Byron Carmichael is among the Professional Era's leading goalscorers. Photo: Ocean City Barons
Ocean City Barons forward Byron Carmichael has been named the USOpenCup.com Player of the Round for the First Round of the tournament. Carmichael, in his sixth season with the Premier Development League side, scored a pair of goals in a 3-0 upset win against Crystal Palace Baltimore to earn the award. He edged Sonoma County Sol’s Shawn Percell, who also scored two goals in their First Round win over the PDL’s Orange County Blue Star.
The Player of the Round is selected by the staff of USOpenCup.com and members of the North American Soccer Reporters, a group that consists of members of print, television, radio and online media. More information and membership information can be found at www.soccerreporters.com.
Carmichael, a teacher at Luis Munoz-Rivera Elementary School in Trenton, New Jersey, is participating in his fifth U.S. Open Cup and is one of the Professional Era’s leading scorers. After this year’s opening round, his 10 goals in 11 Cup matches puts him in a tie for third with Dante Washington and Sebastien Le Toux since professional teams joined the tournament in 1995. One would assume that his brightest moment in the tournament was when he helped the Wilmington Hammerheads upset Major League Soccer’s Dallas Burn (now F.C. Dallas) in 2003, but rather than assuming, we asked him for USOpenCup.com’s Player of the Round Q&A.
USOC.com: The Barons qualified for the Open Cup in 2007, knocking off Crystal Palace Baltimore at home in the First Round, but falling to Harrisburg in the next round. After missing out in 2008, you’re back with a similar result in the First Round. What is the difference between this year’s team and previous teams, like the 2007 club?
Both of the teams were very good. I feel there is more hunger for victory on the 2009 team then the 2007. We have come together very quickly as a close soccer family. We enjoy practicing and playing with each other very much. We have good chemistry on the field and off the field. I feel our preparation for Crystal Palacethis year was great. We had two really good practice sessions and went over the game plan. In 2007, I don’t think some of the players realized how important the Open Cup games are. I think the players on this team understand how big these soccer games are. These games can open doors into the professional soccer world, if your team plays well and continues to advance.
USOC.com: What are your thoughts on last Wednesday’s game?
Last Wednesday, the team played very well. We wanted the game more than Crystal Palace Baltimore I feel. We had a plan that we wanted to execute against them. We followed our game plan to perfection which allowed us to win the game. It is always exciting to play a USL-2, USL-1, or MLS team. We felt that out of all theUSL-2 teams, we could play with Crystal Palace and they might have revenge on their mind from 2007. We knew whatever team scored first would have the advantage to go onto the next round. The atmosphere at the stadium was great with the fans cheering on the team. It was a nice night to play a soccer game. I would have liked the field to be in better condition but we played good on it.
USOC.com: You scored a pair of goals, adding to your career total in the Open Cup – the first one looked tricky with the ball bouncing around on that field … can you describe both goals you scored?
The first goal came from a shot outside the 18 by Karl Reddick. It went right to Neal Melchionni who controlled it and took a shot. It deflected off his defender and it fell right to me. I struck it with my left foot into the back of the net. The second goal came from a great build up through the midfield. William Swetra won the ball in the midfield and placed a good ball to Neal. Then Neal played a square ball to Karl Reddick who continue the ball onto William Swetra. William slipped the ball between two defenders leading me on a breakaway with the goalie. I controlled the ball and blasted it by the goalie for our second goal.
USOC.com: After finishing your college career as Marshall University’s all-time leading scorer, you were drafted by the Kansas City Wizards in the 2003 MLS Superdraft, but eventually signed with the Wilmington Hammerheads of USL-2. After spending a couple years playing in the pros, you decided to settle down in South Jersey. Can you talk about your journey to come to that decision, choosing “real life” (as they call it) over a life in pro soccer?
I had always had a dream to play professional soccer when I young. I accomplished my goal and winning two USL-2 championships was an added bonus. I just felt I could do other things besides soccer that would impact other people. I get to work with children by coaching and teaching and being the best role model to them. It’s exciting seeing players I coached getting scholarships to colleges for soccer. I’m still playing competitive soccer in a very good league. I just don’t get to practice every day with my teammates. When I do have practice, I have to go teach my students first. I wouldn’t mind having another chance to play professional soccer again. If a professional team called to see if I was interested in playing, I would definitely look into playing pro again.
USOC.com: Your first professional stop took you to Wilmington where you played for the Hammerheads of the USL Second Division (it was called the USL Pro Soccer League back then). There, I would assume you achieved your
shining moment in terms of the Open Cup, a 4-1 thrashing of the Dallas Burn. You came off the bench in the second half and assisted on two goals. Can you tell us about that game, and what that Open Cup run was
All of these wins in the Open Cup holds a special place in my heart. I can tell you how every game went that I have played in during the Open Cup. Before we got to play Dallas, we beat the Atlanta Silverbacks (USL-1) 2-1 in Wilmington. It was great to play the Dallas Burn, especially at Legion Field in Wilmington. We were excited to play an MLS team in the Open Cup. We wanted to win this game and get to the next round. We came out winning first and second balls. I don’t think Dallasrealize that they would be in for a tough match. It was 1-1 going into half time. We came out in the second half on fire and were looking for the go-ahead goal. I’m glad that I could help the team with two assists that game. I will always remember beating an MLS team in the Open Cup. We went onto play D.C. United at home. It was a tough game that went back and forth between two good teams. We ended up on the losing end by giving up a late first half goal that would prove to be the game-winner.
USOC.com: Do either of the Barons’ Open Cup games compare to that Dallas Burn game? What was your favorite Barons Open Cup game?
All of the upsets in the Open Cup were great. I feel they are all about the same with the exception of beating an MLS team. When we beat the Dallas Burn, it became a night that you could never forget. I don’t have a favorite Barons Open Cup game. The games that we won are the ones that I remember the most and talk about them to my friends. It was nice to beat Crystal Palace Baltimore andLong Island because not many PDL teams can say they have beaten three professional team in their history. (USOpenCup.com note: Only four PDL teams have three or more Open Cup wins vs. professional opponents. Michigan Bucks have 7, Des Moines Menace have 5 and the Carolina Dynamo and the Ocean City Barons each have 3.)
USOC.com: How confident are you going into Round 2 against Real Maryland?
I’m confident going into our next game. I feel we can play with Real Maryland. We will be prepared for them. I think they will be ready for us too. It should make for an exciting game. Our players are excited for the chance to play another professional team. We are looking forward to playing at home with our fans that will create a great atmosphere.