On the final day of group play at the USASA Region IV tournament in Sacramento, the two US Open Cup spots available to the participating teams were secured in dramatic fashion. Doxa Italia FC of Southern California, in hammering a shorthanded CV Eagles FC squad and handing them one of the worst losses in the history of Open Cup qualifying, advanced courtesy of a goal-differential tiebreaker over Rosal FS of San Francisco. Meanwhile, the DV8 Defenders of Redwood City earned a 2-2 draw with group rival Metro FC of Albuquerque, New Mexico courtesy of a controversial stoppage time penalty kick conversion to earn the second berth in the US Open Cup.
Doxa Italia and DV8 Defenders will face off on Sunday morning for the Region IV championship. While both teams have already qualified for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, the winner of Sunday’s match gets more than just bragging rights from the weekend. They will also represent the region at the USASA National Cup Finals this July in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Doxa Italia wins Group B: With the final three games of the tournament’s group stage being played at the same time and fellow Group B squad Rosal FAS expected to beat SF Italian AC handily, Doxa Italia FC also needed a win to keep pace. Given that the two teams had drawn 1-1 the day before, which ruled out the first tiebreaker of head-to-head results being invoked to determine the group winner, goal differential was likely going to determine which team would earn qualification into the Open Cup. Doxa Italia felt it was prudent to run up the score on their overmatched opponent, CV Eagles FC, to give them the best chance to edge out Rosal FAS on the second tiebreaker.
“We had to go for it,” stated Doxa Italia player/manager Derk Droze. “As I explained to the other team, we drew with Rosal and did not want to go out of the tournament for the third straight year on goal differential. I set the expectation for my team at a 10-0 score, but my guys really responded and did even better.”
Indeed, when the San Francisco side took care of business against SF Italian, handedly winning 7-1 and giving them seven points in Group B with a +13 goal differential, the onus was on Doxa Italia to overpower the Eagles. Courtesy of their 18-0 win over the undermanned Tracy, CA side, the Southern Californian USASA powerhouse also finished with seven points in the group, but posted a whopping +24 goal differential to take Group B honors.
“It was good to get such a great result and advance to the tournament final,” shared Droze on the team’s dominating performance, “especially after losing out on qualifying for the Open Cup the last two years on goal differential to the teams that eventually advanced.”
DV8 Defenders top Group A: Entering the remaining game on the afternoon schedule, the DV8 Defenders sat three points above their opponent Metro FC in the Group A standings. Needing at least a draw to advance to the tournament final and to qualify for the Open Cup, the Redwood City outfit liked their chances, having scored 12 goals and conceding zero in two wins to open the weekend. Their opponent Metro FC was coming off a difficult morning loss to Doxa Italia and had only one substitute available for the Group A deciding game.
Both teams started off strong, but DV8 soon found their rhythm and were unlucky to not take an early lead. Metro FC held their own against the much younger Defenders and eventually showed the value of their experience in scoring the first goal of the game late in the first half. After pressuring the DV8 ‘keeper into making a poor decision on a ball near the edge of his penalty area, the Metro forwards pounced on the loose ball and smoothly converted it for an easy score. After playing so well over most of the first half, the Defenders found themselves trailing 1-0.
“We played our worst half of the tournament in that one,” said team manager Tono Aspinall. “We should really have been up three or four goals by halftime, but it was one of those games where things just didn’t go our way.”
The Defenders finally did have something go their way when early in the second half, a Metro player was sent off for a red card offense and were forced to play a man down. DV8 equalized just minutes after the ejection and had the goal they needed to clinch Group A. However, the resolve of the Albuquerque side was strong, and they overcame their disadvantage in numbers to retake the lead on a fine goal from close range that resulted from a defensive breakdown on a crossing pass into the penalty area.
As the second half drew closer to an end, Metro FC’s one goal lead still held up, and the Defenders poured forward in numbers in an effort to draw even. Entering the fourth minute of stoppage time, a controversial penalty kick was awarded to the Redwood City side after their forward was adjudged to be taken down in the box.
“With just seconds left, the referee made just a terrible, terrible call,” said Metro FC coach Johonniuss Chemwero of the penalty award. “I guess he saw a trip, but the referee never explained what he saw. To me, the referee has to be 110% certain that he is making the right call, especially at such a crucial time.”
From the perspective of the Metro FC defenders, the call was very soft and the play was best classified as a dive. As the DV8 forward dribbled the ball into the area, he was forced to make his move back toward the top of the eighteen.
“I was a few feet behind him when the referee made the call,” described Metro FC midfielder Neil Garver. “He made a big touch that took the ball away from him, and I guess he knew he was going to lose it, so he cut off our defender and fell down. He stayed on the ground while the referee looked over him. There was a least a five second delay before the referee pointed to the spot and called the penalty. It was unbelievable.”
While the Metro FC players continued to protest, The DV8 Defender striker set the ball on the penalty spot. When order had been restored, he drove home the tying goal to bring the score to 2-2. Without even allowing for a restart, the referee blew the final whistle and the DV8 Defenders had the result they needed to win Group A and collect the Open Cup bid.
“We are very happy to advance to the U.S Open Cup,” shared Aspinall. “This is our first time in the tournament, so we weren’t sure what to expect, but our guys were up for the challenge. We didn’t expect to advance, but luck was on our side with the draw that we got and we made the most of our opportunity.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Read about Day 1 of the USASA Region IV tournament here
USASA Region IV Championship Recap
In the Sunday morning tournament final, Doxa Italia FC defeated the DV8 Defenders 4-1 in a penalty kick shootout to take the USASA Region IV championship and earn a sponsored trip to the National Cup later this summer. With both teams coming off celebrations the day before at qualifying for the U.S. Open Cup, the match took some time to really get moving, but by the extra time period it was moving at a brisk pace. The penalty kick shootout fell in favor of Doxa, as two DV8 players missed the target to hand the championship to the Southern California side.
I can’t tell you how excited we are to have won this tournament,” said an ecstatic Derk Droze after the game, “and now we get to represent our region in the National Finals in Kentucky this July.”
After falling down a goal in the first half following a DV8 free kick that was directed off the head of a forward and off the inside of the goal post, Doxa Italia turned the tables in the second half with a equalizer 15 minutes from time. The Southern California club continued to press for a winner in regulation, but could not break through the Defenders’ defense.
In the extra time period, the DV8 Defenders had a golden chance to put the game away when their striker broke free of the Doxa defense and raced in on the goalkeeper one v. one. Perhaps in a rush of blood to the head, the striker mis-stepped over his dribble and the ball squirted out of reach before he was able to attempt a shot on goal. In the penalty kick shootout following extra time, two DV8 players sent their shot attempts over the cross bar while Doxa made all four of their attempts.
“Even though we lost the final, it was a good weekend for us,” summarized DV8 Defenders manager Tono Aspinall. “We enjoyed it all and had a really good time. Hopefully we can go out there and represent the Bay Area well in the Open Cup tournament in June and advance accordingly.”
Both teams can now return to their respective home areas and begin their preparations for the first round of the 2011 U.S. Open Cup on June 14. The match-ups for the 98th edition of the longest running soccer tournament in the United States will be announced shortly after the end of May, when the last of the regional qualifiers will have been completed and the field of 40 participating teams will be known.
Robert Jonas is a writer for CenterLineSoccer.com. You can send him feedback on Twitter: @RobertJonas
|SF Italian AC||3||0||3||0||0||1||15|
|CV Eagles FC||3||0||3||0||0||1||35|
Region IV Tournament Schedule
|Group A||SF Italian AC||0:5||Metro SC||6:00 pm ET|
|Group B||Rosal FC||1:1||Doxa Italia FC||6:00 pm ET|
|Cross-over||CV Eagles FC (B)||0:9||DV8 Defenders (A)||6:00 pm ET|
|Group A||DV8 Defenders||2:0||SF Italian AC||Noon ET|
|Group B||Rosal FC||8:1||CV Eagles FC||Noon ET|
|Cross-over||Metro SC (A)||0:6||Doxa Italia FC (B)||Noon ET|
|Group A||DV8 Defenders||2:2||Metro SC||6:00 pm ET|
|Group B||Doxa Italia FC||18:0||CV Eagles FC||6:00 pm ET|
|Cross-over||SF Italian AC (A)||1:7||Rosal FC (B)||6:00 pm ET|
|May 22||Doxa Italia FC||1:1 (4:1 PKs)||DV8 Defenders||Noon ET|