The qualifying tournament is complete and US Club Soccer has crowned a champion that they hope will become the organization’s first-ever entry into the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Stanislaus United Turlock Express defeated Napoli, 5-2, at Chukchansi Park in Fresno to earn a spot in next weekend’s play-in game against the National Premier Soccer League’s (NPSL) Bay Area Ambassadors. The winner will qualify for the 99th edition of the US Open Cup.
Turlock Express jumped out a 3-0 lead in the first half and held off Napoli’s second half rally to put themselves one win away from US Club Soccer’s first-ever berth in the US Open Cup. Martyn Artista led the way for Turlock with a pair of goals.
Stanislaus United is a club based in Stanislaus County (which includes the cities of Modesto and Turlock), and the Turlock Express is the adult portion of that club. The Express field a variety of teams including outdoor teams as well as an indoor team who qualified for the playoffs last season in the Professional Arena Soccer League.
“We are very thankful to US Club Soccer for giving our club this opportunity to qualify for the US Open Cup,” said Antonio Reis, the director of coaching at Stanislaus United. “We will work very hard this week to get prepared and I know that we’ll be ready to play next weekend.”
The opening 20 minutes were entertaining between the Express and Napoli, who are based in Paso Robles, Calif. (about 150 miles south of San Jose). The Express created some early chances starting by misfiring on a dangerous ball sent into the box and missing on a shot from just outside the 18-yard-box in the opening five minutes. In the 12th minute, Arturo Pulido launched a 35-yard shot that just missed the target. Napoli created chances of their own off a counter attack, they forced a save from United goalkeeper Javier Rosales, then both teams would hit the post, all in the first 22 minutes.
The first goal would come in the 23rd minute when Adrian Gutierrez sent Artista in behind the defense, setting a one-on-one battle with the goalkeeper which he would win.
10 minutes later, Pulido would set up Gutierrez for a 30-yard blast to put the Express up 2-0.
Napoli nearly found an answer as Dana McGregor used his speed to find space in Turlock’s end of the field. He used that space to set up a 25-yard shot that just missed wide.
A 2-0 deficit seemed manageable for Napoli, as they were creating chances of their own, but they would give up a third right before the halftime break. Samuel Saldate found Salvador Vergara in front of goal to make it 3-0, shifting all the momentum to Stanislaus United.
Napoli refused to give up as they struck quickly in the second half. A McGregor free kick found the head of Eric Ward to cut the lead to two.
In the 67th minute, Jose Barajas’ shot hit the post for Turlock, but just six minutes later, Ward wouldn’t miss as his second goal of the half gave the game new life with a 3-2 scoreline.
The newly found optmism for Napoli fans was quickly dashed when Pulido made it 4-2 for the Express less than a minute later. In the 84th minute, the Express put the game away with Artista knifing through the Napoli defense and scoring.
United goalkeeper Rosales shut down Napoli’s last real chance in the final minutes, making a save on a breakaway to keep the score at 5-2.
TheCup.us would like to thank Gabe Rood for contributing to this report
2012 US Club Soccer Open Cup qualifying tournament final
April 22 – Chukchansi Park – Fresno, CA
Stanislaus United Turlock Express 5:2 Napoli
STA: Martyn Artista (Adrian Gutierrez) – 23rd minute
STA: Adrian Gutierrez (Arturo Pulido) – 33rd minute
STA: Samuel Saldate (Salvador Vergara) – 45th minute
NAP: Eric Ward (Dana McGregor) – 49th minute
NAP: Eric Ward (Unassisted) – 73rd minute
STA: Arturo Pulido (Unassisted) – 74th minute
STA: Martyn Artista (Unassisted) – 84th minute
2012 US Club Soccer Open Cup qualifying tournament summary
March 31: Pacific Los Gatos Storm 4:1 Sacramento United Legend
April 1: Stanislaus United Turlock Express 3:1 Pacific Los Gatos Storm
April 7: Stanislaus United Turlock Express 1:0 Sacramento United Legend
April 15: Zicuiran 28 vs. Napoli
*Zicuiran 28 withdrew from the competition, Napoli advances to the Final.
US Club Soccer Final
April 22: Stanislaus United Turlock Express 5:2 Napoli
Stanislaus United advance to US Open Cup Play-In Game
NPSL / US Club Soccer Play-In Game (Win & You’re In)
April 28: Stanislaus United Turlock Express at Bay Area Ambassadors
Richmond High School – Richmond, Calif. – 5 p.m. PT