Wynalda surprised by Cal FC's fairytale Open Cup run
PORTLAND, Ore. – Eric Wynalda at a loss for words?
It happened on Wednesday night when his amateur club Cal FC registered one of the epic upset victories in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup with a 1-0 overtime road win against the Portland Timbers. The Seattle Sounders await in the fourth round.
The win was still reverberating around American soccer circles a day later and the outspoken former US national team member and television soccer analyst, who created Cal FC just in time to qualify for the Open Cup, was just as surprised as everyone else.
“I really don’t know what to tell you guys,” Wynalda said while addressing the media with his team still raucously celebrating their victory in the bowels of JELD-WEN Field. “I’m a little bit taken aback by all this.”
HIGHLIGHTS: POR 0, CAL 1
How shocking is the result?
Cal FC, an assembly of players cast off by MLS and other professional leagues and based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., are currently ninth in the 12-team Gran Liga de Oxnard.
Artur Aghasyan’s overtime goal was the first time a team from the United States Adult Soccer Association had ever scored on an MLS side, let alone won.
And Cal FC did it against what was close to the Timbers' best available starting XI, featuring Designated Player Kris Boyd.
To top it off, Cal FC had trained just once since upsetting last year’s USL Pro runners-up Wilmington Hammerheads 4-0 last week.
Wynalda’s players were so gassed in the final minutes he had to change his formation six times, rotating cramping players as Portland surged forward frantically trying to net a goal. When Aghasyan, a forward, scored, he was playing right back.
“We have limited resources, we don’t have money,” Wynalda said. “Just finding a facility to train is always a struggle.
“The other thing I think we should be very proud of is Portland brought their team, those were their guys,” Wynalda continued. “When we saw the lineup everything kind of settled in with our guys, and we were like, ‘OK, this is it. This is what we wanted.’”
And while Wynalda said the entire evening was overwhelming, which also including the famed Timbers Army chiding Portland with some creative chants and then serenading Cal FC after full time, he never completely dismissed what seemed an impossible feat for his club. He said there was something about his group of players that made him feel that making history was actually possible.
“My expectations with this group, they keep surprising me," he said. "I really don’t know how to describe them; they’re just an amazing group of kids.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.