In their first season, the Georgia Revolution proved they could play in their league, the National Premier Soccer League.
As the only semi-professional sports team in the area begins its second season, a 1-0 overtime win over the Mississippi Brilla Tuesday night proved it could play with any team in its division of U.S. Soccer.
Now the Revolution have a chance to prove it can play with anybody as it moves to the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup next Tuesday.
Thanks to Tuesday night's win over the Brilla of the Premier Development League the Georgia Revolution, sponsored by the Rockdale Youth Soccer Association and playing in Conyers, will host Georgia's only all-professional men's soccer team, the Atlanta Silverbacks.
"That's what these young men dream of," Revolution coach John Sprague said. "The Silverbacks are all paid professionals. These guys are college-aged students just trying to get fit for their fall season. Playing against the ‘only pro team in Georgia,' these boys have been dreaming for it and waiting for it."
The U.S. Open Cup win was the second this season for the Revs, which defeated the Mississippi Storm 7-1 in the NPSL opener Saturday. The Revs will now need all the firepower of the first win plus the defensive pressure of the second to have a chance against the Silverbacks of the North American Soccer League.
Against the Brillia, Georgia controlled possession and tempo throughout the match but couldn't get much going in the final third.
The NPSL team had several chances throughout the first 90 minutes, including outshooting Mississippi 6-3 in the first half.
"I think we had difficulty in the final third," Sprague said. "I thought we did a good job of possessing the ball from the back and midfield. I think in the final third we lacked a little bit of quality. We certainly had some chances when we got in close but that final quality was a little off."
In the second half the Revs' chances continued including two close ones as regulation ticked on. Diego Nicholson blasted one from just outside the 18-yard box 12 minutes in and it went just wide of the right goal post. Later on in the half another chance came up just shy when a header went directly into the hands of the Mississippi keeper.
With the score tied 0-0 the match went into two 15-minute overtime halves
The Revs came out in overtime controlling the ball once again, but still couldn't seem to find the net.
As the first half of overtime was set to expire Georgia forward Kwado Polku pushed the ball to the Mississippi goal line left of the goal.
The ball went out of bounds off a Mississippi player and the Revs received the corner kick from the left side.
Midfielder Sean Grisham took the kick and found a driving Hailab Habtom, who came in as a sub about 30 minutes into the second half, with a driving header through the 6-yard box.
"We brought him on with about 30 minutes left in the second half," Sprague said. "He's one of our more dangerous players going forward. He had a little bit of room in the box, the corner kick found his head and he did a good job burying it."
The Revs then held on throughout the final 15 minutes for the victory with goalkeeper Zack Shultze coming up with the shutout.
"It was a tremendous fight and it was a tremendous victory," Sprague said. "We showed a lot of resilience and we brought one or two guys on to help us make a difference. But especially the last 15-20 minutes our guys showed a lot of fight, a lot of commitment and a lot of persistence. They really fought for that win. I think they deserved it."
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 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 (U.S. Adult Soccer Association).
This leaves only seven slots for NPSL teams. One of the seven spots this year belongs the Georgia Revolution.
The Revolution could face the Sounders if they manage a win over the Silverbacks Tuesday.
"I'm expecting a great contest and a great show of resilience from these guys," Sprague said. "All we can do is get prepared and go from there."