On Tuesday, two incredible stories will collide at Starfire in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
The Sounders FC has won each of the past three Lamar Hunt US Open Cup titles and is on a quest to become the first team in the 99-year history of the tournament to win four consecutive championships.
In their path this week is upstart Cal FC, who already became the first US Adult Soccer Association team to top an MLS side when they outlasted the Portland Timbers 1-0 on Wednesday. Now they are looking to carry their remarkable story even further as they meet the Sounders in the fourth round.
The team formed in February under the guidance of former US National Team forward and current Fox Soccer analyst Eric Wynalda and qualified for the US Open Cup tournament in May before taking out the Kitsap Pumas and Wilmington Hammerheads to lead to their historic ousting of the Portland Timbers.
With a wide array of talent, Cal FC differs from most amateur teams across the country.
“It’s not a Sunday morning pub team. These are all guys who still see soccer in their future,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “They’re training on their own and from that standpoint it’s not your typical amateur team. And they have players.”
Three of those players in particular have trained with the Sounders over the past few seasons, but were unable to catch on.
Goalkeeper Derby Carrillo went through training camp with the Sounders in 2010, then played in a limited role with the Kitsap Pumas that year. He went on to play for FC New York in 2011 before joining Cal FC this year.
Midfielder Jesus Gonzalez and forward Danny Barrera both came to the Sounders to train, but for one reason or another could not unseat players on the existing roster.
They join a group that includes former Real Salt Lake forward Artur Aghasyan and former Portland Timbers and LA Galaxy defender Mike Randolph, among others.
“A lot of those guys didn’t catch a break, but they’re more than hungry to prove themselves and it’s going to be a difficult task,” said Sounders FC forward David Estrada, who played with Cal FC midfielder Eder Arreola at UCLA and roomed with Carrillo while he was in camp with the Sounders in 2010.
In quick time, they joined together and got on the same page, with the common goal of proving that they belong on the top level in America.
That made the message from Wynalda easy before their match with the Timbers last week, in which the Timbers fielded a lineup not atypical of their normal MLS fixtures.
“This is what you wanted,” Wynalda said he told his players. “You guys want to be professional soccer players? There they are. That’s not the reserves. There will not be an excuse after this is over. That’s who you wanted to play? That’s who you got. Go get ‘em.”
That same message will permeate the locker room this week as they look to extend their Cinderella story.
Meanwhile the Sounders will look to extend a fairy tale of their own that started with an unlikely run through the tournament in 2009 and hasn’t seen them drop a match of the 15 they’ve played in association with the tournament since.
Kickoff is set for 7 pm Pacific Time from Starfire Stadium. Tickets are still available and the match will be televised live on Fox Soccer and broadcast on SoundersFC.com.