1983 US Open Cup Final: The first time Houston hosted US Soccer’s championship game

Posted by | September 26, 2018
Delmar Stadium in Houston was the site of the 1983 US Open Cup Final.

Delmar Stadium in Houston was the site of the 1983 US Open Cup Final.

Tonight the Houston Dynamo will make their first appearance in the US Open Cup Final when they host the Philadelphia Union at BBVA Compass Stadium. While it’s the Dynamo’s first time hosting the Final, you may be surprised to learn that this won’t be the first time that the city of Houston has hosted the championship game of United States soccer.

The first time Houston hosted the US Open Cup Final was in 1983. The previous year, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) had made the decision to hold the Semifinals and the Final of it’s four cup competitions (Open Cup, Men’s Amateur Cup, Women’s Amateur Cup, Women’s Over-30 Cup) at one location over a weekend in Chicago. Previously, individual games would be hosted by either of the participating clubs. Often if the participants in the finals were from opposite sides of the country, the Open Cup Final would wind up losing money after travel and other costs were accounted for.

At the time, New York’s Pancyprian Freedoms were a very young club, having only been founded in 1975. The team immediately found success, winning the Long Island Soccer League twice before moving to the Cosmopolitan Soccer League in 1977, where they won three league titles by 1982.

Kutis Soccer Club had a much more storied history. Having been founded in 1947 as the St. Louis Raiders, the team won the National Amateur Cup in 1952. The next year, Kutis Funeral Home took over sponsorship of the team, and a dynasty was soon formed. From 1956-61 Kutis won six consecutive Amateur Cup titles, as well as capturing the Open Cup in 1957. The club fell into a lull during much of the 1960s and 1970s before regaining national prominence in the 1980s when the club made Open Cup finals appearances in 1983 and 1985 and won a second Open cup championship in 1986.

Mimis Papaioannou with AEK Athens

Mimis Papaioannou with AEK Athens

Kutis’ squad, like most teams from St. Louis, was made up of American talent. Dating back to the beginning of the Open cup in 1913, St. Louis clubs were famous for featuring rosters made up entirely of American players, while their cup rivals from the American Soccer League (ASL) were built primarily with English & Scottish talent. Many players on the 1983 Kutis squad played for local colleges such as SIU-Edwardsville and University of Missouri-St. Louis.

The Freedoms roster was made up primarily of young players from Cyprus who were attending college in the New York area. Sprinkled among the youngsters were a few veteran players from Greece and Cyrpus. Managing the club was Mimis Papaioannou, a legend in Greek soccer who made 480 appearances for AEK Athens as well as earning 61 caps for the Greek National team. Papaioannou had contributed to the Freedoms Open Cup titles in 1980 and 1982 as a player/manager and focused primarily on managing the club in 1983.

The Freedoms entered the weekend with a self-inflicted disadvantage when Papaioannou left two key players, Yiotis Papademetriou and Kyriacos Moraris, out of the starting lineup due to disciplinary reasons. Papademetriou would see action in the Final as a substitute.

In the Semifinals on July 2, Kutis had defeated Greek American SC of New Orleans by a comfortable 3-0 score, but the Pancyprians had a bit more work to do. The Freedoms scored four straight goals to overcome a 2-0 deficit and defeat Eagles No.1 of Seattle, 4-2.

For the Eagles it was their second game in two days, as they defeated San Francisco AC 1-0 the night before in a court ordered replay of the Region IV final. The Eagles won the original game 1-0 on May 29 but were disqualified afterwards because former Seattle Sounder Pepe Fernandez was incorrectly listed on their roster as an amateur player. The Eagles took the matter to court and both teams agreed to a replay in Houston on July 1.

Playing on a warm and humid July 3 evening in front of 800 fans, referee Paul Mikol blew his whistle to start the game and both teams were off to the races. In the very first minute of play Kutis’ Steve Gauvain caught hold of a cross from the left side and flicked the ball past Freedoms goalkeeper Demetris Miltiadous for the opening score. The lead only lasted about a minute when Christos Christou stepped up to covert a penalty kick after Jerry DeRouse tripped Freedoms forward Evagoras Christophi. After just two minutes the score was 1-1.

Sixteen minutes later, the Pancyprians took the lead when Christophi slashed through the penalty area and beat Kutis goalkeeper Paul Dueker. By the 24th minute, the Cosmopolitan Soccer League club stretched the advantage to 3-1 when Christophi headed in a corner kick from Akis Nicholas. The Freedoms controlled the game for the remainder of the first half, and nearly added two more goals. However, a lapse by the Freedoms defenders in the 34th minute led to a misplayed ball which Craig Guempel took advantage of and cut the Kutis deficit to 3-2.

NY Pancyprian FreedomsA similar defensive mistake almost cost Kutis early in the second half, when a defender missed kicking the ball, but Dueker was able to keep the Freedoms from capitalizing. In the 61st minute, another penalty was called against Kutis, this time when Dueker fouled Christoiphi. Christos Christou once again stepped up and drove home the spot kick for a 4-2 advantage. Just five minutes later Kutis once again cut the lead to one when Joe Eppy scored from close range. Kutis had a few good scoring chances as the game wore down, but the Freedoms defense and counterattacks kept the 4-3 lead intact until the final whistle.

The win was the third Open Cup championship in four years for the Freedoms, having defeated LA’s Maccabee AC 3-2 in 1980, and in 1982 by a score of 4-3 after extra time. Evagoras Christophi scored trice in the 1982 final, with both goals coming in extra time.

After the game, Kutis manager Jim Henson did not seem too convinced that the two Freedoms penalties were deserved.

“I can’t say if they were penalties or not.” Henson told Soccer America. “The referee was in a position to see it. He made the calls. What can I say?”

Freedoms manager Mimis Papaioannou was understandably happy about his teams’ triumph.

“Every time I win, I like it. The way the soccer was played today, it was beautiful.” Papaioannou told Soccer America. “Both of the teams wanted to win and were in a position to win. By scoring so many goals, they showed the

The win also qualified the Freedoms for the 1984 CONCACAF Champions Cup, where they reached the semifinals. A disagreement with Mexico’s CD Guadalajara over the dates of the two legs caused CONCACAF to disqualify both teams, giving the title to Haiti’s Violette AC by forfeit.

All told, close to 5,600 fans saw the 12 games played at the Delmar Stadium complex during the weekend. The turnout was respectable considering Houston only had a NASL team from 1978-80. USSF Senior Division Chairman Milton Aimi seemed pleased with the weekend’s results, telling Soccer America ”It shows that as far as the USSF is concerned, a national tournament can be organized properly and enjoy continued success.”

fans how good soccer can be.”

Throughout the 1980s and the early 1990s, the USSF would continue the practice of holding its cup finals in a central location, with the St. Louis Soccer Park and Indianapolis’ Kuntz Stadium hosting most of the events from 1984-1993.

New York Pancyprian Freedoms (Queens, NY) 4:3 Kutis SC (St. Louis, MO)
July 3, 1983 | Delmar Stadium – Houston, Texas

Scoring Summary
Kutis: Steve Gauvain – 1st min.
NYPF: Christos Christou (PK) – 2nd min.
NYPF: Evagoras Christophi – 18th min.
NYPF: Evagoras Christophi (Nicholas) – 24th min.
Kutis: Craig Guempel – 34th min.
NYPF: Christos Christou (PK) – 61st min.
Kutis: Joe Eppy – 66th min.

Lineups

Freedoms: Demetris Miltiadous, Frixou, Solonos, Peter Christoforideis, Lambros Lambrou, Costas Petsas, Akis Nicholas, George Touros, Evagoras Christophi, Christos Christou, Mark Koutsantanou

Subs: Yennaris, Yiotis Papademetriou

Manager: Mimis Papaioannou

Kutis: Paul Dueker, Dennis Bozesky, Craig Guempel, Dominic Barczewski, Jeffrey DeRouse, Joe Eppy, Steve Gauvain, Tim Tettambel, Lux, Dan Meagher, Steve Schell

Subs: Becher, Flecke

Manager: Jim Henson

Attendance: 800
Referee: Paul Mikol

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