First time US Open Cup entrants the Screaming Eagles defeated two-time defending champions Maryland Bays 4-2 in what can only be considered a wild final in Maryland’s Rowland Cup, the state’s US Open Cup Qualifying tournament. With their first final appearance and win, the Eagles advance to the USASA Region I tournament and are now just two wins away from the Open Cup proper.
The Eagles will move on to host the Metro D.C./Virginia champions Dulles Sportsplex Aegean Hawks on April 7 in the Region I quarterfinals. The winner will play the team that emerges from the yet-to-be determined New Jersey champion and Eastern Pennsylvania title holder West Chester United in a “Win & You’re In” match on April 21.
The Screaming Eagles also make a little history in the process as they were the first Maryland International Soccer League team to enter the tournment, and now they are the first to win it.
While the six goals themselves, including two deep in stoppage time, would normally signal a lively affair, the goalscoring was only the tip of the iceberg. The game nearly saw the winning team have to start with only eight players, suffered four somewhat soft yellow cards, three mass confrontations, two clear red cards, a bizarre episode where two fans were ejected from the match and a seven minute suspension of the match while those fans were ejected.
The strange afternoon began even before the first whistle. In an interesting twist, the change to daylight savings time affected the Eagles, who five minutes before kick-off had only eight players. Just before the match started, three additional players arrived to give the Eagles a full complement of players. The Bays, on the other hand, had nearly as many players on their bench. In the 13th minute, three more Eagles arrived to give the first time entrants a bench to tap into for the game.
The first half was dominated by the Bays, who were fully warmed up and working to overcome their normal slow start. The experienced champions took control of possession and showed some sharp passing to create a few chances and keep the Eagles on the back foot. The Eagles, a physically strong, quick team, lacked cohesion and struggled to get passes strung together and their play was easily disrupted.
The physical tone of the match was set early when the Bays’ Antonio Bue made a strong, sliding challenge in the Eagles penalty area. Although a foul was called, the referee just spoke to Bue, on what appeared to be a studs up challenge, normally a misconduct warranting a yellow card. The game only got more physical from here.
The Bays took the early lead when a scramble on the left side saw multiple attempts by the Bays to cross the ball and ultimately winger Elton Joe was able to get a ball across the face of goal. With the Eagles defenders drawn to one side, Bays midfielder Chris Ports was standing all alone, unmarked and one-timed a right footer into the back of the net from six yards out in the 18th minute.
The remainder of the first half saw neither team able to create any solid chances. For the Eagles, it looked as though their best chances would come down the left flank, where Malone Komara was regularly beating Aaron Beall, but Bays centerback Josh Taylor snuffed out any real chances.
By the 40th minute, it had become clear that the refereeing was going to be a factor in the game and it would only be a matter of time before a red card was shown. The inconsistent calls were leading to a escalation of physical play, dangerous tackles and almost constant bickering from the Eagles team. The Bays players and managers had a good case about being on the short end of the referee’s inconsistency, but both teams played through.
When the teams returned to the pitch for the second half, the Bays jumped early into the attack. Again demonstrating quick ball movement, the Bays put two shots on goal and a couple of near misses in the first ten minutes of the half.
The 60th minute saw a definitive shift in the game. The Bays players, though technically skilled, were being muscled off the ball, sometimes fairly, and sometimes, it appeared, not so fairly. The Eagles, for their part, were beginning to link well through the midfield and the movement of their strikers, Munir Hassan and Francis Kamara, began creating options and opportunities.
In the 65th minute, Kamara took possession approximately 30 yards out from goal in the left channel and pushed a clean pass toward the center to the feet of an unmarked Olakunle Banjo who fired a curling right footer past the outstretched arms of Bays keeper Phil Latham to level the match.
After some midfield back and forth, the Bays’ Elton Joe and Powell Cuchiella counterattacked into the heart of the Eagles defense in the 72nd minute. Joe played a nifty through ball to the running Cuchiella who collected the pass at the top of the penalty area, took one touch, and then nutmegged the Eagles keeper for a goal.
At the time of the Bays second goal, the game started to get out of control. In fairly quick order, three Bays defenders, Josh Taylor, Matt Shell and Maxx Hurkamp received yellow cards in fairly dubious circumstances. The calls, in their view, were similar and sometimes identical to challenges made by the Eagles that often went without a call, let alone a yellow card. By the 75th minute, it was clear that tempers were simmering.
Just six minutes after the go-ahead goal, Eagles defender Alimany Jabbie elbowed Elton Joe in the face in a clear case of serious foul play. However, whether the referee was screened or not, it did not appear that he was prepared to issue any discipline to Jabbie, an action that incensed the Bays’ bench. The assistant referee clearly saw the incident and after a discussion with the referee, Jabbie was given his marching orders. The red card touched off the first mass confrontation with Eagles players and managers pleading Jabbie’s case, but the appeals were for naught. Play resumed but tempers were high.
In the 81st minute, Eagles Olakunle Banjo scored his second goal of the game with a hard blast from the right channel, leveling the score at 2-2. It looked as though play was headed to extra time. But when the Bays attempted to begin play again, the ball was kicked away and a few words were exchanged, leading to the second mass confrontation, during which the Eagles’ Christian Culker, who had been substituted out of the game, entered the field of play and appeared to push or strike another player. Culker was given his marching orders, but the Eagles remained with 10 men on the field.
Another attempt to restart play was delayed when Bays manager Andrew Dicea complained to the officials about the number of managers and non-player personnel in the Eagles technical area. An Eagles fan responded by coming down from top of the stands, and began shouting at Dicea from the lowest level of the stands. After two minutes of heated exchanges, the referee then ejected the fan from the grounds, which led to a third mass confrontation. When the Eagles fan refused to leave, a Bays fan took a photo of the Eagles fan and apparently called the local police who responded with four officers. The referee then ejected the Bays fan. When neither fan showed any inclination to leave, the referee suspended the match until such time as the fans left.
After another five minute delay during which the referee refused to restart the match until the ejected fans left the grounds, the fans finally left, although without police escort. Play resumed, and it appeared as though the Bays would simply ride the game out to extra time and mentally regroup. But a free kick conceded at the left corner of the penalty area changed matters.
Jonathan Orlando stepped up to the kick and bent the ball around and over the three-man wall and past the diving Latham and into the back of the net for what would be the game winner five minutes into a lengthy second half stoppage time. In response, the Bays threw everything forward in an attempt to equalize. However, a minute later, the Eagles were on a 2-on-1 break and Orlando scored his second goal in less than two minutes to give the the team a 4-2 lead.
The referee called full time a minute later and the Maryland Bays were denied the Maryland tournament’s first three-peat since Casa Mia won three straight titles from 1995-97.
2013 US Open Cup Qualifying – Maryland
Rowland Cup Final
Bays: Chris Ports – 18th min.
Eagles: Olakunle Banjo – 65th min.
Bays: Powell Cuchiella – 72nd min.
Eagles: Olakunle Banjo – 81st min.
Eagles: Jonathan Orlando – 95th+ min.
Eagles: Jonathan Orlando – 96th+ min.
Bays: Chris Ports – Yellow Card (reckless challenge)
Bays: Josh Taylor – Yellow Card (reckless challenge)
Bays: Matt Shell – Yellow Card (reckless challenge)
Eagles: Alimany Jabbie – Red Card (Serious Foul Play)
Bays: Maxx Hurkamp – Yellow card (reckless challenge)
Eagles: Christain Culker – Red Card (Violent Conduct)
Screaming Eagles: Edwin Theodore (Christian Caulker) Francis Kamara, Issa Mohamed, Isiaka Kamara, Guillermo Rodriguez, Godwin Amuzie, Usif Sindel, Alimamy Jabbie, Mannie Yamson, Jonathan Orlando, Olakunle Banjo | Subs: Larry Sawyer, Malone Koroma, Bash Bangura, Abdul Rasheed
Maryland Bays: craig Nearhood, Powell Cuchiella, Phil Latham, Brian Moffa, Chris Williams, Matt Shell, Maxx Hurkamp, Chris Ports, Josh Taylor, Ray Kuemmer, Mike Gill, Elton Joe, Aaron Beall, Kevin Gnitcko, Antonio Bue, Bryan Barry, Jon Ports, Glen Letich.
Past Maryland Open Cup champions
2013: Screaming Eagles
2012: Maryland Bays 2011: Maryland Bays 2010: Charm City FC
2009: Christos FC
2008: Baltimore Colts FC
2007: AC United (Note: Christos FC & Allied SC merged)
2006: Allied SC*
2005: Baltimore Colts FC*
2004: Allied SC*
2003: Brilla Baltimore
2002: Christos FC
2001: DiPasquale Baltimore Colts FC
2000: Jerry D’s*
1999: Jerry D’s
1998: High Topps
*qualified for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup