No matter the final result, Wednesday’s game against Saint Louis FC was going to be the biggest game in the short history of FC Wichita.
The second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is where professional teams begin entering the bracket, and for long stretches, the amateurs of Wichita were not only hanging with Saint Louis, but appeared ready to pull an upset in just their third match in the 103-year-old tournament.
Instead, second-half stoppage time went just a bit too long, as Saint Louis managed to tie the score before scoring again in extra time to salvage a 4-3 victory.
“There are passages of play through the course of a game,” FC Wichita coach Steve Ralos said. “There were moments where we thought we were on top of them, and times they got on us. If you had asked me two minutes before the game was over if we were going to win, I’d say yes, but that’s the nature of the game we play.”
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That’s because, with two minutes left, Wichita was in the midst of a spectacular defensive effort while holding onto a 3-2 lead against a Saint Louis onslaught.
The Wichita back line cut off numerous through-balls, and keeper Mark Weir picked off a dangerous cross to keep the hosts in front. Then, Wichita got a fortuitous bounce, as Saint Louis’ Jose Angulo launched a penalty kick well high. That followed a dangerous sequence that saw Weir make a diving save and Colton Haskin stop the follow-up with his hand, leading to a red card and the ensuing PK.
Angulo redeemed himself though, assisting on a header that tied it a few minutes later, and then redirecting a shot with his heel five minutes into overtime, a goal that proved to be the game winner.
“Not your typical soccer score, 4-3,” Ralos said. “It’s good for the fans though. The two teams came out here and put on a show. Saint Louis is a good team, obviously. They’re a full-time professional team, and at the end of the day, it’s a tough result, but it’s probably justified.”
Saint Louis had the bulk of the chances during a back-and-forth first 90 minutes, but Wichita made the most of theirs. Leonardo Sosa converted a PK in the sixth minute to give the hosts the first goal of the game, doing his part to keep it tied at the half.
Gordon Gurson put Wichita back in front in the 62nd, knocking in the rebound of a Leonardo Catarina shot after a slick sequence between the latter and Travis Pittman. In the 81st, Deri Corfe had the highlight of the game, getting the ball in open space and putting a rocket just under the bar from 20 yards out to give the locals the lead they would hold until the final moments.