Inter EmpireWorks FC took a 1-0 lead into halftime, but it wasn’t enough as Sporting AZ stormed back with goals from Cesar Mexia, David Alton, and Jose Ramos in the second half and advanced to the third round of US Open Cup qualifying with a 3-1 victory.
Inter came out of the gate strong, registering a shot on target within the first 60 seconds of the game. They finally broke Sporting’s defense down in the 32nd minute when William Arechiga received a quick pass from Daniel Frias and buried a low, driven shot into the back of the net. Inter kept the pressure up and had it not been for a stellar performance from Sporting goalkeeper Andrew Weber, the margin might have been wider at halftime.
Sporting, however, regrouped at the break and their second half rally got started in the 56th minute when they were awarded a questionable penalty that Cesar Mexia calmly converted past Inter goalkeeper Christopher Salado. Seven minutes later, Jose Ramos found David Alton at the top of the box and Alton finished his chance to give the hosts a 2-1 lead. Ramos went on to score one himself to seal the win for Sporting in the 83rd minute.
The score line may not have accurately reflected Inter’s efforts, especially in the first half. Weber, a former MLS journeyman who has a handful of appearances to his name for five different MLS teams, finished the night with eight saves and had it not been for his efforts the outcome may have been different. He said as much after the game.
“We weathered the storm at the end and got the result. I’m very pleased about that.”
His coach, Aidan Davison, added that Sporting always had a chance to win; they just needed to take it.
“I think we were unfortunate to go down one-nil. We weren’t doing too much wrong. So it was a case of just sticking to the gameplan and believing in what we can do, and be effective, and we did that.”
Sporting won the Arizona Conference title during their inaugural season in the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) this past spring, but Davison and nearly the entire roster were not part of that team. Regardless, after a solid opening win, they have momentum heading into their third round qualifier against Galati SC from the Arizona Champions League.
Sporting also has a solid Open Cup resume in it’s club history as they are a re-brand of the old Arizona Sahuaros, a club that has qualified for the tournament six times, twice as a D-3 Pro club (1998, 1999) and four times (2006, 2008, 2009, 2010) as an amateur side.
That next match will take place on Nov. 18 with the winner becoming the sixth open division amateur team to make the tournament from Arizona. In addition to the Sahuaros’ four trips to the In fact, four of the five previous teams to qualify were the Arizona Sahuaros (2006, 2008, 2009, 2010), the club that has ties to Sporting AZ.