Amateur Chula Vista FC looks to defeat pros in Open Cup | Soccer notes
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Soccer notes

Amateur Chula Vista FC looks to defeat pros in Open Cup

Team has already beaten FC Tucson, Arizona United

The history of the US Open Cup is full of underdog stories. The structure of the tournament makes one think perhaps that was the intention. The second round, played last week, featured amateur teams against lower-division professional ones. In a sport that is as low scoring as soccer, a bounce here or a heroic save there could mean the difference between defeat and victory. That means a scrappy, hard-working amateur team can best a professional one if the wind is blowing the right way or the phase of the moon is just right.

Amateur clubs over the past few years have been able to vanquish, and sometimes embarrass, their betters in the tournament and earn some looks from the national soccer press. Our own FC Tucson did it in 2013 by defeating two pro teams, and both PSA Elite (2014) and Cal FC (2012) managed to make it deep into the tournament in recent years.

California amateur club Chula Vista FC hopes to be this year’s go-to underdog. They beat FC Tucson two weeks ago, and beat Phoenix’s pro club Arizona United SC 3 – 0 last week. On Wednesday night, they face their second professional side, USL champion Sacramento Republic FC.

Even though Arizona United and Sacramento are at the same “level” in the U.S. soccer pyramid, Chula Vista may be playing in a much different situation.

“It’s going to ratchet up quite a bit … They (Chula Vista) have a good style of soccer that they play, and they can beat anyone at any level,” said FC Tucson coach Rick Schantz. “I’m not saying they (Arizona United) took them too lightly, but they have to think about how important league play is.”

Sacramento taking the team “too lightly” is less likely given that they just shut out their league’s fourth place team. Chula Vista thinks they are ready for the next challenge.

“We’ve been playing with a very strong starting eleven. The eleven has changed from Tucson to Arizona and it will change when we get to Sacramento,” said Chula Vista coach Hector Diaz. “We’ve been getting stronger … we’ve been able to change it up a bit.”

“I don’t know if they can catch on,” he continued. “We’ve been able to make adjustments and we’ll try to eliminate their strengths.”

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Diaz has been willing to switch starting line-ups and make in-game substitutions. Both goal scorers against Tucson came off the bench. David Luquen, who created numerous opportunities against Tucson, did not even play against Arizona United. It’s part of the chess match that he plays.

“There’s a lot of players we haven’t played yet,” he said.

One that got a lot of play against Arizona United was Alberto Diaz, who happens to be Hector Diaz’s younger brother. Complain about nepotism at your peril: the younger Diaz scored two goals in the win over Arizona United. The feat won him a "Player of the Round" honor from TheCup.us.

The trip to Sacramento will not be cheap for a team that prides itself on being working class. They started a GoFundMe page to raise money to get the team to the match. Among the donors were supporters of both FC Tucson and Wednesday’s opponent Sacramento Republic.

“The support has been awesome,” said Diaz. “It’s much more than who we’d expect, especially all of the comments from Tucson, Phoenix, Sacramento. It’s been special. It’s really helped us continue on our run.” Should Chula Vista win, their next opponent would be the San Jose Earthquakes. Schantz, who coached FC Tucson through two wins against pro teams in 2013 and an eventual appearance against Houston Dynamo, had some advice for Diaz and his squad.

“What they’ve done so far is play within themselves and stay focused and play their game of soccer. Don’t try to be something you are not,” he said.

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Chula Vista FC

Chula Vista FC celebrates in the locker room after defeating Arizona United SC in Scottsdale on May 20.