Fortune was grinning down at the Spokane Shadow.
After starting their Premier Development League season 4-0, Spokane still needed help to qualify for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
The Fresno Fuego provided that help, knocking off the Orange County Blue Star 2-1 Sunday and giving the Shadow the PDL’s final spot in the Open Cup.
The Blue Star (3-1), which had already beaten the Fuego 2-1 earlier this season, self-destructed, collecting three red cards to leave the Shadow the only unbeaten team in Open Cup qualifiers in the Western Conference.
“It’s obviously an opportunity to continue on and hopefully we can continue to perform like we have been,” head coach Stuart Saunders said moments after hearing that the Fuego had won. “It will be one more chance to try something else and keep flying.”
The Shadow will play a first-round match between June 2 and June 8 against an amateur team from the United States Adult Soccer Association.
The opponent and location have yet to be determined, though the Shadow hope to find out today.
Regardless of who or where they play, it will be an exciting experience and one unique to soccer. Every adult and amateur team in the country has the possibility of making it to the Open Cup, where a potential third-round matchup with an Major League Soccer team awaits.
Not that the Shadow are looking that far ahead.
“(Playing an MLS team) would be a chance for the players to show their ability and it would be an experience for the younger guys and for the older guys, too,” Saunders said. “But we will cross that bridge when we come to it.”
The only previous experience the Shadow have in the Open Cup came in 1999. Having qualified for the first round, they traveled to California to play what was then Division III Chico. (Division III is now the USL Pro League and Chico has since moved to the MPSL, a separate amateur league.)
Saunders, then a Shadow player, watched former Gonzaga player Alika Cosner tap in a rebound of a penalty kick in overtime, sending Spokane to a thrilling win.
Saunders took off on a dead sprint up the stands and into the Shadow radio booth, grabbed a microphone and started screaming, “We won! We won! We won!”
That win set up a showdown with the Seattle Sounders of the A-League, one division below the MLS.
The Sounders won 3-2 at Inner Bay (Seattle Pacific’s home stadium), but the experience is one that can stick with the players for a lifetime.
That the Shadow even got to this pointspeaks of the quality of the team.
“It says a lot about the fact that the guys seem to have a good spirit in the group, they want to work for each other,” Saunders said. “We battled through some adverse situations already, down by two in Abbotsford and down two players in Yakima, both on the road. It says a lot about the makeup of the group at this point.
“Our lucky stars were smiling on us or something,” Saunders said. “I don’t know what else I can say.”
Not much else was needed.
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