The Georgia Revolution may not be moving on to face one of the best soccer teams in the U.S., but Tuesday night the fourth-division team from Conyers proved it could play among professional talent.
The Revolution, a National Premier Soccer League team hosted the Atlanta Silverbacks, of the second-division North American Soccer League, in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open and fell 1-0 to the squad which calls itself the only professional soccer team in Georgia.
However, throughout the match it looked as if there were two pro teams with the Revolution matching Atlanta every step of the way.
"I'm proud of these guys, they really played well," Revolution John Sprague said. "They're a pure amateur team with all college kids playing against a team full of professionals who are paid. On paper they're supposed to be a few goals better than us and at the end of the game I think we were the better team."
The Revs had just as many shots as the second-division Silverbacks in the first half (four) but missed taking a 2-0 lead by inches.
The first close opportunity came at the 29-minute mark when Kwado Poku's shot went just left of the Silverbacks' goal post.
The match went back and forth throughout most of the rest of the first half until the Revolution broke into Atlanta's penalty box. Clarke Bently dribbled the ball into the 18 for the Revs but was taken down from behind causing the referee to call a penalty and put the ball on the spot.
Poku, the Revolution's penalty taker, stepped up to the ball and delivered a strike to the right side of the net. But it didn't have enough pace on it and Atlanta goalkeeper Joe Nasco pounced on it.
"I don't even know," said Poku when asked what happened on his penalty kick. "It was a really bad day for me today.
"Everyone knew we were playing against a higher division but we missed a couple of chances. I did myself. I think it was a bad day for us."
Coming back from half time, the Silverbacks were more of a threat in the early going. But Georgia returned to its form of the first half with both teams sharing possession.
Poku had another chance with a one-on- one with Nasco but the Silverbacks keeper, who earned his first start prior to the match, dove to his side to come up with the save.
Georgia regained possession on the left side of its back third and was looking to transition into its offense.
However a pass out of the back into the middle of the pitch was too soft and found its way directly to the feet of Atlanta's Raphael Cox.
Cox then dribbled through the left side beating a Revolution defender one-on-one before blasting the match's lone goal past Zack Shultze 61 minutes in.
"It was one mistake, that's what separates games sometimes," Sprague said. "We missed a penalty, an open breakaway and two or three open shots at the end. But I thought we were more dangerous."
The Revolution continued to fight for their chance to meet the Seattle Sounders of the MLS in the tournament's next round but came up just shy.
Poku had one more chance as Yaron Bacher's free kick went across Atlanta's goal within the 6-yard box. The ball sailed just out of Poku's reach in the 75th minute, ending the Georgia Revolution's first appearance in the U.S. Open Cup.
"These kids left everything on the field and busted their butts," Sprague said. "In my opinion, I thought they were the better team for a large part of the game."
The tournament is open to all U.S. Soccer Federation teams and pits all divisions of professional, semi professional and amateur soccer against each other.
The U.S. Open Cup competition dates back to 1914, when it was known as the National Challenge Cup. In 1999, U.S. Soccer renamed the tournament after one of American Soccer's most important Patrons, Lamar Hunt.
Every year, the winner of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup has their team name etched upon the Dewar Cup, which has been around since 1912. The big time teams that have won the U.S. Open Cup in the past include the Chicago Fire, D.C. United, and the L.A. Galaxy.
More recently, the Seattle Sounders, one of the newest teams in the MLS, have won the Cup the past three years and are the current defending champions of the Cup.
Out of the 64 teams that qualify for the U.S. Open Cup, 16 are from the PDL, 16 are from the USL and NASL, 16 are from the MLS, and 9 are from the USASA.
All NPSL teams have now been eliminated from the tournament.
The Georgia Revolution sponsored by the Rockdale Youth Soccer Association and returns to NPSL action against the Atlanta Silverbacks' reserve team in Columbus.
The Revolution are currently 2-0 having defeated the Mississippi Storm 7-1 and the defending national champion Jacksonville United 2-1.
Georgia returns home June 16 against Myrtle Beach FC (football club).