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How Vermont Green FC summoned Open Cup magic on a historic night at Virtue Field

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 03/20/24, 2:00PM EDT


The first USOC game in the state’s history delivered a seven-goal thriller which epitomized why the tournament matters

The Vermont Green FC fans came in their thousands to Virtue Field, filled with hope and expectation.

By the end of the night, their club had made history, and provided a timely reminder as to what the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup means to coaches, players, and fans across the country.

“I really can’t describe what it feels like right now,” said Green Head Coach and Sporting Director Adam Pfeifer.

“I mean, look at this,” added midfielder Nick Lockermann. “It was amazing.”

It was the first Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game to be held in Vermont, hosted by a club that in three short years has become one of the best stories in North American soccer.

The Green’s focus on environmental justice has brought the club worldwide attention.

But ask anyone around USL League Two and you’ll know how good Vermont has been on the field.

It took less than 10 minutes for USL League One club Lexington SC to find out.

Two corner kicks, two back-post finishes by Zach Barrett and Lockermann, and the venue was rocking. Lexington pulled a goal back through Issac Cano, but just as quickly the Green restored their two-goal advantage as Jacob Labovitz snuck in at the near post to tuck home Gerardo Castillo’s low cross from the left.

Not bad for a side that had only been training together for a few days.

“Honestly, we got together three days ago,” said Pfeifer. “The coach in me that believes in having time to prepare and needing to do all those things to get a result, it’s hard to think about this going the way that it did.”

If the 4,000-plus fans that were on hand were in dreamland at halftime, five minutes into the second half the sound rose again. Another corner kick, another back post-delivery, and captain Jake Ashford scrambled home a fourth.

Lexington wasn’t going to go down without a fight. Led by USL Championship legend Cameron Lancaster, the visitors fought back as the English forward first delivered a superb free kick on the hour-mark and then added a third through a turning finish with 12 minutes to go, cutting the deficit to a single goal.

The Green almost immediately thought they had struck again, only for the offside flag to be raised as Sydney Wathuta slid in at close range to bury a chance. Pearse O'Brien had a chance in the 90th minute that would have counted, only for his breakaway finish to slide the wrong side of the left post.

But after a pair of false start final whistles that preemptively started flares going off in the stands, the end arrived, the Green victorious, the celebration on in full.

From the fans far and wide who have followed the Green’s journey so far, congratulatory messages began to roll in. The party in the stands continued unabated as the players and staff joined in.

With the preparation time the side had, it could have been looked at as unbelievable, except it wasn’t.

“I don’t want to say we didn’t expect to win the game,” said Pfeifer. “I think the guys had a tremendous amount of belief and thought we could win it.”

The before, during and after showed exactly what the Open Cup means for communities like this. It’s the tournament every club in the United States has a chance to be part of. When it all comes together, it delivers nights that fans, coaches, and players will never forget.  

For first year University of Vermont student Lockermann – who had never played for the Green before Tuesday night – the opportunity to suit up came as a blessing.

“I was so happy when Adam texted me and asked me if I wanted to play,” he said. “We were pushing the whole time. The fans were unbelievable.”

Now, the Green will wait and find out where their Open Cup journey will take them next.

Whatever happens, the first Open Cup game in the state of Vermont is one that will live long in the memory.

“That’s Virtue Field,” said Lockerman. “That’s Vermont Green.”

That’s the magic of the cup.

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