UPDATE (4/27/12): The Maryland Bays have withdrawn from the third place match that (for the first time) will act as a “Win & You’re In” match for the US Open Cup. Because of the forfeit, Jersey Shore Boca become the first New Jersey club from the USASA to qualify for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Although there was a safety net with a second chance to qualify in the consolation contest next weekend, the USASA Region I Semifinals presented the four remaining clubs with a chance to claim their berths into the 2012 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup with just one final victory. And experience won out on the day as the veteran Open Cup sides Dulles Sportsplex Aegean Hawks and NY Greek American Atlas both posted 2-0 victories over clubs new looking to advance for the first time.
In a pair of border contests, the DC/Virginia champion Hawks blanked the Maryland Bays at the Maryland Soccerplex and the Greek Americans topped Jersey Shore Boca. Boca and the Bays were scheduled to determine the region’s third Open Cup berth with a third place match the following weekend, but Maryland withdrew due to injuries and lack of player availability. Jersey Shore become the first USASA club from New Jersey to qualify for the Open Cup in the Modern Pro Era (1995-present).
The Hawks continue to be one of the powers of the region, remaining the only club from Virginia to qualify for the tournament more than once, reaching the Open Cup for the third time now in six years (2007, 2009).
Heavy rains forced a back-and-forth contest between the two sides that proved to hold even until a 40th minute corner kick. Sam Scales found Watson Vaughan Prather for a point-blank header to give the Hawks the lead. It was Prather’s second strike in as many games, tallying the second goal in the Region I First Round contest, a 3-1 victory over West Chester United three weeks ago. Scales previously scored himself in the team’s 3-1 victory over Club Atletico Virginia in the state championship.
Play opened in the second half and both clubs continued to have chances, including Maryland on set pieces that came agonizingly close to equalizing, particularly a ripped 35 yard shot that narrowly missed the post with 15 minutes remaining. As the Hawks began to transition to a conservative posture to hold the advantage, the Maryland pressure continued to increase only for naught.
With six minutes left second-half sub Gui Fonseca secured the victory with a brilliant individual effort. He took the ball 18 yards out and drove past two Maryland defenders before dancing along the end line and poking a shot past the keeper at the near post. Though he was a reserve on the night, Fonseca has been a star for the team in the qualifying campaign. He notched assists on all three goals in the state championship victory and added two more in the win in the Region I opener over West Chester United.
“This is an incredible achievement for us,” said Hawks manager Jon Knight. “We’re a pay-to-play organization and not many teams like us make it this far, so it says a lot about our team. We’re looking to get into the Second Round this year, and I think we’re going to be tough to beat.”
On Randall’s Island in New York City, the New York Greek American Atlas, who have four US Open Cup titles to their credit (1967, 1968, 1969, 1974), returned to the tournament for the first time since 2005, with their win over Jersey Shore Boca.
The two teams battled to a scoreless draw at the half, but right out of the gate, the Greeks broke through in the 48th minute when Joe Ruesgen’s corner kick was volleyed in by former UMass player Ben Arikian to give the home team the lead.
New York Greek American Atlas: 4-time Open Cup champions (1967, 1968, 1969, 1974)
Later, around the 70th minute, New York would add a second when Chris Megaloudis, a Puerto Rican international who spent time with the New York Red Bulls, found Paul Shaw to make it 2-0. Shaw sent a through ball to Megaloudis in the corner, who then beat his defender, found space and crossed the ball back to Shaw, who put the ball into the back of the net at the six-yard box.
Shaw, who began his career in England with Arsenal in the early 90s, and playing for a number of European clubs before joining FC New York as a player/manager last year. In January, he accepted an assistant coaching job at Adelphi University.
Boca put on the pressure in the final 20 minutes, but the Greeks’ defense held on the clean sheet, led by former Harrisburg City Islander goalkeeper Tommy Booth, who currently coaches at LIU-Brooklyn.
“We are delighted to be back in the US Open Cup,” said Greek Americans player/manager Michael Todd.
New York advances to the Open Cup for the fourth time (1998, 2004, 2005, 2012) in the Modern Pro Era, and puts an Eastern New York team in the tournament for the third straight year and the sixth time in the last nine seasons (New York Pancyprian Freedoms 2008, 2010, 2011). The Greeks emerged from the Eastern New York tournament, defeating the 4-time defending champion Pancyprian Freedoms in the final by a score of 4-0. New York then defeated Massachusetts champion Battery Park Gunners 2-0 with late goals from Megaloudis and Keith Detelj to reach Sunday’s match against Boca.
NY Greek American Atlas (East NY) 2:0 Jersey Shore Boca (NJ)
NY: Ben Arikian (Joe Ruesgen) – 48th minute
NY: Paul Shaw (Chris Megaloudis) – 70th minute
New York Greek Americans lineup:
Tommy Booth (GK), Danny Kramer, Tom Wharfe, Billy Hole, Joe Ruesgen (Diego Velasquez – 72′), Gary Flood (Michael Todd – 42′), Ben Arikian, Josh Troff, Arman Osooli, Chris Megaloudis, Keith Detelj (Paul Shaw – 65′)
Jersey Shore Boca lineup
Bobby Feeney (GK), Vasili Foukarakis, Andrew Cotrell, Tomas Banionis, John Carrozza (Christian Pontier – 80′), Andrew Hawtin, Dane Hodge, Ryan Sherman, Joe Selitto (Dan Pires – 45′), Simon Muckle (Chris Beekman – 45′), Michael Pezza (Nick Tarquino – 60′)
Dulles Sportsplex Aegean Hawks 2:0 Maryland Bays
AH: Watson Vaughan Prather (Sam Scales) 40
AH: Gui Fonseca (Unassisted) 84
Aegean Hawks lineup:
Chris Fenner (GK), Mateus dos Anjos, Pat Selwood, James Kpainay, Devlin Barnes, Michael Goldman, Watson Vaughan Prather (Danny Irizarry – 65th), Sam Scales, Ernesto Marquez (Lonnie Carter – 75′), Scott Larrabee, Matt Ney (Gui Fonseca – 70′)
2012 USASA Region I Open Cup tournament
Round 1 (April 1)
Battery Park Gunners (Mass.) 0:2 NY Greek American Atlas (East NY) [+] Recap
West Chester United Predators (East PA) 1:3 Dulles Sportsplex Aegean Hawks (DC/VA) [+] Recap
Semifinals (April 22)
Jersey Shore Boca (NJ) 0:2 NY Greek American Atlas (East NY)
Maryland Bays (MD) 0:2 Dulles Sportsplex Aegean Hawks (DC/VA)
NY Greek American Atlas, Aegean Hawks both qualify for 2012 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup
Third Place Game (April 29)
Maryland Bays (MD) at Jersey Shore Boca (NJ)
John Patrick Sports Complex – Lakewood, NJ – 2 p.m.
Winner qualifies for 2012 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup