After playing the El Paso Patriots to a 1-1 draw, the Richmond Kickers captured the 1995 US Open Cup title by defeating the Patriots on penalty kicks 4-2. Photo: Richmond Kickers
When the Richmond Kickers won the 1995 US Open Cup as an amateur team, it was one of the great underdog stories in the tournament’s long history. They defeated three professional teams, including the USISL Pro League’s El Paso Patriots in penalty kicks in the Final to become the first Virginia-based team to lift the trophy.
Very few US Open Cup games have ever been broadcast on television, but the 1995 US Open Cup Final was televised on the Prime Network and there are very few people who have a copy of it today. Luckily, a VHS tape was found by one of the 1995 Kickers players and the team digitized the entire game this week and posted it to YouTube (WATCH THE ENTIRE GAME BELOW)
This tournament marks the beginning of what TheCup.us calls the “Modern Era”. When the 1995 US Open Cup began, it signaled the return of professional teams to the tournament. Since the competition began in 1913, professional and amateur teams had always competed on the same field to crown the United States’ champion in the sport of soccer. However, the number of pro teams that entered the tournament had reached an all-time low from the 1970s through the mid-1990s. With the North American Soccer League declining to enter, there were very few pro teams left and only a handful of them entered during this era.
In 1995, the A-League (Division 2) entered four teams (Atlanta Ruckus, Colorado Foxes, New York Centaurs, Seattle Sounders), and the USISL Pro League (Division 3) entered seven (Chicago Stingers, Connecticut Wolves, El Paso Patriots, Everett BigFoot, San Fernando Valley Golden Eagles, and the Tampa Bay Cyclones).
Just five amateur teams took part. The four USASA regional Open Cup champions: Spartans SC (Washington D.C.) from Region I, AAC Eagles (Chicago, Ill.) from Region II, McCormick Kickers (St. Petersburg, Fla) from Region III, and Flamengo SC (Sandy, Utah) from Region IV.
The fifth amateur team was the Richmond Kickers from the USISL Premier League, which would later evolve into what is now the Premier Development League (PDL).
The Kickers, featuring a number of future pros including goalkeeper Jeff Causey, Rob Ukrop, Mike Clark, Richie Williams, Brian Kamler, Todd Yeagley and current long-time head coach Leigh Cowlishaw, won four games and upset three professional teams to lift the trophy.
After dispatching a shorthanded Spartans SC team in Round 1 by a score of 6-1, they upset the Atlanta Ruckus (A-League) 2-1 with goals from Rob Ukrop and Scott Snyder to advance to the Semifinals. In the final four, they won a thriller over USISL Pro League side Chicago Stingers, 4-3. Chicago’s Don D’Ambra scored an 88th minute equalizer, his second of the game and the game at the University of Richmond Stadium seemed destined for extra time, but a penalty kick was called in the 89th minute and Richmond’s Ben Crawley scored to send the Kickers to the championship game.
In the 1995 US Open Cup Final, the Kickers had to travel on the road for the first time to play in 90-degree Texas heat as they took on the El Paso Patriots of the USISL Pro League. After a scoreless first half, Rob Ukrop opened the scoring a few minutes into the second half only to see Gabino Amparan equalize for the Patriots late in the game. The match would move on to penalty kicks where the Kickers would prevail 4-2.