Beginning this weekend, the schedule for FC Wichita becomes much more manageable.
The squad, which hosts Ozark FC in a NPSL Heartland Conference matchup at 7:30 Saturday evening at Stryker Soccer Complex, will settle into a pattern of one league meeting a week after coming off a stretch of four matches in 10 days.
On top of two conference matches that has Wichita unbeaten early, it played two midweek contests in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the 103-year old domestic cup of America that sees nearly 100 clubs from small amateur sides to MLS teams compete for a title.
“Obviously it’s a difficult thing to do, having midweek games,” first-year coach Steve Ralos said. “Most of our players are already used to it due to the compressed college seasons in the U.S. compared to the rest of the world. We got through it, and learned some things about ourselves and our players. All in all, it was beneficial.”
Gaining entry to the Open Cup for the second time in the short history of the club, FC Wichita topped Azteca FC 1-0 in extra time for its first Open Cup win, and fell to professional side Saint Louis FC in a 4-3 overtime thriller last week.
Balancing the two competitions, which are both important but have little to do with each other, can still pay dividends throughout the season.
“Every game is important, we treat them with the same merit,” Ralos said. “Playing in the Open Cup was tough for the boys, but I think it showed them and showed the organization that we have the ability to play at that level. Now we just can’t let them turn it off as we go back to league play.”
Wichita will play a Heartland Conference match each of the next seven Saturdays, with just one midweek contest in late June. That just happens to come against Tulsa Athletic, which Ralos sees as one of the top teams in the league.
The first meeting of the year between the two sides comes next week in Tulsa, and Wichita hopes its still one of the league’s unbeaten when it comes to that match. Sitting at 1-0-1 after two of the season’s 10 league matches, FC Wichita can keep climbing in the standings.
“We just had a tough roadtrip to Dallas and went and secured some points,” Ralos said. “Now a game at home that can solidify us in the top two before we go to Tulsa, which will be a top-of-the-table clash between two teams that will be vying for the spot out of this side of the conference.”
Ozark FC at FC Wichita
- When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Stryker Soccer Complex, 2999 N. Greenwich
- Records: Ozark 0-2, Wichita 1-0-1