City Soccer FC stepped up and cruised to a 4-0 win on Saturday night against Florida Soccer Soldiers in a Fourth Round “Win & You’re In” qualifier. The club, founded in 2011, can celebrate it’s ten year anniversary knowing it will compete in the 2022 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup tournament beginning next March.
“Our weekend result wasn’t a surprise, it was the ultimate reward for the hard work put in by players, coaches and owners, throughout the whole year,” City co-owner Andres Colman told TheCup.us. “A great year, for sure, for the organization. We’ve made club history this past weekend, getting our name out there. We will keep working hard, stay humble and prepare for what’s next, this is only the beginning.”
Coming into the match City knew their opponent well. Both teams compete in the United Premier Soccer League’s (UPSL) Southeast Conference Florida South Division (Premier Division). The two sides tied in their first-ever league meeting last fall, 2-2, during the Fall 2020 season. However, this past Spring may have been an indicator of things to come. City swept the winless Soldiers with two clean sheets, 2-0 and 3-0, en route to a loss in the first round of the division playoffs.
(Note: City Soccer FC entered US Open Cup Qualifying as a member of the National Soccer League, which it also currently fields a team in)
In Saturday’s match, the two teams followed a similar script. The first half looked competitive with the Soldiers’ offense producing chances but City looked in control. The breaking point came in the 32nd minute when a City throw-in was slightly chipped into Florida’s box. Two defenders, not realizing either how far away the goalkeeper was, or how close the attackers were, put their hands up and encircled the ball. The advancing keeper was out of place allowing a City player to break in from behind. His kick went right toward the keeper, who faintly tried to clear it but landed the ball at Kevin Velasquez’s feet on the right side of the box. The City player slammed the ball into the back of the net to put his team up, 1-0.
The Soldiers’ best chances of the half came in it’s middle and final minutes. A run down the right side in the 26th minute set up a cross one-on-one with the City goalkeeper Fernando Cortes Jr. A fantastic save was the only thing keeping the home side from taking the lead. Then in the first minute of stoppage time, a long pass from the left side produced an extravagant back heel score that was called off by the linesman for offside.
The final 45 minutes were dominated by City Soccer. Ricardo Tapia scored twice in the first ten minutes of the half to give City a sizable cushion. The first came just over 60 seconds in when Auner Escobar set up the striker to double his team’s lead. Later on, in the 55th minute, after just failing to convert on a rebound off the keeper, Tapia essentially sealed the game. A long pass from Jesus Escobar from midfield gave Tapia space for a run on the right side of the box. He slotted a shot just to the keeper’s right, where the momentum pushed the ball into the goal.
For their part, the Soldiers attempted to congest the midfield and pushed up players to try and get back into the game, possibly hoping to capitalize on the momentum from the nullified equalizer. However this left too much space open whenever a City player got through. That, in turn, allowed the visitors to score three goals in a 15 minute span while Florida struggled to make deep possessions into the opposite end.
City added a fourth goal a few minutes later in the 60th minute, when Escobar’s free kick from the right side, near the touchline, was headed down by defender Christopher Llorente before trickling into the back of the net. Llorente, a Cuban international in his third season with City, previously spent time with professional side Cienfuegos FC in his home country.
City will now await the First Round draw on Jan. 19, 2022 to see which Open Division team they face in the competition proper.
Florida Soccer Soldiers has been a regular in Open Cup qualifying the past few years. After finally making the tournament in 2019, the team made a run to the Third Round upsetting Miami FC (then defending National Premier Soccer League champions) and USL Championship side Charlotte Independence. Two members of that roster, Valentin Sabella and Bryant Martin Gammiero, went on to sign with Charlotte and Miami respectively.
The Florida Soccer Soldiers were the third UPSL team that City Soccer FC defeated to qualify for the 2022 US Open Cup. City began their qualifying run the Second Round where they edged Miami Sun FC, 3-2, and followed that up with a 7-2 win over International Soccer Association. By punching their ticket, CSFC join Orlando FC Wolves as the only two teams from the United States Specialty Sports Association’s National Soccer League to qualify for next year’s tournament.