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Long Island Cinderella: Semi-pro side Oyster Bay United FC advancing through Lamar Hunt US Open Cup

Not bad for a club that play home games in a public park

“Oysters down in Oyster Bay do it.” — Cole Porter
Photograph by Karla Esqueche | E&M Photography

Imagine this: The local club you love and support announce that they will dissolve immediately.

That was what happened with Queens Meadow FC last Spring, before they were able to reorganize themselves and find a new life as Oyster Bay United FC, a semi-professional team in the fourth-tier United Premier Soccer League—and make an improbable run in the 2022 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, first beating Westchester United FC to earn a Local Qualifier spot in the Open Division, then handing a 3-0 defeat to Hartford City FC of the National Premier Soccer League in the First Round.

Later today, Oyster Bay United will try to write another chapter of their Cinderella story (well-chronicled by Michale Lewis on USSoccer.com), when they face Hartford Athletic of the second-tier USL Championship in the Second Round of the 2022 US Open Cup.

Oyster Bay United FC at Hartford Athletic, 2022 US Open Cup Second Round, Thursday, April 7 at 7:15 pm ET — ESPN+

Hudson River Blue was able to catch up with members of the squad to learn more about the team, the Cup, and their ambitions for the season: Welcome to the story of Oyster Bay United FC.

A story that could be a Netflix documentary

Defender Dan Giorgi, one of the core members of the squad from its Queens Meadows days, said that the creation of Oyster Bay United could be a Netflix documentary. During the Spring of 2021, Queens Meadow was experiencing incredible on-field success and off-field trouble. A dysfunctional front office eventually led to a loss of management, and after an unfortunate loss in the conference final the club was all but done.

But ideas came quick and fast to Dan as led a community-based campaign to keep the club alive. Games were moved to Oyster Bay, a leafy enclave on Long Island Sound, where Giorgi was a coach at the youth club Gold Coast FC. And after a chance conversation with investor Mark Colacioppo, the parent of a player on Gold Coast FC, the club found a new owner—and a new name. Oyster Bay United was born.

The community embraced the new team. Not even one year in and players such as Giorgi, striker Junior Rosero, and goalkeeper Jean Carlo feel the love from the fans who dress in Oyster Bay United gear and are armed with signs for their favorite players when they go to home games at Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park, a public park on Long Island Sound with tennis courts and a small beach.

A team that was homeless found a new home.

Underdogs, again

The club has gotten off to a strong start in the 2022 USPL season, winning their first match by beating EFA Metro 2-1. It was a messy game, but an important one. Striker Rosero believes that they are one of the best clubs in the league, capable of outplaying other teams on their best days, and grinding out ugly wins when needed.

Between the league win over EFA Metro and the US Open Cup First Round win over Hartford City, Oyster Bay United are undefeated in 2022. But the real test comes tonight, when they face a seasoned Hartford Athletic squad. It’s a mismatch: Hartford Athletic is a fully-professional team that plays in the 5,500-seat Trinity Health Stadium, while Oyster Bay United is a semi-professional team that plays in a public park. Last year Hartford Athletic played a preseason friendly against New York City FC, and their division in the USL includes rivals Red Bulls II and Loudon United.

But Oyster Bay United have been here before. They were underdogs last year, when the newly-reorganized team had to win single-elimination games in order to make it to the US Open Cup. They were underdogs when they traveled to Connecticut and dismantled Hartford City 3-0, when a Rosero strike in the 16th-minute opened the scoring.

As this game beckons, Rosero says the team is taking each of these matches game by game. But it’s hard not to dream a little, and think about future ties against bigger clubs.

The focus, the hunger, the desire to play for their fans is driving the energy that Oyster Bay United will bring to tonight’s game, and they say they’re ready.