New York Greek American have won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on three occasions, but in their last four appearances have failed to win a game in the tournament. However, the amateurs from New York City are back again for the 2014 edition after missing the Open Cup last year, and believe they are capable of making an impact against any opponent.
The club won the tournament in 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1974 and also have enjoyed a great deal of success in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League, and the club’s head coach Stavros Zomopoulos says his players are very much aware of the history they are contributing to by competing in this year’s Open Cup.
“I think it’s a vindication of the organization and the guys who worked hard for three years to do this,” Zomopoulos told SoccerWire.com. “It’s a club that is used to competing in the U.S. Open Cup, they’ve won it three times in the past, and everybody at the club has it as a yearly goal to compete and excel in the competition.
“There are constant reminders in our clubhouse. There are pictures of all the teams that won the Cup, going back to the beginning of the club in the late 1940s. There’s even a picture of the team that competed in the CONCACAF Championship in the early 1970s, so it’s something everybody talks about and knows and everybody wants to compete.”
Greek American last competed in the Open Cup in 2012, when they lost 2-1 to Reading United of the USL Premier Development League. Zomopolous believes that recent draws have been unkind to his side, especially considering that all his players are amateurs.
“The problem is that we haven’t had a draw that was convenient,” he said. “All our players are amateur and have other jobs, they have other obligations. The last time the club played, when we went to Reading, they travelled with what was basically a reserve team. We’re hoping to make sure we have a squad that is committed and that we can get a draw that we can field our strongest team. I think our strongest team can make a splash in the Cup.”
This year, the team have benefited from the decision by the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA) to hand qualification to two Region I sides a year early. This means that the Greek Americans and Icon FC of Montville, N.J. are already assured of a berth in the first round of the Open Cup, something that should be highly beneficial for the amateurs.
“I think that was a great move by USASA Region I [to qualify early],” said Zomopoulos, who also coaches the men’s team at the New York campus of Berkeley College. “Trying to qualify through the spring and then playing in the competition made preparation all that more difficult for amateur teams, which was a contributor to why we couldn’t field our strongest team when the time came to compete in the Cup.
“Now we’ve known for a year, the players have come to the club in the fall and the players who have stayed in our club see this as a goal. The Cup has helped us build a team, and to build towards something. It helps attract players as well as keeping them motivated, so I think it’s a very big help.”
Looking ahead to this year’s tournament, Zomopolous knows that his side face an uphill task despite the talent at their disposal that includes several players who have played abroad. However, he and the Greek Americans have lofty ambitions for this year’s edition of the Open Cup.
“There’s two teams that would make sense for us to play against, and we hope to get a chance to do that,” he added. “One is the New York Cosmos, whose current coach [Giovanni Savarese] is an ex-player of the Greek Americans. Of course, the other is Red Bull New York, as the local professional team that we all aspire to compete against.”
“It sounds funny, but the Greek Americans always say that any competition we enter, our aim is to win it. We do understand that it’s not very likely in the U.S. Open Cup, but that is our main aim. We compete in competitions to try and win them, and we hope to at least make a splash in the Cup. We hope to be a presence.”