Two of New Jersey’s most successful soccer organizations found themselves going head-to-head in the opening round of the 2016 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup open division qualifying tournament. Though South Jersey Elite Barons faced Boca’s reserve team in league play, they would square off against the main squad Saturday evening at the Berkeley Soccer Complex in Bayville, NJ. South Jersey would strike first, but Boca would capitalize on undisciplined play in the final minute and take the 2-1 win.
Founded in 1978, Jersey Shore Boca runs a full slate of youth, collegiate and club teams out of Lakewood, NJ. Boca won the 2012 New Jersey Open Cup in 2012 and were semi-finalists in 2013. That 2012 win, earned a spot in the regional tournament which led to the club’s first US Open Cup tournament appearance, which ended quickly with an opening round loss to the PDL’s Michigan Bucks. Boca came into Saturday’s match with a 4-0-0 record in the Garden State Soccer League’s Super Division.
Based in Winslow Township, NJ, the Barons are members of the GSSL’s Semi-Pro South Division (a step below Boca) where they’ve earned a 3-0-1 record thus far. Among the club’s roster are 10 players who grew up in South Jersey Elite’s youth academy and a few former pros.
The club’s history can actually be traced back to the Ocean City Nor’easters of the PDL until there was an organizational split in 2009. Prior to the split, the club was known as the Barons and they made three Open Cup appearances (2004, 2005, 2007). The first trip to the tournament came in 2002 when the Barons qualified as a pro team in the USL’s D-3 Pro League. In the club’s current form, this is their first attempt to qualify for the Open Cup.
The Barons struck first as high schooler Geoff Schaefer scored in the 15th minute. From there on out, the Barons relied heavily on their defense as Boca took over and held possession for most of the rest of the 1st half. Unable to get behind the South Jersey line, the 1-0 score held through the first 45.
In the second, Boca would finally break through after a foul on Cody Califiore. A cross from Tommy Gray was headed down into the box by Chris Katona and through the commotion A.J. back heeled it past the Barons keeper. The match seemed destined for extra time as the clock wore down on the 1-1 tie. However, in the 90th minute it was Califiore again who was taken down, this time by a reckless foul in the box. After a scuffle, both players were sent off with red cards. Once the dust settled, Tommy Gray scored the PK and gave Boca the win.
Jersey Shore Boca advances to Round 2 where they will take on three-time US Open Cup champion New York Pancyprian Freedoms on Nov. 14 at St. John’s University’s Belson Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.