With a backdrop of oaks and pines, AC Connecticut was felled by NPSL expansion darling Virginia Beach City FC 3-2 in the First Round of the US Open Cup.
An ineffectual clearance attempt in the penalty area that was hastily put away by Pat Thompson in the 87th minute sealed the deal for Virginia Beach which will return to Old Dominion to face natural foes, the Richmond Kickers. It was the first Open Cup win by City, but the first by a team from Virginia Beach in nearly a decade. Back in 2006, the Virginia Beach Mariners traveled all the way to Phoenix to win their opening match, 1-0 over the Arizona Sahuaros (USASA).
The first twenty minutes of the contest were fast and furious, with coordinated, short passes leading to opportunities, including Geoffrey Hill’s opener for a VBC lead in the 7th minute.
The players made the artificial turf of Westview look like wall-to-wall carpeting with crisp, but heavy passes. Many through balls were left without a recipient in the middle part of the first half. In the 34th minute, AC Connecticut emerged with space on the flank as a cross was played to the penalty area, which would not have been a big deal except for bad timing, allowing AC to equalize.
Both teams would continue to press, only to be spurned away by defenders at the edge of the 18 for the remainder of the half.
AC’s Zach Zurita was brought in to shore up the midfield defensively, and he did as he capitalized on a loose rebound to give them a 2-1 advantage.
To respond, VBC brought on two subs: Amir Shihata for JerJer Gibson and Thompson for Peter Pearson. Virginia Beach had new-found speed and began to press AC Connecticut accordingly.
In the 72nd minute, a ball made its way toward the AC goal as goalkeeper Stephen Sasso couldn’t stop the ball, he instead got the man and Tyler Cyrus converted the penalty kick to draw level at 2-2.
By the 80th minute it seemed as if both teams were contrite with their efforts. Perhaps they weren’t as fast as last season. Perhaps this field was just too quick. Unless your name is Pat Thompson. As the clock struck 88, No. 8 was able to put the ball away after a missed clearance.