Red Force, the USASA representative from Florida, scored a pair of second half goals to overcome the USSSA’s Colorado Rovers 2-1 in the first round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. It was a battle of amateur clubs featuring former professional players making their second consecutive trip to the tournament and a goal by David Olguin in the 81st minute was enough to send Red Force to a rare Florida victory.
With the win, the Miami-based club becomes the first USASA club from the sunshine state to win an Open Cup game since 2001 when Uruguay SC beat Miami Strike Force (PDL). Red Force have another long road trip ahead of them for their Second Round match as they will take on the PDL’s Laredo Heat on May 14 at 9:15 p.m. ET.
The match kicked off in Highlands Park, Colo. with the Rovers eager to jump on the attack. The Rovers, making their second consecutive appearance in the competition, set a tone for the game by taking the first shot of the game; ringing a hard-hit ball right off the middle of the crossbar. Minutes later, Red Force winger Andres Navas and former Ft. Lauderdale Strikers midfielder Scott Gordon connected on a series of quick passes with Navas firing a shot right at Rovers goalkeeper Mark Saxby. For the next ten minutes or so, the Red Force really found a rhythm displaying excellent ball movement. Attackers Gordon, Navas, Olguin and former Miami FC player Abiodun Adeyemi, continued to hold possession and force the Rovers into their own third.
After warding off multiple shots, the well-organized Rovers backline regained possession and sprung Marc Herschberger and former MLS player Colin Clark toward the opposite goal. The pressure resulted in a foul 22 yards from the goal. Clark took the free kick but it was inadvertently handled along the wall, giving the former Colorado Rapids and Houston Dynamo midfielder another chance. This time, Clark bent the free kick over the wall and past a helpless Red Force keeper Kyle Schoeder to give his team the lead in the 30th minute.
For the remainder of the first half and into the second, the Rovers enjoyed the majority of the possession and attempts on net. After the game, Red Force manager Gabriel Vega admitted that jet lag, accompanied with altitude, set in and his team struggled to keep up with the athletic Colorado team.
Just when it looked as if the Rovers were going to maintain or build on their lead, Red Force captain Richard Perdomo cut a Colin Clark run short and turned his team on the counter. Substitute Daniel Gonzalez accompanied by Navas, broke into the Rovers 18-yard box and chipped the keeper. Just before the ball rolled over the line, Rovers centerback Tyer Adam heroically cleared the ball but a penalty was called on the Rovers goalkeeper. Daniel Gomez converted the penalty and game was tied up.
Ten minutes later, all momentum that the Red Force had was quickly taken away when Gomez was sent of with his second yellow card. Just when the Rovers were once again looking to put the game away the Red Force responded with a quick counter attack and some smooth passing to set up Colombian forward Olguin with a 35-yard strike that found the top corner of Saxby’s net. Olguin’s golazo took the entire stadium by surprise and gave the Red Force the decisive edge in the back and forth affair.
After some nervy moments in stoppage time for both teams, the 2-1 result was complete, and the Red Force captured their first-ever US Open Cup victory securing their second round tie in Laredo, Texas next Wednesday.
After the game, Rovers coach Erick French was clearly disappointed to be defeated in such a shocking turn of events. For the Rovers, it was the second consecutive heartbreaking loss in Open Cup play. Last year, on the same Shea Stadium grass, Colorado was eliminated by the NPSL’s Georgia Revolution in a penalty kick shootout. Putting his emotions aside, French sounded determined to qualify once again, already thinking about the qualification process for 2015.
Vega and his Red Force players were ecstatic, yet exhausted from the incredible day they had. After the game, Vega complimented his team for pushing through the long travel, altitude, the early goal, and the difficult opposition. There was little time for celebration as the team had to hop on a plane back to Miami for a local tournament before arranging travel plans for Wednesday’s trip to Laredo.