EL PASO, Texas – An own goal, or so it was explained, by an El Paso Patriots defender from in front of the goal mouth in the 72nd minute helped the Charlotte Eagles of USL Pro to a win 1-0 over the El Paso Patriots of the PDL in U.S. Open Cup second-round play on a hot night in west Texas Tuesday.
The Eagles’ Nate Thornton was originally awarded the goal, with an assist from defender Scott Jones, who sent in a ball to the box that was deflected into the net amid a lot of traffic.
But Thornton was the first to admit he didn’t score, and he credited midfielder Milton Blanco with making a strong run and whipping the ball in.
“I’ll take it. I made the run, but it was definitely an own goal,” Thornton said with a grin. “Hard to deal with. The (El Paso) guy couldn’t clear it out and it just hit off the wrong side of his head.”
Charlotte won for the second time in Open Cup play history at El Paso in two meetings, and advanced to play at FC Dallas next week in the Third Round. The Eagles must fly home and then drive down to Orlando for a league match this weekend, then turn around and fly to Dallas-Fort Worth soon after that.
The key, Eagles coach Mark Steffens said, was his team going to a 4-4-2 from a 4-3-3 early in the second half. The Patriots had the majority of the scoring chances in the first half and looked poised to get a win at home, but the Eagles made the most of one of the few opportunities they had.
“I thought the two guys up front gave us a little bit more pressure on the other guys on El Paso,” Steffens said. “Created a few more chances for us. We really didn’t bring our ‘A’ game, but guys fought hard and pulled out a win.”
Edgar Mendoza’s shot in the 32nd minute was tipped away just in time by Charlotte goalkeeper Clint Irwin. That came after three other quality looks for the Patriots.
The Eagles were better in the second half. Forward Mauricio Salles had one of his two good shots hit the cross bar and roll away.
The Patriots tried to rally for an equalizer, but Irwin turned back headers by forward Michael Griego in the 86th and 89th minutes.
“We dominated in the first few minutes until the end,” midfielder Sergio Villasenor said. “It was a shame the way they scored. The ball came in from the side and it was an own goal. That was the only good play they had, but that’s soccer. Tough loss at home.”
The Eagles are hoping to get some injured starters back soon to bolster their lineup against FC Dallas.
“Against Dallas, we’ll get a scouting report and I think we’ll probably just sit in a little bit, defend, try to counterattack,” Steffens said.
CHAR- Daniel Campos (own goal) 72′
CHAR- Milton Blanco 40′ (caution, tactical foul)
CHAR- Joe Kabwe 43′ (caution, rough play)
ELP- Adrian Moreno 75′ (caution, tactical foul)
ELP- Ernesto Bolivar 82′ (caution, rough play)
ELP- David Salas 84′ (tactical foul)
Referee: Mark DeClouet
Weather: 90 degrees, clear
Jose Romero is a freelance sports journalist from Phoenix who is always looking for a game of any kind to watch. He’s a former Seattle Sounders beat writer who has written about soccer regularly since late 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @RomeroJoseM