Jersey Express celebrate as they defeated New York Greek American SC 3-0 in Round 1. Photo: Bob Larson
A diving header in the 65th minute by midfielder Marko Drjlic put the Jersey Express into the Second Round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, leading to an eventual 3-0 victory over the New York Greek American SC at NJIT Stadium.
Alone at the far post Drljic finished a picturesque goal on a swinging cross from JP Correa that left Greek American’s goalkeeper Brian Edwards helpless.
Despite having the majority of possession the first half, the Express of the PDL looked as unpolished as a team playing their first match of the season would be expected.
The four-time Open Cup champion Greeks, the USASA Region I representative, played road tournament soccer, sitting back and waiting for the moment to counter.
Jersey coach Francisco Da Silva recognized his team’s nervousness associated with early season play.
“I know we had the game, but we just weren’t playing the way we do that practice,” Da Silva said. “All we needed to do to make a difference was calm down our play.”
Photo: Bob Larson
The Greek Americans, frequent participants in the Open Cup with five appearances in the Modern Era, came out more aggressive in the second half, enjoying more possession especially in Jersey’s half.
In the 52nd minute, the Greek Americans nearly took the lead when Jersey keeper Matthew Turner misjudged an in-swinging cross, giving Detejl a clean header that found the net. As the ball dribbled over the goal line the assistant referee called Detejl offside.
The Greeks got another opportunity in the 62nd minute when Kevin Correa perfectly timed a run as he received a pass toward the right flank with loads of space.
Jersey’s central defender Sylvain N’guessa was able to close down the forward as Correa dribbled into the penalty area. Correa ripped a right-footed shot that cleared the bar.
Once Drjlic — who recently closed out his college soccer career at NJIT — broke the tie minutes later, the match was pried up and giving Jersey the advantage again.
“We were a little bit shaky in the first half because we didn’t want to make a mistake,” Drjlic said. “In the second half I thought the Greek Americans dropped a little bit down, we pressured them higher, that caused them trouble, and after that first goal thing got easier.”
In the 88th minute, Correa provided his second assist when Chris Karcz finished at close range past a small crowd in front of goal.
Correa came on at halftime to provide Da Silva’s squad a little more experience.
“We thought bringing JP in would give the team confidence to just play the ball on the ground,” Da Silva said.”He was very, very important in the change that we made.”
Late substitute Alex Biley put in the final goal in the 90th minute when the forward held off his defender with his back to goal.
Biley received the ball from midfield off a short bounce and slotted inside the left post past a frozen Edwards.
The victory is the first Open Cup win for the Express. Last year, they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Brooklyn Italians (NPSL).
In the Second Round, the Express will host the New York Red Bulls II of USL at NJIT Stadium.
Red Bulls II, who play their home matches less than 2.5 miles from NJIT Stadium at Red Bull Arena, are nearly a third of the way into their season.
Coach Da Silva knows a lack of early season game experience could be a challenge against the pros in Round 2.
“I’m glad we had this game before we play them, because the initial start is going to hurt a little bit. But I’m sure we’re going to do good.”