The US Open Cup kicked off in Charlotte on Wednesday night with a battle between perennial PDL and NPSL playoff contenders, the Charlotte Eagles and Chattanooga FC. Charlotte defeated Chattanooga, 2-0 in front of its home fans. With the win, Charlotte hosts cross-town rivals and USL side, the Charlotte Independence, in the second round of the 2017 US Open Cup on Wednesday, May 17 at 7:00 p.m.
The “CLT Derby” is a rematch of last year, when the Independence defeated the Eagles, 2-0, on goals from Chris Hellman and former Eagles legend Jorge Herrera.
Neither side had played a competitive match in 2017 before Wednesday night’s contest, but there wasn’t much rust as both teams got off to fast, attacking starts.
Chattanooga had the better of the first 10 minutes, as Danny Whitehall and Kieran Bywater combined for several chances early on, but Charlotte goalkeeper James Pyle kept the game scoreless.
Then in the 12th minute, the Eagles had their first real chance, as Andrew Revanales began to impose himself on the game.
Faster than anyone else on the field, Revanales took advantage of a Chattanooga mistake and had a break on net, but Chattanooga keeper Paulo Pita stopped him in a one-on-one situation.
Pita denied the speedy Eagles forward twice more in the next few minutes, while also having to defend against his own team. His best save of the match came on an accidental backwards header from his own center back in the 17th minute.
The game could have easily been 3-0 Eagles after 20 minutes, but Chattanooga wasn’t done either.
In the 22nd minute, Whitehall found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper at the other end, but Pyle made a miraculous save at full stretch to keep the game scoreless.
The first half changed entirely in the 23rd minute when Revanales had to leave because of a hamstring injury. His early substitution allowed both defenses to hydrate and regroup on the sidelines, while removing the Eagles’ biggest threat from the game.
The rest of the first half played out in midfield struggles without any real chances. The teams settled into their respective game plans, and back-and-forth passing resulted in a 0-0 score at the break.
The second half was nearly all Charlotte Eagles.
Possession, attacks built from the midfield, and speed all over the pitch caused problems for the Chattanooga defense, and midfielder Kelvin Omondi took advantage in the 71st minute.
On a break down the right, Eagles substitute Joao Costa’s shot was denied and Omondi put the rebound away for the opening goal of the match: 1-0 for the home side.
Charlotte settled into a defensive formation after taking the lead, as Chattanooga could not break through to level the score.
Whitehall, Leo DeSmedt and Felipe Oliveira had chances for Chattanooga in the final 20 minutes, but it was an Eagles player, Joao Costa, that found the decisive goal.
He scored on an incredibly difficult shot from a tight angle on the left endline that snuck past Pita in the 89th minute.
Costa earned “man of the match” honors for his goal and assist, but the Chattanooga traveling supporters made a mark as well. A five-and-a-half hour bus ride on a weeknight for US Open Cup first round action did not phase the Chattahooligans, and they were gracious in defeat as well. Bravo.
Eagles GM Andrew Pierce was proud of his team after the game.
“I think the boys did really well tonight,” Pierce said. “It was their first game, and we’ve had a limited amount of training sessions with the full squad. The first part of the game was frantic, but they slowed it down and possessed the ball after Andrew’s injury, playing coach Dixon’s style of soccer. I was proud of the effort, and I’m looking forward to our PDL opener on Saturday against Wilmington.”
Chattanooga starts its NPSL season on Saturday in New Orleans.