Why Republic FC winning the Open Cup would be even more amazing than you think
If you’re an American football fan, you probably know that the last lower division team to win the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup was the Rochester Raging Rhinos – then of the USL A-League – in 1999.
But what if we look further afield at some of the typical strongholds of the global game?
Did you know that the last team to win the FA Cup in England as a lower division side was West Ham United in 1980?
What about Italy, where SSC Napoli were the last winners of the lower division of the Coppa Italia in 1962?
Or the Copa Del Rey in Spain, which has never been won by a lower division club since La Liga was formed in 1929?
By any measure, what USL Championship Sacramento Republic FC could accomplish in the 2022 Open Cup final against Orlando City SC next Wednesday night is extraordinary.
“When you say it like that, it’s a reminder of reality and what the guys have achieved in reaching the Open Cup final this year,” Republic FC head coach Mark Briggs said when asked. recently gave these figures. “You don’t realize, you know? You don’t really have time to think about what you’re doing with the current season, game after game after game, whether it’s in the league or in the Open Cup. When you listen to those numbers, it sure makes you sit up and congratulate the guys on what they’ve accomplished this year.
So why this team, and why now?
You can start with the talent the club has gathered during the offseason. Republic FC have revamped their squad, starting with the return of captain Rodrigo Lopez and veterans Matt LaGrassa and Nick Ross as part of a new midfield contingent built around the return of Luis Felipe Fernandes. 2020 Championship Golden Glove winner Danny Vitiello has been signed to hold the net.
There were also foreign talents. Douglas Martinez Jr. and Zeiko Lewis both brought high-level international experience with Honduras and Bermuda. Veteran Spanish winger Keko Gontan was joined by rising star and compatriot Damia Viader, USL League One Defender of the Year last year at Union Omaha. In the back line, Irish defender Lee Desmond – last year’s FAI Cup winner at St. Patrick’s Athletic – joined compatriot Dan Casey.
But as important as the on-field qualities these players brought, it was matched by the group’s personality in the dressing room, holding each other accountable to high standards, which has been key to the club’s success.