Express & Star

Mark Briggs standing on the verge of history

Wolverhampton-born boss Mark Briggs is aiming to make history in America by guiding Sacramento Republic into the final of the US Open Cup.


Part of an Albion side that won the FA Youth Cup in 1999, Briggs has already defied the odds to take the Republic into the last four of the competition.

Now, though, his team stands just 90 minutes away from the final with Sacramento due to take on MLS outfit Sporting Kansas City in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The Republic currently play in the USL – the second tier of American football. But they beat MLS outfit San Jose Earthquakes earlier in the competition.

Briggs then enjoyed the best night of his career so far when Sacramento caused a huge upset to beat LA Galaxy last month – with the American heavyweights including the likes of Javier Hernandez and Douglas Costa in their side.

Not since 1999 has a team from the USL reached the final of the US Open Cup – with the competition having been dominated by MLS clubs since the league began in 1996.

Briggs, though, isn't content with what he has achieved so far – with the boss believing his team can win the competition and in doing so qualify for the American Champions League.

"If you don't think you can win it then there is no point in playing," the 40-year-old said.

"I believe we can do it. We are not going to get ahead of ourselves. We know we have a very tough game against Kansas.

"We’re going to be up against it. Sporting Kansas have won the US Open Cup four times.

"And they aren't having the best league campaign and I think that will make it even more difficult for us.

"They are going to throw everything they have at us.

"But by beating San Jose and the Galaxy we have shown we have the quality to do it."

While Sacramento go into the semi-final as underdogs, they do have the benefit of home advantage – much to the delight of Briggs.

"I think it was when we were watching the draw that it finally sunk in that we had beaten LA Galaxy," the boss continued.

"They put up the whole competition and then you see you are one of just four teams left in the hat.

"To get a home draw was really important for us.

"First of all our fans are amazing. They have really bought into this group of players and they do everything they can to get behind them.

"But away games in America and always difficult. You travel a long way and through different time zones.

"It's great for us as a club, and the city, to be hosting a US Open Cup semi-final and we're determined to show everyone what we're capable of."

Looking back over the win over Galaxy, Briggs admitted the victory was the best of his career so far.

"It was the perfect day all round to be honest," he added.

"The owner spoke to the players before the game and gave them an extra little incentive.

"We got to the stadium and the fans were all waiting outside, cheering us as we went by on the bus.

"And in the actual game, we settled really well and took the lead in the third minute which completely changed how they had to approach things.

"We had to weather a bit of a storm. But then we grew in confidence, started retaining possession, and got ourselves 2-0 up.

"And from that point, even with the likes of Javier Hernandez on the field, I was confident we'd defend well enough to win.

"It was definitely the best night of my career so far. When you look at the whole occassion, it was LA Galaxy, in their stadium and we were up against their strongest side in the quarter-finals of the Open Cup.

"After the game, Greg Vanney, the Galaxy coach, came over and told me deserved to go through.

"But he also pointed at our fans and told me to go over to them and enjoy it because moments like that are hard to come by."