Real Salt Lake rallied from a two-goal deficit to ultimately defeat the Wilmington Hammerheads in a penalty kick shootout to reach the Round of 16 in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
After trailing 2-0 in the second half, Joao Plata brought RSL back and sent the game into extra time with a goal in the 65th minute, followed by assisting on an 86th minute equalizer by Burrito Martinez.
The Wilmington Hammerheads came to Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah to kick off against Real Salt Lake, a team that they lost to at the same stadium in 2011.
The Hammerheads arrived to the stage of the competition after beating NPSL side Miami Fusion FC 6-0 in Round 2 and a 2-1 win over the NASL’s Miami FC.
They fought hard against RSL, who have had a lot of success at home in the tournament with an 8-2-0 record.
Wilmington jumped out to a 1-0 advantage in the 34th minute after link up play between Austin Martz to Mael Corboz. Martz made a diagonal run down the right side receiving a pass from
Mecham. Martz then cut the ball from the endline back to the top of the 18-yard box where
Corboz was waiting for the ball to come off of the inside of his foot for a curled, tucked away
The Hammerheads took that advantage into the break, after Real Salt Lake was able to keep a lot of the ball and possession but was unable to complete any significant touches or passes in the penalty box in the first half. The chemistry between the players in the attack didn’t
seem to mesh well in the first half.
At the start of the second half, Real Salt Lake seemed to focus more on stretching the width of the field. They were able to keep the majority of the possession but didn’t seem to be able to
Head coach Jeff Cassar was not waiting around any longer as he sent in Yura Movsisyan and Joao Plata in the 55th minute.
Just three minutes later, in the 58th minute, against the run of play, Wilmington was able to hit RSL on the break. A shot from distance from Justin Moose hit forward Jeff Michaud in the face and caught RSL goalkeeper Jeff Attinella wrong footed. That doubled the Wilmington lead to 2-0.
In the 65th minute, Plata hit a laser from about 25 yards out on the left side of the
18 yard box that found the top corner, to cut the lead in half.
RSL created a number of chances from that point on. The home team had near chances and close calls that called Wilmington goalkeeper John Smits into action on a number of occasions. His efforts could not keep out the savvy forward Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez from a similar distance to Plata’s effort. Burrito’s strike was a curling shot that one hopped right before Smits, and nestled into the lower side netting in the 87th minute.
Despite losing a lead just a few minutes from upsetting a MLS team on the road, the Hammerheads maintained their composure and continued to fight through extra time.
Attinella had to make a huge save in the last minute of the game to send the match into a penalty kick shootout.
The penalties brought the fans to full volume which may have put pressure on the visitors as Bruno Perone skied his attempt, followed by another miss over the bar by Matthew Barnes-Homer.
Attinella made a huge save on Liam Miller to give Chris Wingert the chance to send Real Salt Lake to the next round with his penalty kick attempt. With the home team’s fourth attempt, Wingert stepped up with cool composure that you would expect and tucked it to the goalkeeper’s lower left hand side.
“I just knew where I wanted to go and tried to be patient with it, make sure to
give the goalie enough time, to get out of the way,” said Wingert with a chuckle. “That was it. I always like to shoot when we have a chance to go to PKs. So I asked Jeff right away, and they put me in the five.”
Wingert was proud of how his team kept fighting despite being down in the second half.
“Obviously we put ourselves in a bit of a hole and we were unhappy with the first half,” said Wingert. “Then it was unlucky with the deflection. Stuff happens and credit to the guys for
hanging in there. Two great goals, I mean one a rip by Plata and then a great goal by Burrito.
We hung in there and it is not ideal to play 120 minutes, especially when we have a game on the
weekend, but that is ok. We are fit and it will test our depth a little bit. I think we have a deep team. It is about taking care of our bodies and getting ready for Saturday.”
For Austin Martz, it was a missed opportunity for the Hammerheads.
“I think it was the best of what we could of asked for,” said Martz. “I thought we started well. I thought we maintained our shape really well. I thought we were together and compact, obviously. They had some time on the ball but we expected that. I thought we pressed well. I thought we did a good job to get an early goal. I thought we could have had one or two.
“It was a good game, fun atmosphere. I know that we enjoyed it.”