(Photo by Ed Zurga)
“Well fuckers, we scored more goals on these guys than the Timbers. Should I make reservations at Chevy’s?”
Our opponents, Cal F.C., had turned U.S. Soccer on its head by beating and shutting out the Portland Timbers in the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The format of the Open Cup is unique among American team sports. As the name suggests, entry is open to pretty much anybody within the American soccer landscape, including local amateur teams. After qualifying, all it takes is a few wins in the early rounds of the tournament to play against an MLS side with a $250,000 prize and a CONCACAF Champions League spot ultimately at stake.
As a team, Cal F.C. didn’t exist a couple of months before they beat the Timbers. Their roster was made up of mostly Latino amateur players from the Los Angeles area who had been overlooked or cast off by the “athlete” obsessed upper echelons of America soccer. They were put together and coached by Eric Wynalda, a former U.S. Soccer star turned outspoken MLS critic. Wynalda led Cal F.C with a satisfied smirk as his team embarrassed the Timbers and MLS, becoming a cult hero in the process.
Back then, Cal F.C. were an inspiration for dudes like us who watched MLS and thought to ourselves: “Shit, we could still hang out there. Those Cal F.C. guys are just like us!”
But now, we were trying to write our own chapter of Open Cup history, one that included high-functioning alcoholism and a teammate inevitably falling in a fire pit or disappearing on a gambling binge. Unfortunately, the fire pit incident had already occurred earlier in our season, but we (well, mostly the guy who fell in the fire) recovered and felt confident we could make a statement, albeit a slightly incoherent one.