With the 2020 MLS season on temporary hold, SportingKC.com is taking daily strolls down memory lane with an "On This Day" web series that celebrates memorable moments in team history. As one of Major League Soccer's proud charter members, Sporting has a decorated past full of thrilling victories, amazing goals, momentous off-the-field developments and more. "On This Day" pays tribute to these specific instances, turning back the clocks while treating fans to nostalgia and club history lessons. To catch up on the series as it unfolds, visit SportingKC.com/OnThisDay.
On May 11, 2013, Roger Espinoza and Wigan Athletic pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the 132-year history of the English FA Cup.
Already amidst a fierce relegation battle in England's renowned Premier League, Wigan shocked the world by defeating rising European powerhouse Manchester City before a crowd of 86,254 at iconic Wembley Stadium in London.
Espinoza started and played 90 minutes in a Herculean performance, bottling up a potent Manchester City side that boasted the likes of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Davis Silva, Yaya Toure and several other multi-million dollar players. The contest remained deadlocked until second-half stoppage time, when Wigan's lone substitute Ben Watson steered a powerful header past Man City goalkeeper Joe Hart to deliver one of the most memorable moment's in the world's oldest cup soccer competition.
Having launched his professional career in Kansas City from 2008-2012, Espinoza then spent two years with Wigan in what became a remarkably eventful tenure. The 2012-13 Wigan team won the club's first FA Cup ever, only to suffer relegation to England's second division days later. Transitioning in the English Championship for the 2013-14 season, Espinoza and Wigan also competed in the UEFA Europa League on account of their FA Cup triumph. The Honduran midfielder then returned to Sporting Kansas City ahead of the 2015 MLS campaign.
To this day, Espinoza is one of two players to win an English FA Cup and a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup alongside former Seattle playmaker Freddie Ljungberg.
"We knew that Man City was a very tough team, but at the same time we were playing amazingly," Espinoza told the Sporting Kansas City Show in March, reflecting on Wigan's unlikely FA Cup run.
"Wigan was a team that everyone in England enjoyed watching. Props to our coach, Roberto Martinez, who prepared us tactically all week to play Man City. He pretty much laid it out for us and said, 'Hey, this is how they’re going to play against us. If you do this (follow the game plan), we’re going to win no matter what.' He ended up playing a 3-5-2, and I was actually used as a left winger. The whole season I had been a midfielder, and somehow in this game he said I would be going up against James Milner and Jesus Navas as a winger. I had to push up high, pressure Milner and prevent them from pushing up high.
"Ben Watson, who had been injured the entire season with a broken leg, got back just in time for that game pretty much. We put him in as a sub, and on one of the last corner kicks of the game in stoppage time, he got on the end of a corner kick and headed it in. There was like a minute left, we ended up winning the game, and it was just unbelievable. I couldn’t believe it.
"I don’t think I’ve ever really talked about it before, but the euphoria of the celebration was crazy. I don’t thing Wigan’s fans or ownership cared if we got relegated when they knew we just won the FA Cup. It was the biggest accomplishment in club history. To be part of that Wigan team and be part of one of the biggest upsets in English football was amazing."