This week's 3-1 victory over Oklahoma City Energy U-23 is the start of a long run in the U.S. Open Cup for FC Wichita, team captain Leo Sosa believes.
FC Wichita has never been past the second round of the tournament, a hurdle it will try to clear next Wednesday in a road match against professional side Tulsa Roughnecks FC.
"This is a huge step for us because we can prove through this tournament that we're ready to go pro," Sosa said. "I know this year is going to be different and we're going to get past the second round. This is just the beginning tonight."
"There's no doubt every time we get a result like this, it grows soccer in Wichita and it grows Wichita," FC Wichita manager Blake Shumaker said.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Good news for FC Wichita is that it secured Wednesday's 3-1 result at Trinity Academy without two lineup regulars in Andres Ochoa and Matt Claire, who were not in camp this past week. Shumaker said he hopes both will be in Wichita soon and available for next week's second-round matchup in Tulsa.
On Wednesday, Sosa took over the game with two goals less than two minutes apart in the first half.
Sosa put FC Wichita on the board in the 34th minute when he was given space in the midfield and blasted a 35-yard strike that befuddled the goalkeeper. Two minutes later, a failed clearance by Oklahoma City presented Sosa with an open net for his second goal.
"I knew I was getting a lot of freedom, so I told my teammates, 'Just give me the ball and I'm going to have a shot,'" Sosa said. "I was always ready. I had the blood pumping in my veins and I just wanted a chance. I was able to get that one and it felt good."
With just three days of practice together, FC Wichita still looked like the more mature and composed side for the full 90 minutes. But Oklahoma City put the result in doubt when Josh Garcia netted a free kick in the 78th minute to cut FC Wichita's lead to 2-1.
FC Wichita clinched the victory in stoppage time when Franck Tayou split Oklahoma City's back line and played through Ben Andoh, who slotted it past the charging goalkeeper.
It topped off a performance highlighted by a strong defensive showing by FC Wichita, led by Uzi Tayouh, Chris Lemons, and Eddie Gomez. It was also the debut of Wichita native Thomas Wells, a Kapaun Mount Carmel graduate, who played along the right wing.
But there was no denying who had the biggest impact on the match.
"You can just see and feel the passion that Leo Sosa plays with," Shumaker said. "There's no doubt that every time he's playing he can give you a Man of the Match type of performance. He just wants it for us, for the city, for the program more than anybody else. That's the type of passion that's going to make us a professional organization."