The second semifinal of the 2013 edition of the New Jersey Open Cup tournament was a clash between two Garden State League teams from the Super Division, played at the Berkley Soccer Complex in Bayville, NJ. First time participants, Icon FC took on Jersey Shore Boca. Jersey Shore Boca’s dream of advancing to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup for the second straight year came to end after losing to Icon FC 5-4 in a penalty shootout after playing to a 2-2 draw.
With the win, Icon FC earned the right to play Polonia Wallington in the New Jersey final on March 24. Polonia needed extra time to defeat three-time state champion Go Soccer FC 2-1 in the other semifinals the week before. The winner of the New Jersey final will qualify for the quarterfinals of the USASA Region 1 Finals where they will hit the road to play Eastern Pennsylvania champion West Chester United.
The Montville, NJ based club, Icon FC dominated play throughout the first half. The team did a good job taking control of the midfield and was especially dangerous on the right side of the field; where they were able create scoring opportunities through crosses. Icon forward Adam Bajek tested Jersey Shore Boca goalkeeper Robert Feeney with a strike that forced Feeney to come up with a good save.
As the game went on Icon continued to work the ball well. Any time the Jersey Shore Boca offense came close to the opposing box, they were met with a very well organized defense.
However, even though Icon was dominating the first half, Boca scored first with Justin McGrath. The play started when Icon goalkeeper Chris Duggan saved a shot from Nick Tarquino, but the rebound fell to McGrath who took advantage and put the ball into the back of the net in the 13th minute. The goal did not take away Icon’s concentration as they continued to press forward.
A few minutes after falling behind, they were rewarded for their skilled play when midfielder Nelson Becerra scored the tying goal from a free kick. He shot the ball low to the keeper’s right side. It seemed to be an easy shot for the keeper to save, but the ball managed to slip through Feeney’s arms.
During the early minutes of the first half it seemed the game was being played at a more equal level, with both teams coming out hungry to score goals. Icon missed two clear chances in front of the keeper to go ahead and McGrath had a chance to put Boca in the lead after beating Chris Duggan, but missed the open net with a shot that went wide.
The second half began to look more like the first half with Icon creating more opportunities thanks to their goal scorer Becerra. He was able to get another shot on target and provided his teammates with opportunities to score. Despite the efforts from both teams, neither was able to find the back of the net in the second half and the game went into extra time.
The first 15 minutes made it clear that both teams were tired after playing a full 90 minutes. Even with tired legs, Boca was able to create the best scoring chance in the first half of overtime. Thomas Gray sprinted down the right side of the field, dribbled past a defender and passed the ball to McGrath who took a shot right in front of goal. Boca would have taken the lead at that point but Duggan made an impressive reflex save to keep his team in the game.
The first half of overtime ended with both teams still level with one goal for each side. The second half of overtime started with Boca substitute left back Ryan O’Donnell taking the ball up the field and striking it from outside the box, beating the keeper in the opening minute of the overtime period. As time was running out it seemed that Jersey Shore Boca was going to go home with the win, but in the 115th minute, Icon found an equalizer. Becerra crossed the ball into the box from a corner kick, which Adam Bajek headed into the goal, tying the game and taking the semifinal to penalty kicks.
Greg Bajek stepped up first for Icon, shooting the ball easily past the goalkeeper. Duggan followed up that goal with a save on Boca’s first attempt by McGrath. Icon and Boca exchanged goals for the next three rounds, setting up Round 5. Icon had a chance to punch their ticket to the championship game but Adam Kelemet rattled his attempt off the crossbar which shifted the pressure to Boca’s Thomas Gray. He didn’t seem to mind the pressure as he put the ball comfortably in the back of the net. Jonathan Yazo converted Icon’s first sudden death penalty kick, but Ryan O’Donnell of Boca was not as fortunate as he shot wide to send Icon into the state final for the first time.
New Jersey Semifinals
Polonia Wallington SC 2:1 (aet) Go Soccer FC
Jersey Shore Boca 2:2 Icon FC
Icon FC advances 5-4 in penalty kicks
New Jersey Final (March 24)
Polonia Wallington vs. Icon FC
Recent New Jersey Open Cup champions
2012: Jersey Shore Boca
2011: Go Soccer FC
2010: Go Soccer FC
2009: Go Soccer FC
2008: SC Vistula Garfield*
2007: No entry
2006: Sport Club Portuguese
2005: Kappa Real Wyckoff
2004: Sport Club Portuguese
2003: SC Vistula Garfield
2002: ZPA Perth Amboy
2001: ZPA Perth Amboy
2000: SC Vistula Garfield
1999: SC Vistula Garfield
1998: SC Vistula Garfield
* Withdrew from USASA Region I tournament