The US Open Cup has come back to Saint Louis.
Needing extra time, USL side Saint Louis FC finished off the defending Premier Development League regular-season champion Des Moines Menace, 2-1, to set up a Third Round date with North American Soccer League power, Minnesota United FC.
Saint Louis capitalized on a man advantage in the first half of extra time, when Jermie Lynch cleaned up a mishandled collection from Paul Blanchette. A cross from Parker Maher caromed off the crossbar and back into play. Before Blanchette could collect, Lynch nodded home the loose ball. Chaos ensued on the celebration, with the Saint Louis squad being mobbed by the home support group, the St. Louigans.
Des Moines, despite being down a man and a goal, equalized through a Chris Hellmann penalty kick in the 87th minute. Goalkeeper Mark Pais guessed incorrectly, diving to the shooter’s right. Vincent Cicciarelli drew the penalty kick after working the touch line and being tackled in front of the net.
The home side got on the board midway through the second half. Brian Gaul poked home a breakaway ball from Maher in the 68th minute. His chip over Blanchette bounced once and rolled the rest of the way home.
Immediately after the opening goal, Saint Louis had nearly doubled the lead with another breakaway attempt. Gaul received a long ball behind the back line, only to be bucked back by Blanchette’s left hand.
“I think we just need to take this for what it is,” Gaul said. “It was a tough game, but we got the win.”
This was the first Open Cup game played by a St. Louis team since 2010. The First Round game, as it was, featured the Menace and AC St. Louis of the short-lived USSF Division 2. One of tonight’s subs, Mike Ambersley, was the lone goalscorer in the 2010 game. The team folded after the 2010 season.
Des Moines was running out of the gates, spurring eight shots and forcing Menace alum Mark Pais into two saves. The halftime break allowed Saint Louis to get a foothold, and the pro side came out swinging.
“I wasn’t surprised with how well they came out,” Gaul said. “They’re a PDL side, a bunch of college kids. There’s some future pros in there.”
A year ago, Des Moines bowed out in the Third Round to Minnesota United FC. A late goal from Cristian Ramirez propelled the North American Soccer League team. The Loons, 3-3-0 in the Open Cup, were ousted in the Fourth Round to Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City.