The scene from historic Boxer Stadium in San Francisco with El Farolito hosting Burlingame Dragons in the First Round of the 2017 US Open Cup. Photo: Evan Ream
In a match that featured a former US Open Cup winner pitted against a side that had yet to win a match in the competition, it was the newcomers who ended up victorious on the day.
The Burlingame Dragons FC, a third-year PDL franchise, managed their first win in three first round tries, beating El Farolito at Boxer Stadium 6-5 on penalties after the two teams drew 0-0 through 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of overtime.
The circumstances of the match replicated those of many early round matches in the tournament, with several instances out of the control of both squads playing a factor.
Any side competing at this portion of the competition may be familiar with the the following aspects that impacted the match:
* The lack of field lights at Boxer Stadium forced the match to a 3 p.m. kickoff, meaning that several Dragons couldn’t attend the match due to conflicting college classes.
* Up until just days before the game, neither side was sure who winger Gabe Silveira would suit up for, as he had played for both teams in the past few months (he ended up starting for the Dragons).
* The playing surface was less-than-optimal, with a bumpy pitch also lined for lacrosse.
“Not only did we not know much about our opponent, but our boys have only been together a few times, and we had a few players play today that we haven’t even seen,” said assistant coach Albertin Montoya, who took the reins on the night from head coach Joe Cannon, who was in Hawaii. “It’s more about an attitude and a mindset in the way we approached this game.”
Still, both sides came out attacking in a back-and-forth match, until the air was taken out of it by a stoppage of play late in the first half due to a pair of head injuries.
That pause resulted in 13 minutes of stoppage time in the first half, disrupting any momentum that was previously had by either side.
And that disruption was further exacerbated by a 52nd minute red card to Luis Nieves of El Farolito for a two-footed challenge in the middle of the park.
From there El Farolito, who were making their first appearance in the tournament since winning the US Open Cup title under the name CD Mexico in 1993, packed it in to try to play for overtime and penalties. This strategy was aided by the howling winds which saw corner flags perpetually bent over at a 45-degree angle.
Burlingame nearly prevented the inevitable in the 69th minute, but Silveira’s close-range attempt throttled the crossbar in the closest attempt either team got to actually putting the ball in the back of the net.
El Farolito dodged one more bullet just after Silveira’s shot when one of their players nearly scored an own goal, but it too could only rattle the woodwork.
The match ended up going to penalty kicks with Dragons keeper Mitchell North ending up as the hero in the shootout with two saves to help the visitors advance, 6-5.
“More often than not in PKs, the team that deserves it comes out on top,” Montoya said. “That’s just how it works. I thought we deserved it.”
For their efforts, the Dragons earned a second round match Wednesday against NASL expansion side San Francisco Deltas, who had trained at Boxer Stadium earlier in the day — many Deltas players stayed to scout their opponents.
“I haven’t even thought about [the game against the Deltas],” Montoya said. “We’re very excited that we moved on, but more importantly is the team’s coming together, they’re starting to believe in themselves. Who knows what’s going to happen? As long as we’re disciplined and we play with heart and play for each other, good things can happen.”
MORE: 2017 Meet the Underdogs: San Francisco’s El Farolito returns for first time since winning 1993 US Open Cup title