Protagonist Staff Previews USOC Round 3 Qualifiers

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Nicholas Skoda

GPS Omens vs. Safira FC

The third round of the U.S. Open Cup Qualifiers has brought to the Northeast Region two intriguing matchups. The first of the two being between GPS Omens and Safira FC, both from Massachusetts. In the second round qualifiers, GPS Omens- who plays its soccer in the Bay State Soccer League -faced a familiar opponent in Kendall Wanderers. In fact, their meeting in the Open Cup’s second round was to be their third meeting this season. The two meetings prior to this game were a pair of 2-0 scorelines, the first one in favor of the Wanderers and the second in favor of GPS Omens. Their Open Cup game in Danehy Park in Cambridge, Massachusetts proved to be a close affair, with GPS Omens coming out on top with a 1-0 victory, courtesy of a second half goal from Patrick Murray.

Safira FC faced Boston City FC II at Dilboy Stadium in Somerville, MA in their second round qualifier of the Open Cup. These are another two teams that are familiar with each other, leading to a game that was sure to entertain. And the game didn’t disappoint, offering five goals in a 4-1 win for Safira. GPS Omens and Safira FC will play at 12:30 p.m. E.T. on November 17 at Rotch Field in Boston, MA. You can follow GPS Omens on twitter at @GPS_Omens and Safira FC on Facebook.

New York Pancyprian Freedoms vs. West Chester Predators

The other third round game in the Northeast Region is between New York Pancyprian Freedoms and West Chester Predators. It took 120 minutes and a penalty shootout to decide the second round game between New York Pancyprian Freedoms and New Jersey’s Jackson Lions FC. After a scoreless 90 minutes and fruitless extra time, New York Pancyprian Freedoms eventually won 3-1 on penalties. Having won the Open Cup in 1979, 1980 and 1982, Freedoms is looking to get back to that glory, but will first have to play West Chester Predators. In round two, West Chester Predators went to North Wales, PA for a meeting with another storied club when it comes to the Open Cup: Ukrainian Nationals. The Predators cruised to a 3-0 win. New York Pancyprian Freedoms and West Chester Predators will meet at 7:30 p.m. E.T. on November 17 at Belson Stadium of St. John’s University in Jamaica, New York.

Joshua Duder

International Portland Select FC vs JASA RWC (Redwood City)

One of Portland, Oregon’s local sides, International Portland Select Football Club (IPSFC) secured its place in the Oregon Premier Soccer League (OPSL) semifinals with a recent 5-4 win over Logrones. The boys in red will have one more regular season match this week before having time to prepare for UPSL side JASA RWC in the third qualifying round of the U.S. Open Cup. IPSFC won’t have to play its semifinal until the 27th of November, so the USOC match will be the sole concern of head coach Harvey Hurst for at least a week.

IPSFC host JASA RWC in a U.S. Open Cup qualifier on November 18th, 2018—kickoff is set for 7:00 PM at its regular season home grounds, Buckman Field. This is a different venue than Rob Strasser Field at Delta Park, where it defeated the last UPSL club to visit the Rose City for a USOC match. The Portland-based amateur soccer team celebrated an upset win over Nevada Coyotes on October 21st, in the highest-scoring match in the competition, 5-4. Nate Pogue scored a brace early on to give the home side a massive confidence boost and it held off the Coyotes with an additional brace by Prince Saydee and tidy finish by Paco Thomas.

Portland has been in pretty good form all year, only losing to Kell’s Swoosh, who seem to have its number. Aside from the losses to Kell’s, IPSFC have outscored opponents 19-3 and several of its players have shown a nose for goal. Ironically, Kell’s was the last open division amateur team from Oregon to reach the official USOC tournament- a quarter of a century ago. We’d have to go all the way back to 1989 to find that Gresham United had also made the dance— a win at home could see IPSFC join those impressive ranks.

JASA RWC- of UPSL’s Wild West South -is currently top of its table on fifteen points in seven played and only one match to go in order to secure the division. Local rival the Oakland Stompers are hot on JASA’s tail, however, and have a game in hand on JASA. The two originally had a league match set for November 17th, which would have been the same day as Oakland’s USOC match and a day before JASA’s—that final and decisive league match has been rescheduled for November 24th.

The side from Redwood City, California also won its previous USOC round two qualifier at home against Napa Sporting. Ryan Masch scored a brace and James Huffer sealed the win with an 87th minute goal. JASA is on an equally impressive run of form, undefeated this fall season and outscoring opponents 25-7. Ryan Masch has been joined by multiple scorers in league competition and is tied with danger man Ugo Uche for three-a-piece in U.S. Open Cup games so far.

While I expected IPS to be conservative against its last UPSL opponent in October, I was proven wrong—and with the scoring prowess shown by both sides, I fully anticipate another barn-burner. We should see International Portland Select outfitted in new red shirts, generously donated by Hummel and a team source has indicated that it expects to be wearing its black kits to Buckman Field Park, in Portland, on November 18th.

Oakland Stompers vs Academica SC

UPSL Wild West South’s Oakland Stompers, who sit second in their fall season table, started the season slowly but have out-gunned their last two opponents 12-1. Since the addition of former USMNT-capped player Benji Joya, they have turned around their league fortunes and are a match away from pipping the division from leaders JASA RWC. They will take a break from that race, however, to focus on their next USOC opponent, NPSL side Academica SC.

Unlike a few clubs still in the competitions, neither Academica or Oakland have had a bye during the qualifying stages. Oakland won its first match away to Oakland FC Leopards 1-0 and then beat San Jose 2-0 at Raimondi Park in October. It has kept two clean sheets in the tournament and look to do the same against Academica SC. On the other-hand, Academica SC has not been afraid to give up goals, but has simply outscored its opponents; 4-1 versus Davis Legacy in September and 3-2 against Contra Cost FC in October’s game.

Academica SC finished middle of the pack in its Spring ’18 NPSL Golden Gate Conference season, and its league doesn’t offer a fall fixture list—it seemingly has nothing better to do than prepare for its trip across the Bay to play the Stompers on November 17th at 7:30 PM at Raimondi Park.

Dan Vaughn

Virginia United vs. Christos FC

When you go up against Christos, you have to be considered the underdogs. Christos FC has a history of qualifying for the USOC, this being their third consecutive run to qualifying (if they win this match, obviously. They became nationally known in 2017 by making a 4th round run, the deepest by an amatuer side that year, and going up on DC United in the first half of their match. They’ve been a powerhouse in the region, playing in Maryland Majors. This season, they are currently second place and are being led by a great player with MLS ties. Pete Caringi III was drafted by MLS Montreal Impact  in 2014, but now plays for Christos. He almost single-handedly defeated their second round qualifier opponent (Aegean Hawks FC) by scoring 4 goals and an assist.

Squaring up against Christos, the underdogs, Virginia United. They are the opposite of Christos FC in experience in the tournament, this being their first year of qualifying as a club. Finding information Virginia United isn’t easy. They beat Super Delegates FC in their second round matchup, another Maryland Majors club. They play in a relatively obscure league, Asociacion Nacional Fútbol en USA, with little English language material online. Needless to say, they are a mystery club to this guy. (Thanks to TheCup.US for informing this preview)

I think when two clubs come against each other - one known, the other unknown - it’s natural to pick the one you know. In this case, the known is a club with a track record of performing well in this tournament. So with all that being said, I’ll take Christos FC 2-0.

Dominic Bisogno

Livonia City vs. St. Louis Maritsa

Having made it through a 4-3 thriller against MASL winners FC Minnesota, St. Louis Maritsa, members of UPSL’s Midwest-West Division, will now take on Livonia City in the third qualifying round of the U.S. Open Cup. Maritsa will be bringing UPSL experience and a 3-4-1 Spring 2018 record into their next match but will be facing a Livonia side that has won two qualifiers, one against Ann Arbor FC and the other against Aurora Borealis SC. Despite playing in a Michigan state league, the MPSL, Livonia have shown they mean business and should provide more than enough competition for a Maritsa side that struggled to best FC Minnesota, who have plans to expand into the NPSL via the Minnesota TwinStars but have no experience beyond the MASL. The match will also be hosted in Livonia, Michigan, giving the underdogs all the more reason to feel like they’re top dog.

Aarik Long

Southwest FC vs. San Juan FC

Round three is upon us, and once again, we have another great matchup. On one side is San Juan FC from Utah. On the other end is Southwest FC out of El Paso, Texas. They face off in under the lights in El Paso on November 17th. The match has a 7:30 PM MST kickoff.

In the second qualifying round of the US Open Cup, San Juan faced conference foe Boise Cutthroats FC in another phenomenal match in what I consider the best and most competitive rivalry in the UPSL and maybe all of American lower league soccer. The match finished 4-3 after an extra time goal for San Juan put the Cutthroats away. This was after a goal in the 90+2’ to equalize right before the final whistle. The game was back and forth with fast-paced offense going both ways throughout the whole game. The win kept San Juan unbeaten through that point of the season. Since then, they’ve dropped one game to Boise back in Utah, but they still come into the USOC match with a record of five wins and one loss.

Southwest FC had to go through one of the best teams in the UPSL as they faced Sporting AZ FC. They did beat the opponents 4-1, but there were certain circumstances that lead to that lopsided scoreline. For starters, Sporting AZ lost their keeper in the first ten minutes and would finish the game with just nine men after a second red card in the 83rd minute. Before the second red card, the score was 2-1. Despite this, I wouldn’t be so quick to throw the result out all together. Sporting AZ is easily one of the very best teams in the UPSL so any win you can score over the club is impressive.

An interesting quirk about this game is that the two teams second round opponents faced off this spring in the UPSL Quarterfinals. Sporting AZ FC defeated Boise Cutthroats FC 2-1 after some bizarre circumstances led to a long halftime and a strange game in general. It was one of the more talked about matches after questions of what happened at the half arose.

The Saturday night match under the lights will decide who gets into the 2019 US Open Cup, as this is the final qualifying round for amateur clubs. We’ll get to see two very good sides face off in what could be one of, if not the best, third qualifying round match.

Steven Ramirez

Buena Park FC vs. Santa Ana Winds FC

The only inter-league duel in Southern California. Buena Park FC represents the So Cal Premier and is currently in fifth place. While fifth in their league, BPFC have shown a dominance within these qualifying rounds. In the first round they beat UPSL club Valley United SC 4-0 and then beat league rival Real Sociedad Royals 2-1.

One advantage for BPFC was each Open Cup match was played at home in front of the Buena Park faithful, but now that setting is about to change as BPFC travel to face Santa Ana Winds FC at the Lake Forest Sports Complex. A new setting for a new challenge.

The Santa Ana Winds FC is coming off strong U.S open cup performances and are currently in third place in the So Cal South Pro Premier. The road to round three of qualification has seen the Winds only face other UPSL competitors, but have come away with huge victories: round one the Winds beat rivals LA Wolves FC 4-0 and in round two beat Lionside FC 5-0.

This last match of qualification sees two clubs who have shown an ability to find the back of the net and have also only allowed minimal goals in their current league system. Can Buena Park FC qualify and represent the So Cal Premier or will the Winds and the UPSL continue their qualifying trend? Check it out on Saturday November 17th, 2018 at 10:00 am.

Cal United FC II vs. Cal FC

The battle for California, the battle between So Cal UPSL giants and the battle to qualify for the country’s greatest open competition. Both of these clubs have been rumored to be joining NPSL Pro in 2019 and are currently dominated in their respective UPSL So Cal divisions. This dream matchup is worthy of occuring in the Open Cup itself, but fans will have to settle for a match within the qualification rounds.

Cal United FC II has only allowed three goals in all competitions this season: One from UPSL competition and two from the U.S. Open Cup qualification. In round one, Cal United traveled to face off against the CaliGators FC 6-2 and then beat Chula Vista FC 2-0. But this next match will be Cal United's toughest match up to date.

Cal FC will be looking to repeat its historical 2012 Open Cup run. After their controversial round one match against San Nicholas, where they won 3-1, they have gone on and beaten Outbreak FC 6-1. They remain undefeated within the UPSL and have only allowed 5 goals in all competitions, while scoring 35.

This Sunday, November 18th at 10:30 am, will be the must watch match up of this qualification round. These two powerhouses will be looking to show which team is the best in all of Southern California.

Shawn Laird

America Soccer Club vs. Soda City FC

In one week’s time, we will see America Soccer Club and Soda City FC play in the last round of local qualifying for the 2019 US Open Cup. This has the potential to be a heavyweight matchup among clubs in the lower divisions. Both teams currently lead their respective divisions in UPSL and look to continue their runs into the first round proper. I’m again picking America Soccer Club to win this one based on their current league form.  As has been the case all season, they sit at the top of the league with a perfect 9-0-0 record and 27 points. Once again, I am blown away by their offensive output and goal difference. They’ve scored 56 total goals compared only 6 goals against. That gives them a mind blowing +46 goal difference thus far and they don’t look like they’re stopping.

Soda City FC, for their part, is tearing it up in the Mid-Atlantic South Division. They currently lead the division by one point, but boast an impressive 5-1-0 record, with a solid +10 goal difference (18 goals for, 8 goals against). Aside from just taking a look at their record, I don’t have much else to say on Soda City.

My prediction? I think this goes to extra time, with America pulling off a hard fought 1-0 win and advancing to play with the big boys next year. Hopefully, they can pull off a Cinderella run once they make it to the tournament proper.

Phil Baki

NTX Rayados vs Motagua New Orleans

The last matchup of the US Open Cup Third Qualifying Round to be decided is between NTX Rayados of Dallas, TX and Motagua New Orleans. This matchup pits two teams against each other with US Open Cup History, although one has decidedly more than the other.

NTX Rayados come into this match looking to qualify for its eighth consecutive US Open Cup. Yes, eighth. For a local qualifying team, that is absolutely unprecedented and presents a challenge for any team looking to get past them and into the Cup. What makes the challenge even more daunting is the fact that Rayados were the longest surviving local qualifying team in the 2018 edition of the tournament. They beat Fort Worth Vaqueros of the NPSL in the First Round, OKC Energy of the USL in the Second, Wichita FC in the 3rd, and it took the Houston Dynamo of MLS to knock this club out. That is a seriously impressive run that they will be looking to match…or better. This year they squeaked past a determined Dallas Elite FC team on penalties in the First Qualifying Round, before taking down Leon FC fairly comfortably in the Second.

Motagua New Orleans have less history in the Cup but plenty of success under their belt. They’ve won the Gulf Coast Premier League three times and have two USASA Region III Championships. Their lone venture into the Open Cup proper was in 2016, when they faced off against Mississippi Brilla FC of the PDL and suffered a narrow defeat in the First Round. They have been determined to improve on that run however and this year’s Open Qualifying saw them take down Port City FC of Mississippi 5-2 after extra time and, after concerns and cancellations, they finally dispatched Celtic Cowboys of Austin, TX 3-2 to earn this shot at Rayados.

Both of these teams have shown in this early phase of the tournament that they are not goal shy but they are also vulnerable at the back. The entertainment factor in this matchup should be very high. I think given the history, it’s fair to say that Rayados are favorites due to experience, but the simple fact is that this is the US Open Cup and anything can happen.

Prediction: Rayados 3-2 Motagua AET

Lola Vaughn