DC United supporters thank Christos FC players as the team claps the fans. Christos, an amateur soccer club from Baltimore, lost to DC United in the fourth round of the US Open Cup at the Maryland Soccerplex.
DC United supporters thank Christos FC players as the team claps the fans. Christos, an amateur soccer club from Baltimore, lost to DC United in the fourth round of the US Open Cup at the Maryland Soccerplex. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun)

It's unimaginable to think an amateur club soccer team could beat a professional team that competes in Major League Soccer, the highest professional division in the country.

But you would have thought otherwise Tuesday night at Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds when Christos FC took on D.C. United in the fourth round of the 104th Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

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Christos took to the field a little before 7 with a bag of soccer balls, water to contend with the sweltering heat and fluorescent green T-shirts that were also sported by fans that turned out by the thousands.

The Christos players, coaches and fans all firmly believed they could win.

Why?

For starters, they are from Baltimore.

While the popularity of soccer is still growing in the country, it's been a staple in the city  for more than 100 years. Immigrants flocked to Baltimore for jobs in mills, factories and shipyards, bringing their strong passion for soccer with them.

Weekend games and amateur leagues were everywhere  -- most notably in Highlandtown and Little Italy -- and became legendary.

The foundation set the tone for the current success among youth club teams in Baltimore that regularly win national championships every summer.

Christos FC, which is owned by a Ferndale liquor store and has enjoyed consistent success at the amateur level in its 20 years, has players that come from the successful youth programs.

They didn't have much time to practice in the midst of shutting out three opponents – including a 1-0 upset win against the United Soccer League's Richmond Kickers – to reach Tuesday's fourth round. But you would have never noticed.

They executed their game plan against the pro team from D.C. – staying behind the ball and on their marks and getting forward when the chances came.

They scored first when former McDonogh and UMBC standout Mamadou Kansaye buried a free kick from 20 yards. D.C. United coach Ben Olsen described it as a proud moment for the Christos club and their fans.

D.C. United would even the score later in the first half and then, finally, in the last 10 minutes would add three more goals in closing out a 4-1 win against a Christos team that understandably got tired legs.

Standing ovations came after the Christos goal, at the halftime break and after the final whistle.

Baltimore pride was on full display. With it came a bit of disappointment, only because they all believed.

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Beers in hand, stories will be told about the improbable tournament run and the crack at D.C. United. And, no doubt, the Christos players will say they could have beat them.

ggraham@baltsun.com

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