Players from World Class Premier (orange) and Izee Auto FC battle for the ball in a 2019 US Open Cup qualifying match. Photo: Sean Maslin
After helping Christos FC make a name for themselves in the 2017 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, Levi Houapeu has moved on to another Maryland club and has them on a path to qualify for the 2019 tournament.
The 29-year-old striker scored twice for World Class Premier Elite FC in their 4-2 win over Izee Auto FC in the opening round of the 2019 US Open Cup qualifying tournament.
Despite weeks of unending rain and balmy conditions. Saturday’s match at Blandair Regional Park was actually played under ideal fall-like conditions. With a favorable pitch that allowed both sides to put a heavy emphasis on quick passes and using the counter-attack.
Izee struck first with Rashid Deen putting his side ahead on a counter attack in the 11th minute.
Despite going down a goal early, World Class weren’t deterred. Led by captain Idrissa Sesay, the World Class offense began probing the Izee defense, looking for space to exploit. They found it in the 27th minute when a combination pass from Sesay to Houapeu found the target man with a clear goal-scoring chance. He wouldn’t miss knocking his chance into the back of the net to make it 1-0.
Just five minutes later, Sesay snagged a goal of his own. With the Izee defense focusing on Houapeu, he found space down the left flank and hit a low effort towards the far post, making it 2-0 just before halftime.
Early in the second half, Izee showed a sense of urgency, pushing the World Class defense on their heels. In the 47th minute, Izee midfielder Christian Caulker broke past their defense and hit a shot that appeared destined for the back of the net. However, it lifted slightly late and went off the bar. Defender Oumar Ballo, formerly of the USL’s Swope Park Rangers, was there to make the stop and clear the chance away.
Izee were equally unlucky in the 70th minute, with Michael Rouhana receving a pass down the right side with just the keeper to beat. Much like with Caulker earlier in the half his chance looked equally promising, but in the end the fall night lifted his chance just a little high.
After surviving two near equalizers, World Class worked to put the match away late. Daniel Ankrah (72′) and Houapeu (78′) added insurance goals in the final 20 minutes to seal the result for the Maryland Major Soccer League side. While Izee did cut their deficit to two with Abuka Kareem’s goal in the 86th minute, it wasn’t enough to see their side through.
Houapeu’s two goals on Saturday are just the latest chapter in his US Open Cup resume. He made his debut in 2010 with Reading United AC. That year, they took the USL’s Real Maryland Monarchs to extra time before falling short. By 2014, the former University of Maryland Baltimore County standout had signed with the Rochester Rhinos of the USL, in addition to spending time playing indoor soccer where he won a league championship with the Baltimore Blast. With the Rhinos, he scored a goal in the 2014 US Open Cup as Rochester advanced to the Round of 16 where they lost 2-1 to the New England Revolution of MLS. Last year, he played every minute of every game and scored the game-winning goal against Chicago FC United (PDL) which sent Christos FC into the Fourth Round to face D.C. United (MLS), which put the team on the map.
Houapeu and the rest of World Class Premier will take part in the second round of the qualifying tournament where they will travel to Charlottsville, Va. to take on the Cville Alliance FC Reserves on Oct. 20.