Every year there’s a surprise team in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. A squad of players that makes it farther than anyone thinks they should. A team vying for that title this year is the Kendall Wanderers from Massachusetts.
Playing in their first-ever US Open Cup, the road to get there wasn’t easy.
In the first game of the qualifying tournament, they could only dress 11 players and even had to use their head coach, Phil Keane, as a player. Still, they won 5-2 over Boston Siege FC (UPSL). Their next match came against fellow Bay State Soccer League (BSSL) competitors, and perennial Open Cup qualifiers, GPS Omens. Things looked bleak for the Wanderers when a red card set them down a man, but they still managed to earn a 2-2 draw and prevailed in the penalty kick shootout, 4-3. Their official qualification came after beating Mass United FC of the American Soccer League, 2-1.
“Getting into the Open Cup is massive for us. It exposes the club to a bigger audience. But as a team and as individual players, it’s always great to test yourself against top opposition,” Keane said.
Keane went on to praise the Wanderers’ team captain and club president, Eric Robertson. Robertson is a center back who went to Brown University. Another Brown alumnus plays for the Wanderers in midfield, Taylor Gorman. But the real X factor for the team is Ian Sweeney, who formerly played for Athlone Town AFC, the oldest club in Ireland. He helped the squad capture the first division title in 2013 for just the second time ever (the first was in 1987-88).
The Wanderers themselves are one of the oldest teams in the BSSL. The club was formed in 1976 as The Black Rose, who were the sponsor at the time. The name changed to Kendall Wanderers in mid 1990s when sponsors changed to The Kendall Cafe. The original name of the team is still incorporated by a black rose on the team crest. The club operates a full six teams, three in the BSSL and three in the OTHSL (over 30s and 40s). The “A” team has won the BSSL Division 1 title twice (2008, 2013).
The US Open Cup will be their biggest challenge to date.
“We don’t have any expectations on how far we can go. We are just going to try to win the next game,” Keane said, “But we are very confident we can compete against anyone.”
The Wanderers kick off their inaugural US Open Cup run on May 9 when they travel to take on the Seacoast United Phantoms of the Premier Development League in Amesbury, Mass.