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Sporting Arizona sole Grand Canyon State survivor of U.S. Open Cup 2nd round

Bright Lights too much for FC Tucson; Rising falls to local upstarts

On Wednesday afternoon, three Arizona teams were still in contention for US Open Cup glory. By the next morning, only one was still in the competition, and that squad made it through by the closest of margins.

FC Tucson 2 (Romero 39’, Valenzuela 48’) - Las Vegas Lights FC 4 (Alvarez 5’, Alatorre 9’, Ochoa 56’, 61’)

For a short time, it looked doable.

FC Tucson went down early in the match, but scraped back into the game when winger Amr Mokhtar got the ball to the speedy forward Jason Romero for the team’s first goal. They nearly had a second moments later from Julian Gaona.

The team tied up the match minutes later when A. J. Valenzuela cruised into the box unmolested by the Lights defense. Romero notched an assist on that goal.

Whatever hope level terms left with FC Tucson was snatched away less than 10 minutes later when Sammy Ochoa, a former member of the Seattle Sounders, scored off of a header. It didn’t take long to score a second with an assist from former New England Rev Daigo Kobayashi.

The Lights next Open Cup match is against Golden State Force on May 23. Golden State, a PDL squad like FC Tucson, beat pro side Orange County SC last night, 4 - 2. FC Tucson returns to league play with a road trip to Odgen on May 25.

Sporting Arizona FC 1 (Cascio 67’) - Phoenix Rising FC 1 (Cortez 64’)
Sporting wins in penalty kicks, 5 - 4

Say what you will of the goal-scorers, but it was the work of former Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Andrew Weber that took Sporting through to the third round.

Despite dominating possession and having the greater share of shots, Phoenix ended the first half in the same spot as Sporting Arizona: zero on the scoreboard.

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It took until past the hour mark for Chris Cortez to break through and finally put the pros on the board. It took only moments for Sporting’s Danny Arrubla to even it up with a shot that bounced off the crossbar into the net. The goals proved to be a short cloudburst over the desert: drought before, drought after.

Still even at the end, the two teams continued to struggle for a meaningful lead. Goal scorer Cortez had three strong chances denied by Weber. Sporting had some of its own, including from Tony Cascio, the former Colorado Rapids player who formed part of the bevy of ex-pros on the amateur Sporting side.

The match went to penalty kicks. Each team made four of the first group of five, with only Sporting’s David Paul (a former player with Polish side Puszcza Niepolomice) and, ironically, Rising scorer Cortez missing the frame.

Kody Wakasa took Rising’s sixth shot, which was on frame but saved by Weber. Eijin Kishimoto stepped up for Sporting and easily finished for the win.

Phoenix returns to league play with a match at home on Saturday against Sacramento Republic FC. Sporting continues their run in the Open Cup on May 23 with a match at home against Fresno FC.

Other results and trivia that you need

Three teams from FC Tucson’s Premier Development League beat professional teams and made it through to the third round: Golden State Force, Ocean City Nor’Easters and Mississippi Brilla.

Sporting’s United Premier Soccer League did not fare as well. They are the only team from that league to get into the next round. Three teams from the National Premier Soccer League (Elm City, Jacksonville Armada and FC Wichita) made it through as well as the North Texas Rayados, making a total of eight amateur/semi-pro sides still competing in the tournament. The Rayados got through after scoring three goals in extra time against Oklahoma City Energy, where former FC Tucson coach Jonathan Pearlman is an assistant.


Yesterday’s Open Cup matches came on the anniversary of the very first U.S. Open Cup final in 1914. That match featured two teams from Brooklyn: Brooklyn Celtic and Brooklyn Field Club. Field Club won that match 2 - 1, with the assist on their second goal coming from Bob Millar. Millar was in the first class of inductees into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame in 1950.

TheCup.us, an exhaustive (but not exhausting) chronicle of all things U.S. Open Cup, has an account of that match.

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Las Vegas Lights FC

FC Tucson's Miguel Salazar and Las Vegas's Christian Torres battle for the ball.