Matt Danilack nearly scored a last-gasp equalizer for GPS Portland Phoenix, but the flag went up as AFC Cleveland survived to secure a 1-0 win in Wednesday’s US Open Cup first round tie at Deering High School in Portland, Me.
The Royals scored their lone goal in the 26th minute when Antonio Manfut converted on a cross from outside the box. The Phoenix nearly leveled it before the hour when substitute Guilherme Da Silva Leme hit the post moments after he entered the match in the 56th minute.
Danilak appeared to level the match in stoppage time on a deflected shot, sending the home crowd into jubilation. But the cheers immediately died down when the attention turned to the raised flag of the assistant referee, which nullified the would-be goal.
The Phoenix was the aggressor for much of the match, outshooting the Royals 10-2 on the evening. However, the one shot on goal that went in was all Cleveland needed to earn its first Open Cup win in franchise history.
Portland earned their first round spot by winning the PDL’s Northeast Division championship in 2015 with a 9-2-3 mark while Cleveland booked its ticket via an at-large NPSL berth after finishing 8-2-2 in NPSL play last season. Cleveland, who qualified but declined to enter due to lack of player availability in 2013, became the first amateur team from the city to qualify since the Cleveland Kickers in 1994.
Cleveland made the roughly 750-mile trip to Maine to pick up their first Open Cup win. How will they be rewarded? With a nearly 600-mile trip to Fenton, Mo. to play Saint Louis FC on May 18. Meanwhile, Portland will begin its divisional title defense on Saturday when they face AC Connecticut at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Ct.