Epic U.S. Open Run Ends for El Farolito in 2-1 Loss to USL Championship Side Oakland Roots

By Favian Renkel/NPSL.com

The Cinderella story that is El Farolito has advanced to the third round of the U.S. Open Cup. Established in 1985, El Farolito is a cornerstone of family, cuisine, and soccer in San Francisco. The team, champions in 1993, aims to achieve the impossible once again by winning the U.S. Open Cup, just two years after a non-MLS team last made the final. 

The matchup is set for a historic night, marking a meeting between two iconic cities going head-to-head in a professional soccer match.  These two teams are more commonly known for the clashes between the A’s and Giants or the Raiders and 49ers.  This matchup between El Farolito and the Oakland Roots only adds to the lore of rivalry and history between both cities.

El Farolito being the sole team from San Francsico left in the tournament, they are putting the whole city behind them and taking it right to the Oakland Roots on their home turf of CSU East Bay.  With many players from El Farolito having even more experience in the U.S. Open Cup and beyond, beating the “Burrito Boys” will be no easy task for the Oakland Roots.

Santiago Lopez, who has managed the team since 2011 and owns one of the four burrito chains that gave the team its name, made the following remarks before the match: “We are proud to be sharing and representing our club’s history.  We are privileged to be in the third round, and we look to fight for another ‘cupset’ in this year’s tournament.” 

The match started off tense as CSU East Bay filled up with a true 50/50 split of both fan bases. The Oakland Roots did a good job holding back El Farolito by deploying a press that kept the “Burrito Boys” in their own half.  Just when the Oakland Roots felt like they were in control of the match, Dembor Benson got on the end of a cross that was pinballed around initially in the attack and headed the ball into the back of the net.  The goals didn’t have to be too pretty; they just had to go into the back of net. 

The upset was on, and the crowd erupted in celebration as El Farolito took the lead.

A memorable moment unfolded when Benson, now a four-time goal scorer in the U.S. Open Cup, leaped from the field to celebrate with his family in the stands.  This beautiful instance captured the essence of the Open Cup, highlighting its significance to the Honduran as he immediately went to share the joy with his loved ones.

The stage was set for El Farolito to enter halftime with a 1-0 lead after Johan Lizzarlde came up with some big saves and strategized accordingly, but just as the referee announced additional time in the first half, NPSL alum Guillermo “Memo” Diaz scored the equalizer for the Oakland Roots with a header from a cross.  With the score now tied at 1-1 going into halftime, not all hope is lost.  El Farolito still has the chance to recapture its former glory from 1993, when they won the championship under Don Chava, Santiago Lopez’s father.

The second half kicked off with increased intensity from both teams, feeling the pressure of the U.S. Open Cup stakes.  As the pressure mounted, Edgard Keys received his second yellow card in the 51st minute, forcing El Farolito to play the next 40 minutes with a man down.  Despite the disadvantage, Lizarralde made multiple crucial saves, fending off a relentless assault from the Oakland Roots.

The match concluded with a 1-1 tie, and both teams felt fortunate to have another 30 minutes to decide the winner.  Just eight minutes into extra time, eighteen-year-old Ali Elmasnaouy scored on his team debut, giving the Oakland Roots the lead. 

As extra time progressed, El Farolito had an opportunity to equalize, but Dembor Benson missed a one-on-one chance against the goalkeeper.  Although he managed to chip the goalkeeper, he couldn’t keep the shot on target.

With the lead, the Oakland Roots’ Trayvone Reid was sent off after receiving his second yellow card.  El Farolito quickly put this opportunity behind them and refocused on the task at hand, aiming to reach the Round of 32.

The match concluded with El Farolito missing their final chances to score, which allowed the Oakland Roots to advance.  This defeat marks the second time El Farolito has been ousted from the Open Cup by the Oakland Roots. 

Despite their Cinderella story coming to an end, head coach Santiago Lopez kept his sights set on the significant upcoming NPSL matches, expressing his thoughts with pride:

“I’m very proud of my group, everyone involved… very, very proud that we created this really good chemistry and we hope that we can continue this and look for another championship in the Golden Gate Conference and eventually the national title for the NPSL.”

Although El Farolito’s campaign has ended, it has undeniably left a lasting impact on the fans nationwide and the narrative of the U.S. Open Cup. The team from the Mission in San Francisco may even have jerseys for sale hanging in their taquerias, now that they’ve become America’s favorite burrito soccer team, or even their super burritos wrapped in the team’s beloved yellow and blue.

The history of the club, the passion of the players, and the support of the San Francisco community affirm that while this chapter of their underdog U.S. Open Cup run has closed, the story of El Farolito is far from over. 

Photo Credit: Dario Cruz/NPSL.com

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