Updated 15 hours ago
On one side was Louisville City FC, a USL club of full-time, professional soccer players.
On the other was the Tartan Devils Oak Avalon, a Pittsburgh amateur team that carries three accountants, two lawyers, two social workers, an event planner and three small business owners among their roster.
The outcome was to be expected, but it was a historic night for the Devils, nonetheless.
Louisville booked a spot in the third round of the 104th Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup by cruising past the Devils, 9-0, in a second-round game Wednesday at Highmark Stadium.
The Devils are the three-time defending champion of the Greater Pittsburgh Soccer League, Western Pa.’s top amateur league. Though all their players played college soccer, most at the Division I level, the gulf between the Sunday men’s leaguers and the active pros was clear.
“The way (Louisville) moved the ball, the touches, the runs off the ball, that’s where it’s such a big difference,” said Devils goalkeeper Zach Varga, a Duquesne alum and Riverhounds player from 2008-09. “We have guys who are just playing one game a week on the weekend, and you can see how quick they are in comparison. They’re a great side.”
“If every facet of the game, you name it, they were sharp, and we haven’t seen that in, in some cases, 10 years for our guys,” said Devils defender Andy Kalas, a former standout player for Norwin and Pitt.
Despite the loss, the Devils are the first Western Pa. amateur team in the modern era to advance past the first round, which made them one of the last 71 teams alive in a competition filled with pro teams from the USL and MLS.
The crowd of roughly 500 who came out to support the Devils, who are sponsored by Piper’s Pub on the South Side, created a good atmosphere. After the final whistle, the Devils were showered with a standing ovation for their breakthrough Cup run, which began with qualifiers last fall.
“This was an unbelievable experience, and something we never thought would have been possible when we put this team together. To have the support of the Pittsburgh soccer base come out for us, it’s pretty cool,” Kalas said.
The Devils return to their usual routine of GPSL play, where they are 2-0 to start the season. Though they hope to repeat as champs — Kalas estimated their group could stay on top at least three more years — the larger hope is that this year’s experience can open doors for their own club and others around Western Pa. at the national level.
“Hats off to the club and the administration. It started out as a little team out of Piper’s Pub, now they have (over-) 30s, 40s, 50s teams, and we get a great backing,” Varga said.
“After three years winning the GPSL, it was nice to take it to the next level, just to test ourselves. It’s a good experience, and hopefully teams from Pittsburgh after us will get the same opportunity.”