For the first time, a team from US Club Soccer have earned a spot in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The Stanislaus United Turlock Express got a pair of goals from Salvador Vergara to defeat the National Premier Soccer League’s Bay Area Ambassadors 3-0 to book their first trip to the tournament.
US Club Soccer held a qualifying tournament for the first time this year after the United States Soccer Federation awarded a half-spot to the organization. The representative from USCS would have to play an NPSL team, and Bay Area emerged from their league’s qualifying tournament after winning their group and defeating the Sacramento Gold in a match that ended in penalty kicks.
The Ambassadors had plenty of opportunities in the opening five minutes, but could not capitalize. An early long shot from Jordan Keyes hit the crossbar, and Cristian Cortes’s rebound was headed over the net. A few minutes later Bay Area had another opportunity as Francisco Camacho sent a long crossfield pass to Cortes, but the shot went wide right. Twenty minutes in, the Stanislaus United’s Arturo Pulido dribbled through traffic and sent through to Salvador Veraga in the penalty area. Veraga one-timed the ball into the right top corner to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. The home side were able to get a couple more chances, but could not convert as the score remained 1-0 at the half.
Turlock Express kept the pressure on after halftime, as Jesse Horta forced a diving save from Bay Area keeper Julian Pereira at long range. Shortly after, Eduardo Meza sent the ball across the penalty area to Martin Arista, who recovered from a near-giveaway to double the Express lead at 57′. The Ambassadors almost cut into the lead, but Turlock keeper Javier Rosales managed to block Francis Lopez from getting the shot off. Ajaya Rana later found Lopez out of position and tried to tap it in the net, but United’s Juan Flores deflected the ball at the line. Stanislaus continued to pressure though, and Bay Area avoided calamity as Ahmad Hatifie avoided a tripping call in the penalty area, play being waved on by the referee.
However, Veraga would not be denied again. Arista ran through defenders in the 80th minute, then turned provider as he set up Veraga with an easy shot to put away the game for the Express. The United players and coaches were elated after the match, but once the dust settled, director of coaching Antonio Reis put it all in perspective. “We will have to work much harder to get ready for the quality teams we will face in the [US Open Cup],” said Reis. “We are really happy to get in and we think the kids we have can get the job done.”
2012 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Play-In (NPSL vs. US Club Soccer)
Richmond High School – Richmond, Calif.
Stanislaus United Turlock Express (USCS) 3:0 Bay Area Ambassadors (NPSL)
STA: Salvador Vergara (Arturo Pulido) – 20th minute
STA: Martin Arista (Eduardo Meza) – 57th minute
STA: Salvador Vergara – 80th minute
2012 US Club Soccer Open Cup qualifying tournament
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 vs. Napoli *Zicuiran withdraws from the competition, Napoli advances to the Final
US Club Soccer Final
April 22: Stanislaus United Turlock Express 5:2 Napoli [+] Recap Stanislaus United advances to an US Open Cup play-in match vs. Bay Area Ambassadors on April 28