Christos FC (yellow) played a strong defensive game in a 1-0 upset road win over the Richmond Kickers (USL) in the Second Round of the 2017 US Open Cup. Photo: Jessica Stone Hendricks Photography
Amateur side Christos FC and the USL’s Richmond Kickers played a stress-heavy game on both sides Wednesday night, as both teams had many opportunities to find the net in a scoreless stalemate for much of the game.
But it was Greaton Caltabiano who provided the late drama, scoring the winner in the 79th minute to lift Christos to a 1-0 win in the Second Round of the 2017 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Wednesday at City Stadium in Richmond.
The hero of the match was Christos’ goalkeeper Phil Saunders, who defended his goal to the point where it was practically impenetrable. He was in control all night, with seven saves to record his second straight shutout of the tournament.
“We’re from Baltimore, we’ve got that chip on our shoulder going into these games,” Saunders said. “This group of guys coming together is so great; I’ve been playing with them for 10-12 years. We’re a group, it’s a team effort.”
In the first half, Christos came out of the gate with some great speed and had some early shots on goal to catch Richmond slightly off guard. The Kickers turned it around quickly however, as Mikey Minutillo started to heat up and make some great attempts at the goal. Saunders was there every time, though, keeping his team in the game.
The entire half was a continuous trade of ball possession, as neither team necessarily dominated the other. Christos’ Pete Caringi, who had a hat trick last week, never even got a shot on goal in the first half as Richmond held him completely silent.
The stalemate continued through most of the second half as well, as the feeling of overtime started to wash over the stadium. Richmond looked to be the team to break the tie with multiple shots on goal in less than 30 seconds at the 70th minute, really testing the Christos’ defense that ultimately stood tall. In the 79th minute, it was Caltabiano who played hero with the game deciding goal assisted by Brian Graham.
Both Caltabiano and Graham were recent subs into the game, as Christos’ coach Andrew Dicea tried to inject some new life into his offense with some fresh legs. The plan worked resoundingly, to say the least.
After the game, Caltabiano was proud of his team’s effort to put them in a winning position at the end.
“Our team battled defensively all night, they worked their butts off,” he said. “My job coming in there at the end was to try and create some offense. We rallied to get that goal.”
Richmond had more than its fair share of opportunities throughout the game. Missed opportunities were what plagued the USL team, as they were never quite able to convert any clean shots when they needed it the most.
They put up a heart-filled effort in the final minutes of play, charging down the field after Christos’ goal in a desperate attempt to save the night. After Caringi had to go to the sideline to get checked for a head injury, the Kickers tried to capitalize on Christos playing down a man. But it was Saunders there again playing like a wall, which sealed Richmond’s fate.
Richmond, the 1995 US Open Cup champions, has a rich history in the tournament. They entered the game tied with the Charleston Battery for the fifth-most wins in the tournament’s Modern Era (1995-present). Exiting the tournament early is rare for the Kickers as this marked just the third time that they have been eliminated in the club’s opening round (2006 vs. Carolina Dynamo of PDL, 2009 vs. Carolina RailHawks of USL-1).
This win is huge for Christos, an amateur side making its Open Cup debut has beaten two powerful home teams to start the season, both in upset fashion. They will try to continue to work off that magic as they will play Chicago FC United of the PDL later this month.