Win and you’re in, that was the motto of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup qualifying round. This competition featured 28 amateur teams battling to reach USOC proper, the biggest and oldest soccer cup in the United States. Christos FC, the amateur team who stole the hearts of America during last year’s Open Cup, had just one game standing between them and the coveted first round birth. All that was standing in their way was the Phoenix Sports Club from Feasterville, PA, a team Christos could not take for granted.
Prior to the match, things were not going well for Christos. A few of their starters got stuck on their way to the contest, and the team ended up having to start a couple of substitutes in their places. However, this did not stop the team from going into full attack after the first whistle sounded. After a peppering of shots at the Phoenix SC keeper, Christos finally broke the tie 30 minutes into the game off a free kick from Tyler Rudy.
Rudy’s goal opened up the flood gates for Christos and they never looked back. Seven minutes later, Danny Baxter scored a goal off build up from UMD alumnus Cody Albrecht. Albrecht intercepted the ball at midfield and passed it off before making a run down the right wing, where he crossed in the ball for Baxter to send past the Phoenix goalkeeper to put Christos FC up 2-0.
“Once we get going, we all tend to get going,” said Elton Joe. The first half finished with that 2-0 score line, and it would only be the beginning.
The second half began with a chippy start. Phoenix SC received two yellow cards in seven minutes for hard challenges, and that’s where Elton Joe was brought into the game. Joe was the enforcer of the team. His objective was to shut the chippy play down, and preserve the win. Joe was able to start plays with his speed up the left wing which allowed him to burst by his defender and get open space for clean crosses. Halfway through the second half, Albrecht sent a ball out to Joe, who cut in from the wing and ripped a beautiful ball into the upper right corner of the net to make the score 3-0.
Goalkeeper and UMBC alumnus Phil Saunders had a solid day. The first half was somewhat quiet with just a few saves that he controlled well. Unfortunately for him, a shot did get by him during the final 30 minutes that diminished the clean sheet.
With the final score of the game at 5-1, Christos FC will be moving on to the first round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. They will be one of 14 amateur sides in the competition, and in their second consecutive year in, they will want to repeat the same magic that led them to be the last amateur team in the cup.
GM of the club, Jody Haislip, should be lauded for keeping the momentum alive from last year’s success. The first round of the cup will be in either late April or early May, and it will be up to him and his coach Larry Sancomb, to continue the fantastic play with a five month break waiting for the squad.
“I am just super happy that we have another shot to repeat what we did last year, and to continue building on our success and Cinderella story,” said Haislip.
Christos FC will be playing the waiting game now, with the draw for the 2018 US Open Cup first round being held on Wednesday, April 4, and then their first game of the cup being played Wednesday, May 9.