The Georgia Revolution fought hard but the Battle For Atlanta would go to the Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL) for a second consecutive year. In an identical 2012 second round US Open Cup match-up the Silverbacks outlasted the Revolution to take a 1-0 victory. As fate would have it, the Revolution won two consecutive games to earn the grudge match.
Early on the the possession battle leaned heavily in favor of the Siverbacks and the difference between professional and amateur seemed to be readily apparent as the Silverbacks took a 1-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the match. Just minutes later the Silverbacks would score a second only yo have it nullified for an off-sides call. With that call, momentum shifted to favor the Revolution who built up play nicely to culminate in a goal of their own in the 19th minute. After the goal the NASL side regained composure and maintained the majority of possession for the rest of half and adding a second goal in the 33rd minute off of a PK attempt.
Coming off of the half break, the Revolution seemed to have settled down and securing stretches of possession and advancing the ball into the Silverbacks penalty area on several occasions. Then just as the Revs were starting to find their offense, the Silverbacks struck to take the lead 3-1.
Not to be dissuaded, the Revolution broke through the Silverbacks defense just minutes later to bring the score to 2-3 in the 58th. Following the goal the Revs continued to press and look for an equalizer, but the Silverbacks keeper was up to the challenge. Feeling the pressure the Silverbacks responded by taking back control of possession. Their organized and methodical attack led to two quality shots on goal, both just cleared off the line to keep the Revs trailing by a goal.
As time ran down emotions on both sides picked up and both sides were awarded their fair share of fouls. Then with about 10 minutes left on the clock the Silverbacks won an indirect kick inside of the Revs penalty box. The shot was deflected off of the wall and the Revs quickly countered advancing up the field for what looked certain to be a golden scoring opportunity. The Silverbacks keeper came up big once again, and the score remained 3-2.
With 5 minutes left desperation began to set in for the Revolution who were constantly pushing up the field in numbers. With just stoppage time to play the Silverbacks countered and with no Revolution defenders in the defensive third, it was a one on one with the keeper. The Revs keeper made the save to keep his team in it, but there proved to be too little time left on the clock for his side to mount a comeback.
Clear underdogs going into the match, the Revolution made sure the Silverbacks never had a chance to sit back and get comfortable. And though they relinquished the Battle For Atlanta to the Silverbacks for a second straight year, it’s anybodies guess what might happen should they meet again in the next Open Cup addition.
FC Hasental scored 4 second half goals to rally past the Fresno Fuego Future and guarantee themselves a spot in the first round of the US Open Cup. FC Hasental will now travel to PDL side Ventura County Fusion for the first round match on May 14th.
Meanwhile, the Georgia Revolution outlasted a determined Colorado Rovers squad in penalty kicks after playing to a grueling 1-1 draw through extra time. With the victory Georgia won the right to host the Real Colorado Foxes (PDL) with the winner slated to face the Atlanta Silverbacks in the second round.
For in depth coverage of the US Open Cup go to TheCup.us.
Brooklyn Italians @ Rhode Island Reds FC (NE Atlantic Flight): The storied Brooklyn Italians will travel north to Providence to open the season against sophomore club Rhode Island Reds FC. Brooklyn is a flight contender every year, and there is no reason to think this season will be any different. Rhode Island finished respectably in the middle of the table for their first season and saw twin brothers Paulo and Pedro Mendes sign contracts with the Atlanta Silverbacks of NASL - with Pedro even being named NASL Player of the Week after a 2 goal performance led the Silverbacks to a victory over the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. The Reds lost a US Open Cup qualifying match to Mass Premier Soccer Men’s Open team 1-0 earlier this year. Without many pre-season results to draw from, I predict Brooklyn wins 2-1.
Miami United SC @ Cape Coral Hurricanes (S Sunshine Flight): Miami United will travel to Cape Coral for the 3rd leg of the Everglades Cup and the opening match of Sunshine Flight play. After a blowout in the first leg Cape Coral managed a well played draw last weekend in the 2nd leg with a boost from signings just heading home from college. It’s always tough to play the same team so many times, and I give a slight edge to Miami as the home side - Miami 2-1, though I wouldn’t be surprised if that scoreline ended the other way around.
Las Vegas Stallions @ Orange County Pateadores (W Southern Flight): A languishing Stallions side will travel to Orange County to face a superior foe in Pateadores. The best Las Vegas can hope for is to garnish a point from a draw, but if past scorelines are any indication this match is tilted heavily in favor of the Pats. OC Pateadores win by a wide margin, 5-0.
FC Santa Clarita Storm @ San Diego Boca (W Southern Flight): Santa Clarita will look to continue their winning ways with a fourth in a row since a season opening loss to OC Pateadores. San Diego Boca has no wins and only 1 point so far from a tie with the Las Vegas Stallions. Santa Clarita wins 3-2.
Sonoma County Sol @ Sacramento Gold (W Northern Flight): Sonoma County will travel to Sacramento for a match with serious implications for the flight title race. These teams have traded wallopings this season, and there is a good chance this match could be another entertaining and high scoring affair. I think the Gold edge this one, 3-2.
CD Aguiluchos USA @ Real San Jose (W Northern Flight): After a great start, Real San Jose has had some unfortunate luck and finds themselves in a must win situation if they want to make a flight title run. Aguiluchos continue to struggle, scoring only 5 goals so far this season. The teams have met once already this season with San Jose winning 2-0. I expect a similar result for this match.
Georgia Revolution @ Colorado Rovers (USSSA): Georgia will travel to Denver to face the Colorado Rovers of the USSSA in a US Open Cup play-in game. The travel and altitude will certainly be factors in this match, but the Revolution proved last year they could hang with tough competition after a close 1-0 loss to NASL club Atlanta Silverbacks.
San Francisco Stompers v San Ramon Soccer: San Francisco has a bye week in NPSL play but will play a friendly against San Ramon Soccer. San Francisco is winless in league play, and a win in this friendly could be the confidence booster the club needs to take the next step.
Regals SCA v Houston Dutch Lions (PDL): The Houston Dutch Lions played the Houston Hurricanes to a 1-1 draw last week, and this week will take on Regals SCA in a friendly.
The 100th edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup will feature 8 NPSL clubs: Georgia Revolution and FC Hasental will each feature in a play in match while FC Lehigh Valley United Sonic, Brooklyn Italians, Chattanooga FC, New York Red Bulls U23′s, Madison 56ers, and Sacramento Gold will enter in the 1st round. Here is the draw:
Georgia Revolution @ Colorado Rovers (USSSA): Georgia Revolution qualify for their second consecutive tournament and will be forced to travel to Colorado for a play in match to decide who will face the Real Colorado Foxes (PDL) in the first round. Last year the Revolution knocked off PDL club Mississippi Brilla 1-0 in the first round before falling to the Atlanta Silverback’s of the NASL 0-1 in a closely contested match. The Rovers have the distinction of being the first United States Specialty Sports Association club to enter the Open Cup after winning a 16 team play-in tournament.
FC Hasental @ Fresno Fire Future (US Club Soccer): FC Hasental feature in their first Open Cup after winning the NPSL West Region qualifying tournament this spring. Fresno Fire Future, according to TheCup.us are the US Club Soccer side of the better known PDL Fresno Fire. The winner of the play in match will travel to play Ventura County Fusion (PDL) who advanced to the third round last year after defeating NPSL’s Fullerton Rangers (now OC Pateadores) and USL Pro side LA Blues in the first and second rounds respectively before falling 1-0 to Chivas USA.
FC Lehigh Valley United Sonic @ Reading United AC (PDL): FC LVU Sonic enters the competition for a second consecutive time, only this year with the distinction of being the reigning NPSL champion. FC Sonic will hope to improve on last year’s first round loss to the Long Island Rough Riders of the PDL. Reading United are entering the competition for a 5th consecutive time. Last year they defeated NY Greek American Atlas before losing 2-1 to the Charleston Battery (USL Pro).
Icon FC (USASA) @ Brooklyn Italians: Two time Open Cup champions Brooklyn Italians will host first time entrants Icon FC of New Jersey. Last year Brooklyn defeated MPS Portland Phoenix (PDL) 3-2 in the first round before losing 0-3 to the Rochester Rhino’s (USL Pro) in the second round. Brooklyn is the only NPSL club to be hosting in the first round draw, a fact which seems suspicious in light of US Soccer’s announcement that all draws would be decided by coin toss. Statistically, this is highly unlikely. Assuming a fair coin and a total of 8 coin flips, the probability of occurrence for flipping 7 heads and 1 tails is as follows:
In other words, at approximately 3.125% this occurrence is not very likely.
Chattanooga FC @ Carolina Dynamo: Chattanooga FC return to the Cup after missing out on the 2012 addition. Chattanooga has seen great success at the NPSL level and has arguably the best (and certainly the largest) supporters of any amateur club in the country. Carolina Dynamo lost in the PDL championship to Forest City London 2-1 last year but also lost to the Agean Hawks 3-1 in last year’s Open Cup. This match-up has the potential to be one of the round’s most exciting.
New York Red Bulls U23′s @ Ocean City Nor’easters (PDL): The Red Bulls U23′s are in the tournament for the first time after a great NPSL performance last year. They will face an Ocean City club with past Open cup experience, though not since 2009. This will be another interesting match that will pit the NPSL against the PDL with implications being drawn on the quality of each league.
Madison 56ers @ Des Moines Menace (PDL): The 56ers will travel to Des Moines hoping for a different result than fellow Wisconsin NPSL club Milwaukee Bavarians achieved last year (a 3-1 loss). Both these teams boast long club histories, and neither are newcomers to the Open Cup competition. The Menace always put together a quality event, and the 56ers will not want to disappoint.
Sacramento Gold @ Portland Timbers U23′s (PDL): Sacramento enters the Cup for the first time as the other NPSL West Region tournament qualifier. They blitzed opponents by a combined margin of 10-1 and will hope that success carries over against a tough Portland team. Portland is famous for its supporter culture, and playing this match at JELD-WEN Field is sure to be a boost to the home side who will be anxious to do better than their 3-1 defeat last year at the hands of USASA’s PSA Elite.
With the exception of the Georgia Revolution v Colorado Rovers play-in match, the first round draw features some great regional cross league matches that can hopefully turn into budding regional rivalries. And despite the suspicious number of away venue draws for NPSL clubs, this years tournament is a great opportunity for the league to give a good account of itself and raise the stature of its quality in the eyes of the US soccer community. For more Open Cup information and a complete first round preview check out TheCup.us.
*Many of the statistics draw from TheCup.us and I would be remiss not to credit Josh Hakala (@joshhakala) in any piece about the US Open Cup.
Georgia Revolution have announced that they will be travelling to Denver, CO where they will face off against the Colorado Rovers in 100th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Colorado Rovers are the USSSA Champions and are sure to provide a competitive match for the Revolution.
Talking of the challenges of the match-up coach John Sprague was quoted saying, “This is a huge challenge for our team… Playing at altitude, on the road so far away from home in our first competitive match of the season will be difficult.”
The match is scheduled for May 8th. The news release is available on the Georgia Revolution facebook page.
Regular season action continued in the West Regions while several South and Northeast Region clubs continue to finalize rosters and hold pre-season friendlies in anticipation of their May start.
The Sunshine Flight (South Region) saw the second leg of the Gulf Coast Cup as hosts Tampa Marauders defeated the Cape Coral Hurricanes by the same 2 - 0 margin as the first leg. Cape Coral has now been held scoreless in three consecutive matches versus NPSL opponents (vs. Tampa 2-0, 2-0, and vs. Miami United 6-0).
The West Region slate was full and the action intense as every match ended with only a goal difference or less. In the Southern Flight the Santa Clarita Storm soured the home opener of San Diego Flash and leapfrogged them in the standings to claim sole possession of third place. The West region also saw a battle of the undefeated as FC Hasental hosted OC Pateadores in a thrilling 2 - 2 draw. OC Pateadores proved their mettle by going ahead 2 - 1 late in the game and playing with only 10 men, but the high octane Hasental offense wasn’t to be held to one goal and scored the equalizer deep into stoppage time to salvage the draw. The teams remain tied atop the Flight, though Hasental leads in goal differential by a significant margin. At the other end of the table the Las Vegas Stallions notched their first league point holding visitors San Diego Boca FC to a scoreless draw. After a blowout in their opening match the Stallions have have progressively improved, though the point is also the first for a SD Boca side that has a long way to go to live up to pre-season expectations.
In the Northern Flight (Golden Gate Conference) table leaders Real San Jose suffered their first loss away at Sacramento Gold in a hotly contested match which is being protested by Real San Jose. Blood was drawn after a reckless Sacramento challenge only minutes into the match, which set the stage for the rest of the game. With the win, Sacramento creeps into third place only one point behind Real San Jose and Sonoma County with a game in hand over San Jose. Rounding out the Golden Gate action the Sonoma County Sol hosted the San Francisco Stompers. Having been outscored in their first two matches 9-1, San Francisco had significant work to do on both ends of the field to come away with a victory. The Stompers did well until the 44th minute when Sonoma tallied their first to take a 1 - 0 lead into halftime. San Francisco returned from the break and equalized early in the 50th minute only to to give up an own goal and a penalty kick within the next five minutes to give Sonoma a 3-1 lead. San Francisco kept pressing and pulled one goal back in the 82nd, but couldn’t get any closer as the match finished with a final score of San Francisco 2 Sonoma County 3.
Back on the East Coast, Junior Lone Star FC played friendlies away at Mid-Atlantic expansion club Chesterfield United and to aspiring NPSL club Electric City in Scranton, PA. Junior Lone Star scored the only goal of the match vs. Chesterfield in the 15th minute and held off several quality attacks and a penalty kick to seal the victory 1 - 0. The match versus Electric City proved a bit more exciting with a flurry of second half action. Lone Star took the lead just before the break in the 44th minute. Electric City came back from half time and equalized, only to go down again after another Lone Star goal. JLSFC’s lead was short lived however as Electric City capitalized on a poorly handled back pass to make it a 2 - 2 game. Lone Star was finished, and scored the final goal of the match in the 85th minute to clinch the game 3 - 2.
Junior Lone Star returns to pre-season action next weekend with a pair of friendlies against Hosa FC before they travel to Greater Binghamton FC on May 11th for their season opener.
In other news around the league:
- Mark Lavery of the Georgia Revolution signed a professional contract with the Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL.
- Daniel Casey has a new NPSL Weekly column at Soccer Newsday.
- Jersey City Eagles have relocated and re-branded as the Clarkstown SC Eagles. Click the link for the full story published last week.
This was to be the second installment of my pre-season power ranking series - however with 3 of the 5 teams in the conference being freshman clubs I don’t have any data to work with! But here is what we do know.
Jacksonville United FC was the 2011 NPSL champion and is an annual contender. They will be conference favorites just because they have that championship and will provide a benchmark for the new clubs to measure themselves against.
The Georgia Revolution are the club with the most pedigree (founded in 1972) and are coming off a strong 2012 season where they lost 1-0 to Chattanooga FC in postseason play. If they return their core squad they could very well repeat as conference champs. Any team that wants to raise the first Sunshine Conference banner will have to go through the Revolution to do so.
Though the Cape Coral Hurricanes will be playing their first season in the NPSL, they will no doubt be prepared. The club has been in operation for a couple of years and played a ‘pilot’ season of friendlies last summer including matches against some NPSL clubs. They may be the new kids on the block, but I don’t expect them to roll over for anyone.
Miami United hopes to change the attitude of Miami sports fans and become a team the the community will support. With the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers of NASL being so close this could prove difficult. But Miami does have a fair amount of quality local talent, and if United can harness it they could prove to be a handful on the field.
The Tampa Marauders have the distinction of entering one of the most crowded soccer markets in the country. In addition to the NPSL club, there is also the Tampa Bay Rowdies of NASL and VSI of USL Pro. Rumor has it that the Marauders could affiliate with the Rowdies at some point in the future, but at this point they seem to be on their own. It remains to be seen, but its possible that the Marauders could be a part of a future where Tampa Bay is known as one of the great soccer cities of the US.
The Sunshine Conference will also see the Gulf Coast Cup contested between Tampa/Cape Coral and the Everglades Cup between Cape Coral/Miami. This conference looks to be doing a lot of things right and I am excited to see how each of these clubs progress this season!