FC Motown's 2017 US Open Cup run ended in the second round in Rochester on May 17. Rochester Rhinos made good use of home advantage, knocking in two goals early and one late to seal a comfortable 3-0 win and ensure they would not feature in any Cupset stories.
Motown's tournament started in September in the qualifying rounds. The Morristown-based amateur outfit was hardly known outside the local New York and New Jersey soccer scene when its name came up on the list of lower-league candidates for a spot in the main draw of USOC 2017.
But a run to the second round of the tournament has seen Motown make itself more widely known. In the qualifying rounds, the club knocked out four-time USOC winner NY Greek American (by forfeit) and local rival Lansdowne Bhoys (who made the third round of USOC 2016; ultimately falling to Rochester Rhinos, as it happens). In the first round of the main draw, Motown staged a comeback on the road against NPSL's NJ Copa FC, winning 2-1 in extra time.
Against Rochester Rhinos on the road - a professional team with a better record in USOC than some MLS clubs (looking at you, New York Red Bulls) - Motown was expected to bow out of the competition. The match lived up to those expectations, but Motown has not showed no sign of a just-happy-to-be-here attitude during its run. The team features former pros like first-round match-winner Samuel Gehman and Franklin Castellanos, once of NYRB II and forever in the nightmares of Jose Mourinho and John Terry.
Motown went to Rochester to win and returned disappointed that it had not fulfilled its ambition. Motown head coach (and former New York Red Bulls Homegrown player) Sacir Hot gave Once A Metro his assessment of his team's performance against the Rhinos and in the Cup overall, and a hint of what's next for the ambitious amateur outfit.
Once A Metro: Obviously not the result you and the team had hoped for in Rochester, but has the team taken time to reflect on the run overall? What's the mood in the camp?
Sacir Hot: Honestly, this wasn't a great result for us given our expectations for the game. Sure, we would have signed up for getting to the second round before this Cup started - but if we played a clean game, we think we had a real chance to make them nervous. Our guys basically played them dead-even, box-to-box outside the first 10 minutes and last five (when we were gassed). Upsets are rarely won from behind though, and we didn't give ourselves a fair chance at creating tension in the game.
OaM: Tough break to give up two goals early on the road, but being 2-0 down inside 10 minutes didn't seem to shake Motown out of the game plan. Were you ever concerned about the score getting out of hand?
SH: The early concession of goals in our biggest games has been a habit for this team, and we have to figure out whether it is stage fright or trying to be too precise early. Going down 2-0, eight minutes in, with give-away goals could be a recipe for a drubbing. I am very proud that our side composed themselves and showed some quality the rest of the game.
OaM: What was your read on the game overall?
SH: In a sense, the game encapsulates Motown's strengths and weaknesses. Box to box, a casual viewer would have a hard time differentiating Motown from a USL heavyweight like Rochester. They out-fouled us, 18-9, which is an indicator we were moving the ball on them. Motown, however, made some crucial defensive mistakes and showed lack of creativity/finishing power in the final third.
I thought that Marcus Hackett had an excellent game, along with our central midfield of Emerson Lawrence, Martin Lukaschick and Bryan Machado. Sammy Gehman fought to exhaustion, which is what you need to do against a powerful team on the road. So our play was pretty good, but you get a 3-0 score line when you gift two goals away.
You can say that Rochester rested some starters, but we lost our center back and starting defensive midfielder 10 days before the game. One went to the Michigan Bucks in PDL (who made the third round) and one got a great job opportunity that had him traveling. This stuff goes both ways.
OaM: Looking back on the Cup campaign as a whole, would you say you and the players have learned anything from the run, or was it more a chance to show what you already know?
SH: I have learned a lot during this Cup experience. Handling the media and travel requirements alone will be useful as I improve as a coach. Getting an amateur team to peak at the right time is subject to fortune and health. I can only do so much controlling that, but you can bet I will work on negating big-game mistakes in the first five minutes. As a coach, I am proud we showcased a quality, front-foot style, and also proud that a diverse pool of players pulled together for each other.
OaM: What's next for FC Motown?
SH: Motown will be working with Clarkstown Eagles in the NPSL this summer. It should be a real title threat, as it will be a combination of a final-eight (NJ Copa) and final-four (Clarkstown) team. Our owners have created a great environment around this club, and I wouldn't be shocked to see Motown back at this point again in the near future.
[Editor's note: NJ Copa made the regional final of the 2016 NPSL playoffs - the last eight of the league's national post-season tournament - ousting 2015 champ New York Cosmos B along the way. That team comprised several FC Motown players. It was bounced from the playoffs last year by Clarkstown Eagles, who fell to eventual NPSL 2016 champion AFC Cleveland in the national semifinals.
Keep up with FC Motown on Facebook and on Twitter - @fc_motown.