What a thrilling US Open Cup match we had at the Montclair State University’s Soccer Park, for the opening round of the this years edition. It had tons of action, drama, hard tackles and maybe a little bit of a weather delay to restart after halftime.
But while this match up went from three goals each thru regulation, a goal a piece for both sides to make it four all, the Red Bulls Under 23 squad managed by Simon Nee, found a way to convert and will now travel to Memphis, Tennessee, to face off against Memphis 901 FC of the USL Championship League.
The winning penalty came from the boot of Salvatore Esposito as he buried his chance past David Greczek in the fifth round, but he needed the help from his goal keeper in Marcelin Gohler, as he stopped Marcus Hackett of FC Motown in the 4th round of the shootout.
But this match had excitement from the start. Joseph Fala a senior this fall at Ramapo College striker, who had an amazing season in the NJAC Conference, opened the scoring in the 3rd minute.
He received a cross from the near side of the field, as he tried to take the shot one time, it was saved by Gohler, but the rebound went back to Fala, and all he does is tap it in over the goal line.
But the Red Bulls’ U23 squad knew they weren’t out, even though they were down a goal so early. Jean-Paul Marin was able to convert an equalizer in the 18th minute, when he headed in a quick cross. They would earn a second in the 25th minute.
After a yell to the referee from FC Motown, as former NYCFC midfielder RJ Allen was pushed down inside the area, Red Bulls U23’s were allowed to attack down the field. Brian Saramago found a way to get the lead as his volley was stopped, but Greczek couldn’t stop the momentum of the ball and it went completely over the goal line.
As the second half finally got underway after a 27 minute delay due to a huge rainstorm, the u23’s added to their lead and made it three one as Saramago became the provider for Brian Sowe as he cut inside and made it three goals to one in the 59th minute.
You thought that was it, this match is over, and the Red Bulls U23’s are flying out to Memphis for the second round. But no. FC Motown came out of nowhere in a two minute span to level the score at three a piece.
Kene Eze made it 3-2 in the 70th minute on a nice cross from RJ Allen, then in the next minute we saw Eze make a nice cross to Cameron Vickers to level the score in regulation. After ninety minutes were played, it was on to Extra time where that got wild as well.
Jaciel Cedeno gave the U23’s a lead in the second half of extra time, but FC Motown was able to get another equalizer from Maximiliano Garcia, to make it four a piece, then this cup tie was won by the Red Bulls U23’s in the penalty shootout.
“I think the boys showed so much character and heart, they put so much intothe game and I thought they deserved to get through.” said U23’s head coach Simon Nee “It’s funny because in the beginning of the game, you put these academy kids together and filter in some of the college kids, then we came together towards the end as a team.
“I cringed after going up three goals to one, because you know they were going to throw everything at you for the next five minute, we did concede two goals so quickly, so you thought one or two heads will go down, but they never waivered as we scored the next goal in extra time. I am very proud of the boys.”
And now the U23’s will face off against Memphis 901 FC to try and advance past the second round, but this was a fun and entertaining match, as the kids just below the USL Championship level are starting to show that they are ready for the big man cup competition.