Gam United won its first-ever US Open Cup open division local qualifying match using an early lead to fend off Northern Colorado FC en route to a 2-1 victory at Aurora Public Schools Stadium in Aurora, Co.
Gam got on the board first in the 12th minute. A long ball through the defense found winger Saad Hissein, who made no mistake with a cool finish past the Northern Colorado keeper.
They doubled their lead just six minutes later. Working his way to the edge of the box, Michael Sarpong played a low ball toward Carson Swope near the penalty box. Swope made no mistake with a smooth stroke into NoCo’s net.
Things took a turn when Gam United found themselves reduced to ten men in the 34th minute. Defender Korrar Fouad picked up his second yellow card of the match with a reckless challenge. Gam stared down the barrel of 55 minutes of shorthanded soccer.
NoCo pulled within one after halftime. In a chippy match that finished with nine yellow cards issued, it seemed inevitable that one team would earn a penalty kick. A NoCo player was scissored down at the edge of the box, and Isaac Martinez sent the keeper the wrong way in the 58th minute.
A tremendous defensive intervention by Sajjad Alfatlawi in the 76th minute saved the game for United. Martinez came through on goal and rounded the keeper with a heavy touch that took him just a touch wide. Alfatlawi pelted back at full speed and blocked Martinez’s shot off the line. Try as they might, NoCo just could not find a second goal.
The final whistle prompted a raucous celebration from Gam United’s supporters. The club draws almost entirely from Aurora’s refugee and immigrant communities.
“This is what we love about soccer,” captain Karim Soumah said after the match. “The competition, the fans, and the beauty of soccer.”