The first U.S. Open Cup game played in Wichita in the tournament’s 103-year-old history had everything a soccer fan could want: great weather, an electric crowd, and an entertaining game with the game-winner scored in the final 10 minutes.
Unfortunately for FC Wichita, one thing missing was a win, as the Des Moines Menace escaped with a 2-1 victory at the Stryker Soccer Complex on Wednesday evening.
“It was a fantastic night,” FC Wichita goalkeeper and Wichita native Steven Hamersky said. “I thought the atmosphere was great. I could hear the fans chanting the whole time and I thought it was a fantastic experience all-around. We obviously wish we would’ve came out with the result, but I think it was great for soccer in the community.”
It was a free-flowing game featuring two sides mounting dangerous attacks. While that was to be expected from Des Moines, a team that has now won a game eight straight years in the U.S. Open Cup, FC Wichita proved itself equal.
“Hats off to Wichita,” Des Moines manager Mike Matkovich said. “I was very impressed with the team they have and the way they played. We respect the heck out of everything about them: the organization, the team, the fans. It was a good night of soccer.”
FC Wichita made history in the 47th minute, scoring its first goal in the competition when Max Touloute beat a defender with his quick first touch and slid the ball across the goal where Carlos Contreras was waiting on the back post to bury it into the back of the net.
But Wichita wouldn’t play with the lead for long, as Heath Preston would sneak past the back line of Wichita and showed great composure holding off a defender while slotting it past a charging Hamersky in the 57th minute.
That set off a frantic final 30 minutes where both teams had chances they felt could have been the game-winner.
Touloute, who owned the channels all game for Wichita, again streaked down the sideline in the 83rd minute and slipped a pass across the box for a clear shot but it sailed inches over the crossbar.
Two minutes later Leigh Veidman was at the other end, sprinting past Wichita’s back line and leaving Hamersky no chance for a save with a left-footed blast for the game-winner to send Des Moines through to the next round.
“I thought we had some really good chances there,” Hamersky said. “I think, hands down, our defense is one of the best in the league and unfortunately we didn’t show it tonight. We were right there.”
FC Wichita will host Liverpool International Academy on Saturday at Stryker.
“We’ve got a lot of talent on this team and there’s a lot of talent that you guys didn’t even get to see tonight that’s coming in,” Markey said. “This wasn’t a conference game. It was kind of like a bonus game. Sure, we would’ve liked to go a couple of rounds deeper, but we fully plan on winning conference again and being back in this next year.”
Second half–Wichita, Contreras (Touloute); Des Moines, Preston; Des Moines, Veidman. Shots–Des Moines 7-11–18, Wichita 6-14–20. Saves–Des Moines, Campbell 6-13–19; Wichita, Hamersky 7-9–16.