In what used to be a regular occurance in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, a battle between two teams from New York City has become more rare in the Modern Era (1995-present). For just the fifth time since 1995, two teams from the Big Apple squared off as the Long Island Rough Riders defeated the Brooklyn Italians 3-1. Long Island’s Joe Holland was involved in all three goals as he led the team with a pair of goals and an assist as the Rough Riders won their first US Open Cup game since 2012.
Rough Riders head coach Paul Roderick highlighted Holland as a player to watch in tonight’s US Open Cup match.
“Joe can sometimes be a hot and cold player, but when he’s on, it’s special”, Roderick shared as the teams warmed up. Another notable player for Long Island was Jimmy Nealis. Nealis was drafted in 2013 by the Houston Dynamo but injured in the preseason of that year. After rehabbing, he was signed by the New York Cosmos and played for two seasons.
Tonight was definitely one of the better performances for the emerging star. Holland and the Rough Riders wasted no time taking the game to visiting Brooklyn side scoring in the first minute. This was Joe Holland’s first US Open Cup goal. Long Island controlled the game for most of the first half with quick, smart play, but also helped by a Brooklyn attack that was constantly caught offsides and a slew of unforced turnovers by the back line.
In the 38th minute, Brooklyn’s Yannick Laroche drove into the box with a quick change of pace catching defender Danny Kreamer off balance forcing a Brooklyn penalty kick. Yvener Guerrier stepped up and cooly placed the shot past Joe Martin leveling the game at 1-1, a score that would stand for the rest of the first half.
Both squads remained unchanged to start the second half, but almost immediately Long Island would need to make a change. In the 46th minute, midfielder Dan Reid rolled his ankle. The injury would prove to be too much for him to return and Dom Iovino would enter in his place.
The second half was much improved on the first with both teams settling in. The play was organized and each chance was harder to earn, but equally more dangerous as they tried to break the deadlock. The Rough Riders, sensing they were close switched up the midfield again, subbing out Adriana Gabrielle for the fresh legs of Ben Withcomb in the 60th minute.
Four minute later, the constant pressure by Long Island forced another Brooklyn error as Alejandro Penzini was called for a handball in the box. Holland took the kick, but a fantastic diving effort by 19-year-old Michael Bernardi kept the score tied. While some might think the save by the Brooklyn keeper would have put momentum on their side, that was not the case tonight. In the 66th minute, Ben Wignall found himself with a clear look on the left side about twenty yards out. His laser beat a fully extended Bernandi and Long Island would take the lead 2-1.
The more fit and organized Long Island team continued to control the pace of the game and in the 74th minute, the star of the night, Holland scored his second putting the Rough Riders ahead 3-1.
The Italians would not let the game go without a fight. The late substitutions of Armen Katchaturian (Diego Zuniga), Kevin Lue (Yannick Laroche) and Vincent Benzecourt (Martin Williams) gave the attack a little more pace, but many of their chances were the result of individual effort and not team play. Long Island used their last sub in the bringing in Junior Rosero for goal scorer Wignall to keep the pressure and possession in the Brooklyn third.
At the final whistle it would remain a 3-1 win for the home side. Nealis after game while happy with the result knows the team can play better.
“It’s still the start of our season,” said Nealis. “It’s tough, we are still getting comfortable together, but the more we practice and the fitter we get, the better we will be.”
Entering the game, the Rough Riders had just one league game under their belt, a 3-1 home win in league play the previous Saturday. For Coach Roderick, with so little time together as a team, he’ll take the victory.
“In a cup, it’s nice to get any type of win,” said Roderick. “We made it harder than it needed to be. After the early goal we eased up a bit and credit to Brooklyn they fought back.”
Holland was proud of the way the team performed as well.
“Fantastic win,” said Holland. “In the first half we were a little haphazard and all over the place. Despite giving up the goal, we came out for the second half much more organized and compact and in the end it was comfortable.”
After the game the team immediately moved their attention to next week’s match as they will host the Real Monarchs, the United Soccer Leagues reserve team of Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake.
Holland knows that the match up against the USL side will be a tough challenge.
“I can’t wait,” said Holland. “It’s a good team, and obviously they have some professional links there so you’re going to see some good players. They move the ball around well as we do when we play right, so it should make for a very good game.”
Roderick gave a brief scouting report looking ahead to next year.
“Well, they will come in more fit and more organized,” said Roderick. “They are a team that trains everyday. But these are the games that our players want to be in, to play against the better clubs so it should be a great match.”
Former Long Island Rough Rider, Tyler Arnone currently plays with the Real Monarchs and will be making his return to Cy Donnelly stadium next week when the teams meet up Wednesday, May 20 at 8 p.m.