USOC Exclusive Interview: Johnny Freeston [Harpo’s FC]

The qualification process through US Soccer adult league channels can always be complicated, convoluted and nonsensical.  Regardless of the elaborate journey, Harpo’s FC have strung together two victories in cup play to ensure their spot in the 2nd Round of the tournament where they will take on Colorado Springs FC of the USL.  Non League America was able to speak with Johnny Freeston, the owner and manager of Harpo’s, to gain more insight into their Open Cup run.

Speaks: Can you give us a brief history of the club?

Freeston: Originally founded in 1997 as the Barrel House, which was the precursor to the bar in Boulder,  by a bunch of CU-Boulder and Boulder college students.  I became friends with those guys and starting playing on the team in 2005, eventually taking over as manager in 2008.  We started rebuilding the team in 2010.  By 2012 we were more competitive and wanted to start winning more trophies.  From 2013 until recent we have been kind of dominating soccer here in Colorado which led to our berth to the USOC.

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Speaks: How are you doing in league play?  [Harpo’s FC participates in the Colorado Amateuer Soccer League, an USSSA affiliate]

Freeston:  It’s been great. We have been using league play as preparation for this tournament in general – our league is our bread and butter.  We take it very seriously.  We actually had a game on Sunday [05.17.15] against Real Colorado Edge – we defeated them 3-0.   There was about half our Open Cup guys out there, maybe ⅔… of course we want to be careful with those guys.

Speaks:  What was the biggest challenge going up against BYU in the First Round? [Harpo’s defeated the PDL quad, BYU, in a penalty shootout 4-2]

Freeston:  We scouted those guys, we watched tape, and we watched them live – they had a game here in Colorado a couple of days before we played them.  They are all young college kids, you know? They post fitness videos on youtube (chuckles) – they are super fit and can run all day at high altitude. That was the biggest thing to go up against, their fitness levels – we knew were were going to tire before them.

Speaks: What was the best moment of the first round of the Open Cup?

Freeston: That’s a great question – there are a bunch.  We knew that once we got to over time, that if we hunkered down we would be able to win in PKs.   We have more experience – some of our players are ex pros.  We practiced penalties.  The biggest moment was that Zac Gibbens save – he is always good to save 1 or 2 in a shootout.  As soon as Zac made the save I knew those guys would buckle under the pressure.  Being inexperienced and nervous the next player came up and hit it wide – after that I knew it was ours.

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Speaks: Who was your player of the match?

Freeston: I think Zac is obviously in there, also Joey Matibag on defense, and our go to guy right now is Kyle.  Our club captain, and our best player period is Dan Campbell (with the team since 2010) is on his honeymoon in Italy. Kyle Luetkehans has been with us for about two years – former pro (Australia/Finland and former Vermont College captain) is a baller.  He started to cramp up (laughs) relatively early – he had me really worried , but he soldiered on and he epitomized the heart and guts we needed to get through.  He was exhausted…[by the end] I couldn’t even let him take PKs – normally he would have been the first one to do it – he was the man of the match. [Kyle] was the heart and soul – the captain for last Wednesday.

Speaks:  How’s the scouting report looking like for the 2nd Round?

Freeston: We are very familiar with them [Colorado Switchbacks] as a team.  I’ve been around for awhile – I know most of their coaching staff.  We know Aaron King who is their striker, and we know Martin Maybin – who comes off the bench, but is a real spark – he played at Regis University here in Denver.  We know Luke Vercollone, their captain.  He is a USL stalwart. He was actually training with our indoor team all winter- Avery Brewing FC.  He was leading by example for our younger guys – for all of us really, from November to March.

Speaks:  What do you anticipate as the biggest issue for playing the Colorado Springs Switchbacks?

Freeston:  Frankly – they are a professional team and these guys get paid to play.  They have anywhere from one to ten years of experience – same with Coach Trittschuh.  They have the benefit of being bigger, faster, stronger  and have the resources and environment to develop fitness and mental strength.  They are playing at a level that only a handful of our players have or have gotten close to.  It is literally David versus Goliath in every sense and every facet of the game.

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Speaks: Any current players with aspiration to go professional?

Freeston: The guy that stands out the most is Shane Wheeler – he is our striker.  He has been on a trial the past few month with a couple different USL clubs.  He trialed with the Rochester Rhinos, the Wilmington Hammerheads, and plays in the PDL with the Real Colorado Foxes.  He actually played the last 25 minutes against BYU before we went to Utah – that helped a lot (laughs).  Kyle [Luetkehans] has a shot too – he is 26 which is “old” for a  pro, but he already has the experience.

Speaks: Thank you, Johnny!  We at Non League America wish you all the best of luck.

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Harpo’s FC will travel to San Creek Stadium, where they will take on Colorado Springs Switchback FC of the United Soccer League (USL) on May 20 at 7 p.m in the Second Round of the US Open Cup.

[All pictures are courtesy of Harpo’s FC]

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