TheCup.us Player of the Round: Two goals by Sainey Touray help City Islanders slay another giant, earn him Fourth Round honor
Former New York Red Bulls signee Sainey Touray became just the third player from a third division club to score twice against a Major League Soccer opponent in leading his Harrisburg City Islanders to a surprise 3-1 overtime victory in the Fourth Round of the US Open Cup, earning him TheCup.us Player of the Round honors.
The selection marks only the seventh time since TheCup.us began recognizing the tournament’s outstanding performances in 2006 that a player was selected from a third division club – the second beyond the third round.
Touray, who has yet to score in USL Pro league play, scored the go-ahead goal both times for the City Islanders Tuesday evening. Brian Ombiji got the ball near the top of the 18-yard box. After some deft footwork, he crossed the ball to Touray, who headed the ball into the back of the net in the 13th minute. Four minutes into overtime Jason Pelletier found himself with the ball in space in the middle of the field. He lobbed a pass over the top of the defense and right into the path of Touray, who slotted it past rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara and into the net.
This was the fifth time in the last six tournaments that the City Islanders have eliminated an MLS team. The Charleston Battery are the only other lower division team in the country who has five MLS upsets in the last six years, but four of those upsets were as a second division club.
Touray joins Glenn Murray and Marquis White as the only third division players to tally twice in a game against an MLS team. Murray scored two for the Wilmington Hammerheads in a 4-1 win over Dallas in the 2003 Fourth Round. White scored both goals in the 1997 Third Round against Kansas City as the San Francisco Bay Seals made their historic run to the Semifinals.
The Player of the Round award is voted on by the staff of the definitive US Open Cup site TheCup.us and a select panel of members of the North American Soccer Reporters, which also selects the MLS Player of the Week award.
Touray is no stranger to late-game drama. He scored his first US Open Cup goal in his tournament debut a year ago for Harrisburg, netting a stoppage 2-1 winner against fellow Philadelphia Union affiliate Reading United AC of the PDL in the Second Round. In the following round he was sent off in stoppage time as the club was knocked out by league foe Rochester after entering game for the final nine minutes and seeing the Rhinos score on a penalty in the 89th.
After sitting out the required suspension for the Second Round match versus the PDL Long Island Rough Riders this year, Touray returned to the lineup and scored the second of three goals in the miracle three-goal overtime rally against New England Revolution before eliminating the MLS club in penalties after a 3-3 draw.
“You never know what could happen at times in this lovely game and to come up big when your team needs you is a great feeling,” Touray told Derek Meluzio of PennLive.com. “I’m so happy to be part of this club in these great moments.
The Gambian seems to have finally found his home in the United States. He was basically just a kid when he started to excel in his homeland, joining second division club Tallinding United at 13 and signing with the first division’s Wallidan at 15. In 2008 he was the club’s leading scorer while leading them to the league title.
The success sparked a move to the US, where he signed with the Red Bulls only to see his career grind basically to a halt. He only saw action in six Reserve team matches after signing via a trial. After another stint with Wallidan he returned in 2010, signing with the Carolina RailHawks, but again he saw no action with the club, and spent a part of the campaign on loan to Harrisburg.
That was the beginning. He scored in the one appearance he made for the team. He returned and was one of the club’s outstanding performers last year, finishing second in points and third in goals on the squad with seven goals and six assists.
Third Division players named TheCup.us Player of the Round
2012 Fourth Round: Sainey Touray (Harrisburg City Islanders)
2011 Quarterfinals: Ronnie Pascale (Richmond Kickers)
2011 Second Round: David Bulow (Richmond Kickers)
2010 Third Round: Tim Melia (Charleston Battery)
2009 Second Round: Kenny Bundy (Wilmington Hammerheads)
2008 Second Round: Floyd Franks (Cleveland City Stars)
2008 First Round: Pat Healey (Crystal Palace Baltimore)