A pair of long-range strikes by Kirk LaBusch and Mark DeBolla lifted the Royal Eagles to a 3-2 victory against the Florida Gators to win the Florida Open Cup title at the Lake Myrtle Sports Complex on Sunday afternoon.
With the game tied 1-1 at halftime, LaBusch gave the Royal Eagles the lead four minutes into the second half, a left-footed drive from 30 yards out burying itself into the bottom-left corner of the Gators’ net.
Debolla then added the Royal Eagles’ third in the 68th minute, driving a high shot from 25 yards out on the left into the net.
The Gators had chances to get back into the game, but weren’t able to pull a goal back until there were five minutes to go. A deep cross from the right found Emiliano Ramalho at the back post, and he wove past three defenders before finishing from close range. But Florida wasn’t able to muster another clear opportunity before the final whistle went as the Royals Eagles slowed the tempo of the game.
On balance of play, the result was a fair one. The Royal Eagles controlled the bulk of possession for most of the first 20 minutes, but weren’t able to find a telling finish. Ivan Arias saw a good cross flash across goal from the left without a finishing touch being applied and Josh Garbee had a good effort from 25 yards that went just over the crossbar.
But the Gators, who kept their defensive shape well to withstand the early pressure, were able to find the breakthrough in the 21st minute. Jimmy Merritt had the Gators’ first opportunity in the 18th minute, only to be denied, but Shuji Fujimaru made no mistake three minutes later as he headed home at the back post off a corner from the right.
Florida built on their goal, Kevin Lefkovic having a well-driven shot saved, but the Royal Eagles were able to find an equalizer just before halftime as Shawneil Samuels scored from close range on a low cross from the left.
That gave the Royal Eagles momentum into the break, and in sweltering conditions they took advantage in the second half to earn the title.
“We’ll focus on getting some guys healthy and making sure we have a full roster for the Region III tournament in May,” said Gators club V.P. Brian Roberts. “I really believe we can go far. If the Royal Eagles are one of the best teams in the region, we can play with anyone.”
Both teams will now advance to the Region III Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala. over Memorial Day weekend. Should either advance, they would become the third Florida team in the last four years, following Lynch’s Irish Pub (2009) and the Clearwater Galactics (2008), to reach the US Open Cup’s first round.
Nicholas Murray is the communications coordinator for United Soccer Leagues and was formerly was a writer and assistant editor for the Tampa Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter at @NJEMurray.
2011 US Open Cup qualifying Florida Open Cup championship
Florida Gators 2:3 Royal Eagles
Lake Myrtle Sports Complex (Auburndale, Fla.) – April 10, 2011
FLA: Shuji Fujimaru – 21st minute
ROY: Shawneil Samuels – 42nd minute
ROY: Kirk LaBusch – 49th minute
ROY: Mark DeBolla – 68th minute
FLA: Emiliano Ramalho – 85th minute
Royal Eagles lineup: Clint Harris, Jake Howard, Wolfe Ryan, De La Fuentes Arturo, Campos Gus, Labusch Kirk, Castano Mauricio, Garbee Josh, Russo Tony, Samuels Shawneil, DeBolla Mark, Araque Leo, Arias Ivan, Butler Keith, Prevost Andrew, Innis Reyan, Pervan Asmir, McKean Evan, Marin Elkin, Potter Seth.
Florida Gators lineup: Jimmy Merritt (GK), Alex Fink, Kevin Lefkovic (Patrick Dube – 60th), Emiliano Ramalho, Tyler Bowes (Nelson Arnez – 60th), Shuji Fujimaru, Mike Hill, Brian Roberts, Mauricio Vargas, Michael Ioppolo, Jon Lenart
Past USASA Region III representatives from Florida
2011: Royal Eagles SC (Champion) / Florida Gators
2010: Lynch’s Irish Pub / Brazil Soccer Academy (Note: Brazil Soccer Academy qualified as the Copa Latina champion, but didn’t show up at Region III tournament)
2009: Lynch’s Irish Pub
2008: Clearwater Galactics / Lynch’s Irish Pub (Note: Honduras Five Star qualified as the Copa Latina champion, but dropped out. Lynch’s replaced them)
2007: Wolfpack FC / Lynch’s Irish Pub
2006: DS United / Lynch’s Irish Pub
2005: DS United / Miami Tango
2004: DS United / Sunrise & OES
2003: DS United
2002: DS United
2001: Uruguay SC
2000: Uruguay SC
1999: Uruguay SC
1998: No information available
1997: No information available
1996: McCormick Kickers
1995: McCormick Kickers