It’s been a long time coming but finally Christos FC, the reigning Werner Fricker Open Cup and USASA Amateur Cup champions, have qualified for the US Open Cup proper.
Established in 1997, Christos FC have waited 20 years for a chance at the Lamar Hunt trophy. After first and second qualifying round triumphs over Dulles Sportsplex Aegean Hawks and West Chester United as well as a third qualifying round cancellation, the Baltimore squad has reached the promised land of American amateur soccer.
“Qualifying was a huge accomplishment and definitely something we had been striving for in recent years,” said founder and general manager Jody Haislip. “To have the opportunity to play against professional teams and play in such a prestigious cup is everything that we have been working towards.”
If the US Open Cup represents the zenith of amateur soccer opportunity, then surely Christos FC had already scaled the majority of American soccer’s metaphorical mountain. Beyond the Open Cup, Christos have experienced significant success throughout virtually every other area of American amateur soccer. Last year the Latrobe Park outfit won both the Region 1 Amateur Cup and the USASA Amateur Cup. In the last five years the Marylanders have won five national titles spanning several national competitions. Yet, once again despite this previous success, this season represents their first foray into US soccer’s most prestigious competition available to amateur clubs.
If success for Christos FC’s on the national level is customary then state success is expected, assumed, and essentially assured. Despite a strong Maryland soccer scene, Christos have long dominated, winning back-to-back state cup trebles. This treble included Maryland Rowland Cup (open), the Maryland Stewart Cup (amateur), and the Maryland Over-30 Cup 2016-2017 titles. Surely, the Maryland Major League side will hope this cup-based dominance carries over into yet another cup.
“Winning the Open and Amateur Cups last year was at the time the biggest achievement/success for the club but yes to play in the Lamar Hunt Cup will certainly top that,” Haslip said. “To win a few games would be icing on the cake.”
The squad’s leading scorer the past few years is Petey Caringi III, a University of Maryland, Baltimore County All American player from 2013 who was drafted by MLS side Montreal Impact in 2014 and later signed by Oklahoma City Energy. Winger Levi Houapeu, also a UMBC alumni, won the Division I scoring title in 2009 and was drafted by the Philadelphia Union in 2011. Houapeu had a serious knee injury which cut his first season short. He also played with the Rochester Rhinos and Baltimore Blast.
Goalkeeper Phil Saunders, also a UMBC alumni, played professionally in Iceland for Bl Bolungarvik in Iceland’s First Division in 2014 while Central Midfielder Kaoru Forbess is a former University of Maryland player who helped the Terrapins win the 2008 National Championship. Forbess is also a former U-18 US National Team player and played professionally for the Baltimore Blast.
Haislip said that veteran centerback Josh Taylor is a Loyola University graduate and is in the perfect spot in the back to lead the defense.
“The odds are definitely against us,” Haislip said. “We are an amateur team with guys who have full-time jobs and — sad to say this but — we don’t train or practice. guys do things individually but nothing as a group.
He feels that if Christos plays its best game and believes, it could make a run.
“I’m sure we will be underestimated a little and I hope with that our desire and hunger to win is more than the other teams,” he said. “This group of guys have only lost one game in almost two years. I’d like to think the guys hate to lose more than they love to win. I’m all about this club winning because I can’t stand losing. In everything we do as a club we want to finish first. That means we hopefully have a lot of LHUSOC games ahead of us.”
Having previously been perilously close to qualification, only now have Christos achieved that important step towards the notoriety that Brooklyn Italians, Chicago A.A.C, Harpos FC and others previously garnered through the competition. Having started the season 20-0-0 before falling in the USASA National Amateur Cup quarterfinals to Rochester Riverdogz, Christos will be looking for a strong showing in the competition, not just to demonstrate that they belong but also to try and match the accomplishments of last year’s strong season. With their spot in the Hank Steinbrecher Cup this summer also secured, a scalp or two in the Open Cup would not only turn a few heads but also let Christos forget the disappointment of their Amateur Cup result and finish the year with their own heads held high.
With a First Round fixture against NPSL side Fredericksburg FC and a top ten USL side in attendance in Richmond waiting in the second round, the boys from the Charm City may be the latest amateur darlings to embody the magic of the cup and stage a cup run for the history books.