, the USASA awarded the club its fourth straight entry. PSA Elite looks to make another run this year, perhaps going even deeper in the American championship tournament.
Club president Alex Lujan prefers to play it close to the vest as to who his 18 active players will be against Misioneros FC, a PDL side. He said he’ll choose from a pool of 30 players on the roster.
PSA Elite-Misioneros is a rematch of the USOC first round last year, which PSA Elite won in penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw at the StubHub Center Training Field in Carson, Calif.
PSA Elite, a team of college players mixed with veteran professionals mainly based in Southern California, has one win over another PDL side in the tournament. It was a 3-1 win over the Portland Timbers U23s in Portland, Ore., in 2012.
Jose Romero is a freelance sports journalist from Phoenix who is always looking for a game of any kind to watch. He’s a former Seattle Sounders beat writer who has written about soccer regularly since late 2008. You can follow him on Twitter@RomeroJoseM