UPDATE: The Brooklyn Italians qualified for the 2011 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup with a 2-1 victory on the road versus FC Sonic Lehigh Valley. More details to come…
The third of four 2011 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup berths allotted to the National Premier Soccer League will be determined Friday night at Lehigh University’s Ulrich Sports Complex in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania when the Brooklyn Italians visit FC Sonic Lehigh Valley at 7:30 pm ET.
The match is the final of the three-team Northeast Division tournament that began with the two-time US Open Cup champion Brooklyn Italians (1979, 91) narrowly defeating visiting FC Buffalo 1-0 Saturday, May 7.
The two clubs will be meeting for the first time as both teams play in the NPSL, but in a different conference. FC Sonic is the NPSL defending champions, hailing out of the Keystone Conference. Brooklyn plays in the Atlantic Conference.
“We need to play a very good game to win,” Italians coach Tony Noto said “They are a very good team.”
Since the first qualification match victory against Buffalo, another Keystone Conference club, Brooklyn opened its season with a 2-1 loss on the road to Mass United FC. FC Sonic, meanwhile, is unbeaten through four games and are on a three-game win streak since a draw in the season opener, outscoring their opponents 8-2 on aggregate.
“I traveled to watch [FC Sonic] play this past weekend,” Noto said. “They are very organized and attack well. They have a great atmosphere in the stadium.”
FC Sonic won the 2010 NPSL Championship
FC Sonic tied the NY Red Bulls 1-1 in the opener and followed it up with two consecutive road wins against the NJ Blaze, 2-1, and the Pocono Snow, 2-0, before returning home to blank the Buxmont Torch, 3-0.
FC Sonic received the bye as the defending NPSL Regional Champion. Buffalo and Brooklyn were the only other clubs in the 14-team division who chose to enter.
Previously, NPSL clubs needed to qualify through the USASA Regional tournaments. Only two clubs from the league entered for Region I a year ago. The Erie Admirals (PA) withdrew prior to the first match while the Brooklyn Italians went on to qualify from the region courtesy of a reprieve. After falling in the opening round to Imigrantes Das Ilhas, administrators overturned the result due to an ineligible player. With their second life, Brooklyn went on to defeat Go Soccer FC and Fenerbahce USA to earn one of the region’s two berths in the US Open Cup.
The Italians acquitted themselves well in the First Round of the 2010 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, taking the Harrisburg City Islanders of the USL Second Division (pro third division) to overtime before falling 4-2. They took the lead once in each half only to see their hosts equalize both times.
About the Teams
Brooklyn Italians: New members of the NPSL in 2010, the club’s history is lengthy and dynamic. The club played in the second edition of the American Soccer League from 1956-64 before playing as an amateur club since. All along, the club has played under numerous names. While its recent history is as an amateur club, it was one of the premier teams to play in the US Open Cup over the course of 12 years during the tournament’s amateur era. The side won the tournament in 1979 and was runner-up two years later. They returned to prominence in 1990 as runners-up, following it up with a second US Open Cup title the next year that led to appearances in the CONCACAF Champions Cup and CONCACAF Cup Winners Cup in 1991. Head coach Joey Barone is no stranger to qualifying, but was unable to lead the West Michigan Edge into the US Open Cup in two attempts (2005-06) in the PDL. Last year, Brooklyn finished second in the Northeast Division’s Atlantic Conference, losing out on the playoff berth via a tiebreaker. The club was level with New York Red Bull NPSL (10-1-1, 31 points) in the conference table as well as having the same totals as the division champion FC Sonic Lehigh Valley.
FC Sonic Lehigh Valley: New to the NPSL a year ago, the club performed well in its debut, finishing first in the division’s Keystone Conference and winning the divisional playoff game to advance to the league semifinals. After falling to eventual champion Sacramento Gold, they rebounded to finish third. This is the team’s first attempt to qualify for the US Open Cup. They are led by head coach Dave Weitzman, a local high school and former collegiate men’s assistant coach.