After years of falling short of qualifying for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, Newtown Pride FC finally found a way to get in.
On Saturday in the Chicago suburb of River Grove, Newtown defeated Horizon FC, 4-0, to win the 2019 USASA Amateur Cup championship. It was the first Amateur Cup title for the Connecticut-based club, and it also earned the club a spot in the 2020 US Open Cup. This will mark the second year in a row that the United States Soccer Federation awarded an Open Cup berth to the Amateur Cup champion. Last year, it was Bavarian SC (Milwaukee) that used the Fritz Marth Trophy to punch their ticket to the US Open Cup.
“It means the world to us to qualify for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup,” said Newtown player/general manager/co-founder Matt Svanda. “It represents everything that football at our level of the US Soccer pyramid is about. It shows that right now we have truly earned it on the field. The players earned it and we are so excited for them.”
After a 2-0 win over the Chicago-based RWB Adria in Friday’s Semifinal, Newtown advanced to the championship game where they met Horizon FC. The Houston-based club had edged Meso America FC (Los Angeles), 2-1 in their Semifinal matchup. Both teams were both seeking their first Amateur Cup and their first trip to the US Open Cup.
It was a tightly contested final. For a while.
Newtown’s Tavoy Morgan would make a habit of getting behind Horizon’s high back line and rounding their keeper. He would do it first in the 8th minute but would miss his shot from a tight angle. However, winger Chris Sylla would recover the ball near the corner flag and cross to the head of Mauro Dos Santos who opened the scoring.
Horizon FC, the USASA Region III champion from Houston, would not back down and would control much of the play over the next 20 minutes. Horizon’s use of a “false-9” attack would be troublesome for Newtown, however they were unable to capitalize on their nine shots in the first half with only one of them being on target.
In the 32nd minute, Sylla would be dragged down in the box and Lucas Sousa would double Newtown’s lead from the penalty spot. Newtown would hold their 2-0 lead firmly into the break.
In the 49th minute, Sousa would serve a long ball into the box for Sylla who would put away a much-deserved goal. Down by three, Horizon needed to press further up to try to get a response, but Morgan would round the keeper for the second time in the 70th minute, but this time he would not miss.
In the 76th minute, Shaquille Sanchez would be ejected for violent conduct against a Horizon FC defender. This was the lone blip on the night for Newtown as they would emerge as National Amateur Cup champions with a 4-0 and would secure qualification for the 2020 US Open Cup.
Newtown, who competes in the Connecticut Soccer League, has seen other amateur teams mark their mark in the US Open Cup and now they have a chance to create their own legacy next year.
“Teams before us have really captured our imagination and inspired the kid in us,” said Svanda, who founded the team with his father Mike, who is the head coach. “Teams like Christos , Lansdowne , Orange County FC , and the Laredo Heat and many more. It also give us the opportunity to bring something very special to our local community and the state of Connecticut.”
Newtown first attempted to qualify for the US Open Cup back in 2013, back when Open Division Local teams had to get in through USASA state and regional tournaments. After losing their opening match with the New York Pancyprian Freedoms, they had their controversial protest upheld and a replay was ordered. Newtown would win the replay in a penalty kick shootout, but would lose the “Win and You’re In” match that followed, 6-0 to Mass Premier Soccer (now GPS Omens). After not qualifying in 2014, they returned in 2015 and lost their opening match to Lansdowne Bhoys. When the USSF began their current Open Division qualifying tournament, the Pride have struggled, losing their opening round game in each of the last four years.
So after seven failed attempts, the Pride are Amateur Cup champions and have qualified for the US Open Cup. Combined with Hartford Athletic (USL Championship), this will mark the first time since 2001 that multiple Connecticut-based clubs will participate in the tournament. Newtown will be the sixth Open Division Local team to qualify from the Nutmeg State.