Welcome to our continuing series of Meet the USASA features where we annually profile the clubs representing the United States Adult Soccer Association in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Advancing from the four regional tournaments, these often unknown clubs have great stories to tell and each year, our goal is to allow fans to get to know them as they attempt to become this year’s Cinderella story.
A club founded in 1978 and named after the famous Argentine club boasting a tremendously successful past in the state of New Jersey, you would be surprised to learn that Jersey Shore Boca has not only never played in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, but has not even applied to play in the tournament.
“When I first saw the opportunity to apply for the USOC qualifiers, I couldn’t believe that Boca never applied,” said player/manager Michael McCullion after the team touched down in Michigan. “I felt we had a strong enough side to take a shot, so I just went for it”
The Jersey Shore Boca men’s Open Cup team will add another chapter to the club history books during the First Round on May 15 as the men of blue-and-gold square off against the Michigan Bucks of the USL Premiere Development League in Pontiac, Michigan. It will be the first time in the club’s 34-year history that a Boca team will appear in the prestigious competition, and the first time in the Modern Professional Era (1995 to present) that team from New Jersey will make an appearance in the Open Cup via USASA Region I.
“We see this as a big step for both ourselves as a team and as representing the club.”
The timing was right, and McCullion’s decision had paid off. With the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup expanding to a field of 64 teams, the US Soccer Federation added a ninth berth to the USASA, expanding the Region I entrants to three due to its consistent number of entrants in recent years. It was a number that proved beneficial for Boca.
The team got its feet wet in the New Jersey semifinals, posting a 10-0 drubbing of Santorini with James Nelson scoring four times. Michael Pezza, Nick Tarquino and Simon Muckle each added two. Boca then proved their mettle in a showdown with the reigning three-time state champion Go Soccer FC, advancing in penalties after a 1-1 draw against the 2011 Region I semifinalists. Tomas Banionis tallied the equalizer in the 35th minute and Matt Heitmann made a save in the fifth round of the tiebreaker for the 5-4 decision from the spot.
They did not know it at the time, but that result was all they needed. Boca were paired up with another powerhouse in the Region I semifinals, and were unable to overcome their neighbors to the north, falling to New York Greek American Atlas, 2-0, on a pair of second half goals.
That left one apparent chance remaining to qualify, needing to win a consolation match with the Maryland Bays, who fell to Dulles Sportsplex Aegean Hawks by the same score. The Bays, however, citing hardship from a combination of injuries and external player commitments were left with no choice but to forfeit their second chance to qualify, sending Jersey Shore Boca onto the prestigious national event.
Go Soccer were the state powers, and NY Greek American Atlas have a long history in the US Open Cup as four-time champions in the 1960-70s. But in the Michigan Bucks, Boca now face a club that has a history of success in the tournament’s Modern Era.
McCullion seemed reserved but quietly confident ahead of the match.
“Our main strength is our experience, both in the game and on this team. I personally have been with the club more than 10 years. We know each other well. That has always been a huge advantage to us on the field in big games, and for us, this is a big as it gets.”
That may come in handy as the Bucks are just coming together as a club for the PDL season, and are one of the three teams from the league (16 entrants total) that are entering the event without having played a regular season contest – a first that has been caused by the new schedule format of the Open Cup.
Jersey Shore Boca is an amateur organization based in Lakewood NJ. Their men’s open team plays in the Garden State Soccer League. Boca fields teams from several age groups and both Men’s and Women’s teams, playing their home matches at John Patrick Sports Complex in Lakewood.
Jersey Shore Boca was founded in 1978 by Walt Pericciuoli and Phil Morretta, and promptly named after the very successful Argentine side Boca Juniors. Boca had just won its second Copa Libertadores and were crowned World Club Champions as well. The pair wanted to mimic both their style and success.
Boca started out with a U18 team that went undefeated in league play in each of its first two seasons. A second team was added in 1980 and the first and second teams finished one and two in the league. In 1990, the club grew with the addition of a semi-professional men’s team entered into the North East Super Soccer League (NESSL).
In 2001, Jersey Shore Boca became a member of the USL’s Super Y-League, and in 2002, the United Soccer Leagues awarded Jersey Shore Boca a Premier Development League franchise in 2003. The club, however, chose not to re-apply the following season.
There have been four senior National team players out of the club: George Gelnovatch, Ric Lansing, Dan McGuire and Ted Gillen. After a successful college and professional career, Gelnovatch is currently the head men’s soccer coach at the University of Virginia after serving as a former US Under-18 Men’s National Team Coach. Both Lansing and McGuire played professionally in Europe. Gillen achieved All-American status while at Penn State and played for the MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls) of during the first two seasons of Major League Soccer (1996-97).
Two members from the Boca 2006 U23 men’s team, Chris Konopka and Teddy Niziolek, were selected by the Kansas City Wizards and Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer in the MLS 2007 Supplemental Draft. Konopka’s career also took him to Europe, where he played in Ireland before coming back to MLS, spending time last season with the Red Bulls and Columbus Crew. His stint with the Crew included an appearance against the English Premier League’s Newcastle United in a friendly. He recently signed with the Philadelphia Union.
- Gerald Barnhart also contributed to this report