Southie FC and GPS Omens square off in 2016 US Open Cup qualifying at Lawrence Veterans Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Mass. Photo: NonLeagueAmerica.com
MORE: Five teams advance to final round of qualifying in first weekend
With Worcester FC losing on Saturday night, Southie FC and GPS Omens were the final two open division amateur teams left in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup qualifying tournament from all of the New England states. In the end, there could be only one and it was Southie FC who would advance to the final round of qualifying with a 4-0 win.
After the opening kickoff, Southie came out as the aggressor and it paid off almost immediately. UMass Amherst product Chris Stoker played an through ball to Tim Ritter who held off a GPS defender and scored three minutes into the match.
Southie’s second was provided, again, by Stoker who released the pacey Trevor Hoxsie to calmly finish past the GPS keeper.
GPS caused problems with their two towering center forwards, including former Colorado Rapids draftee Keith Caldwell who had a pair of goals and a two more assists in GPS’ Round 1 win over Boston Olympiakos. Due, in large part, to the play of Harrison McGeady, Caldwell was unable to create any clear-cut chances to really concern Colin O’Donnell in goal.
Southie’s third goal came around the 35th minute Hoxsie released Stoker who crossed the ball to Anthony Baumann to tap in and put Southie in a very strong position heading into the halftime break.
GPS, who were under the names GPS Massachusetts and Mass Premier Soccer in previous years, came out on the front foot in the second half and had Southie pinned into its defensive third but, again, couldn’t create any quality chances. Southie were always dangerous on the break and won a free kick approximately 25 yards out midway through the second half. Before GPS could sort out its 4-man wall, Roy Sandeman, one of the seven players on the field who played college ball for Providence College (Ritter, Baumann, McGeady, Stoker, Thomas Ballenthin and Sean Bakhtiari) who made an impact on this day, quickly whipped the free kick over the GPS goalkeeper, off the underside of the crossbar and across the line to put the game out of reach.
GPS continued to probe, and Charlie Romero produced a fine save from O’Donnell but GPS ultimately couldn’t find a way through and they were eliminated. The loss would deny GPS a USASA record-tying fourth straight trip to the US Open Cup and it put Southie FC one win away from their first-ever berth in the tournament. It was also the second straight shutout for Southie, who competes in the Massachusetts State Soccer League, after they defeated Battery Park Gunners in Round 1, 2-0.
“Having played for GPS the last 3 seasons I knew what we were up against and knew that we had to have a team-first focus in order to advance,” said Sandeman. “I thought we out-fought and out-competed GPS in the early stages which really set the foundation for the rest of the game. GPS are such a great team and have a fantastic set of lads, but I am really proud of our boys’ commitment and performance tonight.”