It’s unlikely Republic FC will overlook the fourth-division semipro Kitsap Pumas FC of Bremerton, Wash., in Wednesday’s third-round U.S. Open Cup match at Bonney Field.
Republic FC captain and midfielder Danny Barrera will make sure of that. He already sounded the warning before Sacramento beat CD Aguiluchos USA of Oakland 5-0 in the second round May 18.
“I’ve told the guys that these players have nothing to lose,” Barrera said. “They are hungry, have regular jobs and want nothing more than to get the opportunity to be able to play soccer for a living.”
Barrera knows firsthand. In 2012, he played for Cal FC, an amateur fifth-division Southern California team coached by Eric Wynalda, a former U.S. national team striker. It was a hodgepodge group of pro castoffs and players looking to keep alive their pro dreams, guys Wynalda called the “yeahbuts” because most had fallen through the cracks.
Cal FC opened the U.S. Open Cup with a 3-1 upset of Kitsap Pumas, the 2011 Premier Development League champions. In the second round, Barrera scored two goals, both on assists from his brother Diego, as the Thousand Oaks-based team stunned the USL Wilmington Hammerheads 4-0 in Wilmington, N.C.
But the biggest upset was still ahead. In the third round, Cal FC became the first U.S. Adult Soccer Association team to beat a Major League Soccer team in the run of play when it upset the host Portland Timbers 1-0 in overtime.
Portland started most of its front-line players, outshot Cal FC 37-8 and had 11 corner kicks. But the Timbers couldn’t put a shot past Cal FC goalkeeper Derby Carrillo. Kris Boyd, Portland’s $1.25 million designated player from Scotland, missed a penalty kick in the 80th minute.
“We were the Cinderella team,” Barrera said of the club that lost to the MLS’ Seattle Sounders 5-0 in the fourth round. “That’s what makes it such a great tournament, because anything can happen. Those teams didn’t know who we were. But we had a bunch of great players.”
Barrera and several other players followed Wynalda to the Atlanta Silverbacks, where Wynalda briefly coached and was technical director of the North American Soccer League team. He is now a soccer broadcaster for Fox Sports 1.
Barrera also played for the NASL’s San Antonio Scorpions, who ceased operations in December, and Carolina Railhawks before joining Republic FC last season.
“Beating those teams just showed that we could play among them,” Barrera said. “A lot of guys got pro jobs. So it was a very special experience for all of us.”
Republic FC coach Paul Buckle also knows about upsets from his experience in England’s version of the U.S. Open Cup.
Buckle led Luton Town to one of the greatest upsets in FA Cup history – the oldest association soccer competition in the world dating to 1871 – when it beat Premier League side Norwich City 1-0 at Carrow Road in the fourth round of the 2013 tournament.
I’ve told the guys that these players have nothing to lose. They are hungry, have regular jobs and want nothing more than to get the opportunity to be able to play soccer for a living.
Republic FC’s Danny Barrera, on Kitsap Pumas FC
It was the first time a nonleague team eliminated a top-flight squad from the FA Cup since 1989 and earned the club 90,000 pounds in prize money.
That wasn’t the only upset Buckle and Luton Town pulled off in the tournament that season. In the third round, the Hatters topped the Championship League Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0.
A win over the Kitsap Pumas would extend Republic FC’s unbeaten streak to seven matches and send the team to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup for the third consecutive year. But instead of playing the San Jose Earthquakes, as it has the last two seasons, Republic FC would play at the Seattle Sounders on June 15.
“That would be amazing,” Buckle said. “(But Kitsap) will have the same drive. ... So it’s not going to be an easy opponent. There never is.”