For the first time in five years, a Massachusetts club has qualified for one of the eight amateur slots in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. It was Mass Premier Soccer (Bay State Soccer League) doing the honors as they defeated Newtown Pride FC (Connecticut Soccer League) 6-0 on a beautiful spring day at Framingham State University’s Maple Street Field.
It was a “Win & You’re In” match up in the USASA Region I Open Cup semifinals and after an unsettled first five minutes there was only one team that was going to find their way into the 100th edition of the storied tournament.
In the 9th minute, MPS player-manager Nick Christman whipped in a dangerous cross from the left that put Newtown’s defense on their heels, eventually playing the ball into their own net for an own goal.
The match continued to be played in Newtown’s defensive end as MPS’ organized high pressure allowed them to dictate play. In the 25th minute, it was through this pressure that Christman was again able to provide MPS with good service through a corner kick and John O’Reilly put the second goal in the net on a well-taken volley.
In the 40th minute, MPS struck again, and this time it was a vibrant team passing move that unlocked the Newtown back-line. A well-worked bit of central midfield passing freed up the ever-dangerous Tyler MacNee on the right wing who used a brilliant touch to beat his man before sliding a pass into the on-rushing Charlie Romero who put the ball into the back of the net.
Now in total control, MPS could have settled for the 3-0 scoreline and used their firm grasp on possession to see their way through the second 45 minutes but instead they continued to apply pressure and create chance after chance.
“We played really well today,” said MPS’ Dan MacGregor. “We were able to press really hard because of our unbelievably solid back four. I don’t think there are a lot of amateur teams that are ready to deal with our pressure right from the get go.”
Newtown proved one of those amateur teams unable to cope. Throughout the match Newtown was often guilty of taking one touch too many. Such was the case in the 56th minute, off a Newtown midfield turnover, that MPS’ fourth goal was started. After quickly advancing on the Newtown back-line it was former Middlebury College man MacNee who blasted a shot that created a welcoming rebound for Romero to slot home his second goal of the match.
It was only five minutes later, in the 61st minute, when Roy Sanderman added to the goal haul as he rose above the Newtown Pride defense and deftly headed a whipped set piece home to make the score 5-0.
Mass Premier Soccer last entered the USASA Region I tournament in 2011 when they won the Massachusetts Open Cup championship. They fell one game short of the US Open Cup, losing to the Pancyprian Freedoms in the semifinals.
It was two years ago when MPS lost to the New York Pancyprian Freedoms (Cosmopolitan Soccer League) on the very same field, at the very same point of the tournament, but on this day history was not going to repeat itself. There was no stopping the Massachusetts representatives as they were on their way to earning their first Open Cup berth in club history.
The sort of day MPS was enjoying was entirely evident on the sixth and final goal. In the 65th minute, MPS’ Kevin Unger stripped a Newtown defender of possession, took a positive first touch to cross the halfway line and unleashed a drive from 40 yards out to beat the out-of-position Newtown Pride keeper in impressive fashion.
After an impressive run in US Open Cup Qualifying that saw the first time entrants knock off the aforementioned New York Pancyprian Freedoms and do their part in lifting a community still recovering from indescribable tragedy, Newtown Pride FC will return to their regular Connecticut Soccer League fixtures.
MPS will await the draw of the US Open Cup and are also looking forward to their upcoming US Amateur Open Cup Region I Qualifying Final against New Jersey side Icon FC. The winner of that match will book a trip to San Antonio for the National Finals.
Mass Premier becomes the first Massachusetts-based USASA club to qualify for the Open Cup since Emigrantes Das Ilhas in 2009. The only other club from the state to qualify in the Modern Professional Era was Boston Olympiakos in 2008.
“Playing in games like this bring out the best in our squad,” said MacGregor. “We’re deep, guy 1 through 20 is capable of playing really great soccer. I think we have a great shot against any PDL team, or any team really in next round. We’re basically a PDL team but a little older and I think we have every chance to go on in this tournament.”
You can follow Christopher Camille on Twitter @Chris_Camille and find his work on NESoccerToday.com