FC Wichita celebrate the club’s 4-3 upset of the Oklahoma City Energy in the Second Round of the 2018 US Open Cup. Photo: FC Wichita
FC Wichita left it late, but walked out winners, 4-3, over Tulsa Roughnecks FC on Wednesday night in the Second Round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Both teams finished with 10 men on the pitch.
With the victory, FC Wichita earned the right to play in the Third Round of the US Open Cup for the first time in club history. What’s more, Wichita made league history becoming just the second amateur NPSL team to upset a pro team in the tournament since the league was founded in 2003. (Jacksonville Armada FC defeated the Tampa Bay Rowdies on the same night, but the Armada are a pro team). Chattanooga FC upset the Wilmington Hammerheads (then of the USL) in 2014 and 2015.
“We knew coming in, after last year’s near result [against St. Louis FC], that we were a stronger team now than we were last year,” said Wichita CEO Blake Shumaker. “We believe our first fourteen, fifteen, deep is USL quality. We felt like if we stayed together and got guys behind the ball to defend then we’d have a chance to win.”
Franck Tayou bagged a brace to push Wichita past Tulsa, including the match-winner in the first minute of second-half stoppage time. He nicked the ball off the feet of TRFC goalkeeper Chase Gentry before curling in a ball to the far post from no angle.
“As soon as I saw Sosa on the side, I knew he was going to put the ball in. It was just a matter of finding the ball,” explained Tayou on the lead up to his match-winner. “The defender froze because he thought his keeper was going to come out, and he [Gentry] hesitated. I kept running, and once I took my first touch, I just turned around and found the back of the net.”
Despite two golden chances in the final moments of the match, Tulsa was unable to level the affair as Mark Weir came up with a pair of clutch saves.
Jhon Pirez had Tulsa in front inside the first 38 minutes after scoring goals on either side of a goal by Wichita’s Thomas Wells in the 35th minute. The Roughnecks went into the locker rooms for halftime leading 2-1.
The lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Tayou tallied his first of the match quickly after the restart off a corner. The ball fell to the forward’s feet after a goalmouth scramble and he managed to place it in the back of the net.
Just like the last time Wichita levelled the contest, however, Tulsa was able to restore their advantage soon after. In the 51st minute Nemanja Vukovic connected with Riggs Lennon to put TRFC back on top. It was Vukovic’s second assist of the night.
Wichita, playing with 10 men due to a second yellow card to Eddie Gomez in the 49th minute, managed to knot the match up at 3-3 from a free kick by Nelson Landaverde in the 61st minute. Vukovic would pick up his second yellow for dissent soon after, and both teams would finish out the match playing with 10 men.
“We had nothing to lose,” said Tayou about battling back while playing down a man. “When we went a man down, we never panicked. That mentality kept us fighting, and eventually all our hard work was rewarded.”
With the match looking destined for extra time, Tayou then took matters into his own hands. His late winner, coupled with Weir’s late saves, sealed FC Wichita’s first win over an USL team in Open Cup play in club history.
The match was a high-intensity affair, with 13 yellow cards issued, with 8 cards issued to Tulsa and five to Wichita. Players had to be separated following the official’s final whistle.
Wichita will now travel to the Lone Star State to face NTX Rayados after the Texas-based squad dispatched OKC Energy in Second Round action.