The semifinals are complete in the USASA’s Region II Open Cup qualifying tournament.
In a rather unusual format, three first round winners will join one of the losing teams in the final four to be played on Saturday, April 20. The two semifinals winners will qualify for the 2013 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Illinois representative RWB Adria defeated the only team that had to qualify for Region II this year, the Croatian Eagles from Milwaukee, by a score of 2-0. Elsewhere, the Dearborn Stars won their first-ever Open Cup qualifying match, 5-0 over the Cincy Saints. Down in Kansas, the KC Athletics, who are looking to qualify for the Open Cup for the third time in four years, knocked off FC Indiana by a score of 3-1.
In an effort to achieve a four-team semifinal, the Region II organizers decided to give one of the three losing teams a second chance. They decided that the losing team with the best goal difference would survive and advance to the “Win & You’re In” round. The beneficiary of that lifeline was FC Indiana, who tied with the Eagles with a -2 goal difference, but the first tiebreaker was goals scored, thus sending the Hoosier state’s lone entry to the final four.
After the games were complete, a random draw was conducted and it was determined that the KC Athletics will host the Dearborn Stars and FC Indiana will travel a few hours north to Chicago to face RWB Adria in the “Win & You’re In” round. The games are scheduled to be played on April 20 with kick off times and venues still to be determined.
Dearborn Stars (MI) 5:0 Cincy Saints (OH-South)
International Academy (Dearborn Heights, MI) – Saturday, April 6 – 7 p.m. ET
By Alejandro L. Zúñiga (MLive.com/soccer | @the_zuniga)
With winds blustering and the sun setting, the Dearborn Stars rudely welcomed the Cincy Saints to Star International Academy in Dearborn Heights, Mich. on Saturday, beating them 5-0 and moving themselves one win away from earning a berth in the 100th Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Both teams had some difficulty adjusting to the artificial turf field in the early moments of the match, and players misjudged passes and bounces as they struggled to keep the ball long enough to create dangerous attacks. But making the most of their home-field advantage, the Stars managed to break though in the 29th minute thanks to midfielder Nik Djokic.
After receiving and settling a perfect through ball, Djokic found himself all alone in the box against the Saints’ goalkeeper. His team had found itself in that position twice before, but couldn’t capitalize on one-on-one opportunities. Djokic, though, took a touch before blasting a powerful, rising shot past the netminder.
Cincinnati almost put Dearborn into an early hole in the opening minutes of the match. In the sixth minute, Cincinnati forward Marc Hansson made a long run along the left wing, but pulled a left-footed shot just wide. He had another chance just five minutes later, but Stars goalkeeper Vito Lonigro charged out and made a sliding save. Lonigro was protected well by his back line throughout the match, but he was solid when called upon.
“The first half was a little shaky in the beginning,” Lonigro said. “But in the end, I didn’t have to do much.”
The Saints’ chances of qualifying took another blow in the minutes before halftime when Hamoody Saad, the brother of Sporting Kansas City forward Soony Saad, deftly lifted a shot into the net to double Dearborn’s lead.
Damion Blackburn – Cincinnati’s leading scorer – was a non-factor on Saturday night. The former Columbus Crew forward looked out of place patrolling the middle of the field, unable to control possession or push play forward. At the start of the second half, he watched helplessly as the Stars mounted an attack that ended with midfielder Nathan Hicklin’s driving laser past the goalkeeper that gave Dearborn a three-goal advantage.
Blackburn had an opportunity to pull his side back into the game when the Saints were awarded a free kick in the 50th minute, but his looping effort didn’t threaten Lonigro and sailed over the bar.
The Stars’ Miki Djerisilo also had a quiet night, but he tallied a penalty kick goal in the 66th minute to dispel any hopes of a Cincinnati comeback. The Serbia native stutter stepped as he ran up to the ball before cooly burying a 12-yard shot into the bottom corner. The Stars added a final tally by Thiago Harris on a rebound with four minutes remaining in the match.
“I love playing with this team, and I look forward to the games we have to come,” Lonigro said. “We’re looking to make a name for ourselves.”
The semifinal round is scheduled for April 20 and if the Stars are able to defeat the KC Athletics, they will become just the third Michigan team (Detroit United in 2010; Chaldean Arsenal in 2001) from the Michigan Soccer Association to qualify for the tournament in the Modern Professional Era (1995-present).
“We’re going to come out swinging again this year,” he said. “If we didn’t think we could win a couple games we wouldn’t play.
KC Athletics (KS) 3:1 FC Indiana (IN)
Olathe Northwest High School (Olathe, KS) – Saturday, April 6 – 3 p.m. ET
By Anders Aarhus (@sportsviking)
The Kansas City Athletics defeated FC Indiana 3-1 Saturday afternoon to move within one game of qualifying for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Strong winds had an effect throughout the game, but the Athletics got first half goals from Brian Williams and Matt Kuhn, while Garrett Webb added a third from the penalty spot midway through the second to secure the victory.
Indiana’s consolation goal proved to be crucial as they advance to the semifinals as the losing team with the most goals scored.
The visitors came into the game content with sitting deep and attempting to hit KC on the counter.
“They did [sit deep],” said Athletics player-coach Kyle Perkins. “We had originally thought they just did that at the beginning because they were going against the wind in the first half. But they ended up coming and starting it off defending in their own half.”
“It actually allowed us to do what we wanted to do which is keep the ball, play it from side-to-side and find the best point of attack,” said Perkins.
A 4-3-3 helped the Athletics exploit the wings in the first half and led to both goals. After the break, KC went to a 4-4-2 to hold the ball better against the wind.
“We’re still trying to figure it out exactly, personnel and formation,” said Perkins. “We have so many attacking players. We try to get [them all] on the field at the same time.”
In addition to the strong attack, Perkins singled out defender John Markey as a top performer.
“He played really well. I can’t really think of a time where he lost the ball,” Perkins said.
Both teams advance to the April 20 “Win & You’re In” semifinal with the Athletics hosting the Dearborn Stars, and FC Indiana traveling to Chicago to face RWB Adria.
RWB Adria (IL) 2:0 Croatian Eagles (WI)
Kroc Center (Chicago, IL) – Saturday, April 6 – 3 p.m. ET
By Scott Fenwick (OnTheFire.com)
The Windy City certainly lived up to its name on Saturday afternoon. From the start, it was evident that a sustained, strong, and direct wind would significantly impact the run of play in a win or go home grudge match that saw hosts RWB Adria down Milwaukee rivals Croatian Eagles 2-0 on Chicago’s south side in a USASA Region II US Open Cup qualifier.
It was a physical battle between the two rival Croatian clubs, RWB Adria (right) and the Croatian Eagles. Photo: Scott Fenwick | OnTheFire.com
Croatian Eagles had the advantage in first half, powered by a south wind at their backs that significantly hampered Adria’s ability to play balls in the air. But the Chicago side was able to handle the weather and fight against a torrid head wind.
Early on in the 8th minute, after doing well to keep possession in the midfield with high pressure tactics, Adria played the ball on the ground and let loose a surprise counterattacking series that culminated in a scintillating Piotr Kolasinski strike that put Adria up 1-0.
“You’ve got to give [Kolasinski] credit,” lamented Eagles head coach Alex Toth. “There was a mis-hit, and then the guy hits a perfect shot. You take your hat off to him for hitting a perfect shot.”
Little did the crowd know that Adria’s early goal against the wind would prove the decider.
After bossing the match through 15 minutes, Adria ceded possession – and their defensive third – to the Eagles. The wind at their backs, the Milwaukee side was able to keep sustained pressure on the Adria goal, with wicked action on their corners and crosses that facilitated an astounding series of consecutive corner kicks.
“I don’t even know how many corner kicks we had,” said Toth. “We were really unfortunate not to get on the end of something. We were probably camped in that box for a good six, seven, eight minutes in the first half. It was corner after corner after corner.”
Adria striker Vlad Baicu talked about how his team was unable to do much offensively with his team hunkered down in the box for so long.
“Obviously, it was very hard to play against the wind in the first half,” said BaicuBaicu. “Their height is there. They’re a little bit taller than us, so we tried hard to control the ball in the box.”
And Adria did.
Photo: Scott Fenwick | OnTheFire.com
Under siege, and led by goalkeeper Igor Dimov, Adria absorbed the Eagles’ pressure and escaped into the attacking third around the 37th minute. But the Romanian Baicu, and Croatian midfielder Mladen Bajamic were foiled by the soccer gods.
In succession, both men hit strong headers directly onto the crossbar, and Eagles’ ‘keeper Bryce Boyd breathed a sigh of relief. Twice within seconds, Adria came within a few inches of a two-goal advantage before halftime.
The Eagles failed to capitalize with a fierce wind at their backs in the first half and Adria, after a fine all-around performance, looked to take advantage in the second half.
Now with the wind at their backs, Adria controlled the attack and gave the Eagles a taste of their own medicine, whipping in corners and crosses. The Eagles couldn’t manage to mount a serious counterattack.
In the 61st, Adria’s Bajamic again threatened the Eagles’ goal with a rocket shot. ‘Keeper Bryce Boyd came up big however. Boyd deflected what was sure to be the Chicago side’s second of the afternoon and kept his squad in the hunt.
But the dagger would come.
In the 73rd minute, Adria used the gale at their backs to play a long ball deep down the left flank to streaking forward Vlad Baicu. Baicu, made a direct, diagonal run to the near post. With fine footwork, he took on and beat his defender. Tenacious, Baicu took a rebound off his first shot and sealed Adria’s victory with his second.
“It was a long clearance. I had a lot of space, [because] they were opened up,” said Baicu. “I found the ball, took a shot, the goalie mishandled it, and there you go, 2-0.”
Down, but not out, the Eagles continued to press on against the wind.
In a controversial call, Referee Miguel Panduro pointed to the spot and awarded the Eagles a penalty kick in the 84th minute. Attempting to give his squad a fighting chance, the Eagles’ Andrew Wiedabach stepped up, took his shot, but was foiled by Adria’s Igor Dimov. Once again, the veteran ‘keeper from Macedonia came up big.
At the whistle, an ebullient Adria and dejected Eagles shook hands over the 2-0 result. Unable to catch a break against a well-organized veteran club, the Eagles simply couldn’t finish their chances with the wind at their backs.
“I think our experience prevailed today,” said Adria manager Ante Loncar.“We played a great game. Scoring the goal against the wind, I think, was big.”
On the Eagles, Loncar offered this: “They didn’t have a lot of chances. Their ‘keeper kept them in the game. I think our guys were hungry because they beat us last year.”
Adria Striker Baicu: “[The Eagles] are always a good team, always a good opponent. It was about the same game as last year, but we got the chance to score first. We didn’t give them the chance to score after that.”
Eagles’ head coach Alex Toth: “In the second half, I thought we created some opportunities. They didn’t go forward much in the first half [against the wind]. I thought we went forward pretty well in the second half. It’s just, again, the conditions didn’t favor either team, and they got the one goal and then the second one. The wind aided the second one.”
Toth was still proud of his team despite the losing effort.
“I’m not disappointed in anybody’s performance. But we needed that one play, and no one was able to create it,” said Toth. “My hats off to [Adria]. They played well. They did what they had to do to win the game. I’m not ashamed of the way we played. We just didn’t finish.”
In retrospect, the missed penalty kick proved costly as the Eagles would have likely finished the game with a minus-1 goal difference, which would have bested FC Indiana losing by two goals to KC Athletics.
Adria will now host FC Indiana on April 20 in a “Win & You’re In” semifinal match.
USASA REGION II OPEN CUP TOURNAMENT
First round (Saturday, April 6)
FC Indiana (IN) 1:3 KC Athletics (KS)
Croatian Eagles (WI) 0:2 RWB Adria (IL)
Cincy Saints (OH-South) 0:5 Dearborn Stars (MI) – RECAP
Semifinals (Saturday, April 20)
FC Indiana (IN) at RWB Adria (IL)
Kroc Center (Chicago, IL) – 3 p.m. ET
Semifinals (Sunday, April 21)
Dearborn Stars SC (MI) at KC Athletics (KS)
Olathe North (Olathe, KS) – 1 p.m. ET
Semifinal winners earn berths in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
Final (Saturday, June 29)
Overland Park, Kan.
Winner advances to USASA Open Cup, July 19-21 at Star Complex, San Antonio, Texas
Past USASA Region II entries in US Open Cup
2012: Croatian Eagles (WI), KC Athletics (KS)
2011: AAC Eagles (IL), Iowa Menace (IA)
2010: Detroit United (MI), KC Athletics (KS)
2009: Bavarian SC (WI), 402 (NE)
2008: AAC Eagles (IL), RWB Adria (IL)
2007: Bavarian SC (WI), RWB Adria (IL)
2006: Chicago Lightning SC (IL), Croatian Eagles (WI)
2005: AAC Eagles (IL), Reggae Boyz (IN)
2004: Bavarian SC (WI), SAC Wisla (IL)
2003: Bavarian SC (WI)
2002: AAC Eagles (IL)
2001: Chaldean Arsenal (MI)
2000: Bavarian SC (WI)
1999: Bavarian SC (WI)
1998: SAC Wisla (IL)
1997: Mequon United (WI)
1996: RWB Adria (IL)
1995: AAC Eagles (IL)