It took 120 minutes, but when the dust settled at the Manhattan Village Field in Manhattan Beach, Calif. on Saturday night, Cal FC defeated Doxa Italia 3-2. The win earned an expected return to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup for the first time since their dream run to the fourth round in 2012.
The one-game playoff between USASA teams was decided in the second overtime when Jaime Chavez scored his second goal of the game in a scramble in the box after a long ball was played in.
The game was sent to extra time on a stoppage time equalizer and penalty kicks were narrowly avoided as the game-winner was scored in the final minute of overtime.
“We didn’t practice (before the game),” said Cal FC manager Michael Friedman. “Most of these guys on the field never even had touched a ball with each other. Part of the game was just getting acclimated to the style of play and getting accustomed to the speed of play.”
This is the third year in a row that the two clubs have met with an Open Cup berth on the line. Cal FC edged Doxa Italia 4-3 in group play in 2012, and last year, Doxa won 2-1 to earn their second trip to the tournament in three years. With the USASA’s Open Cup qualifying deadline moved up to Dec. 31, the two teams were chosen for the play-in game since they are the two most recnet clubs to qualify for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Cal FC defeated Doxa Italia 3-2 in extra time to unofficially punch their ticket to the 2014 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Photo: John Santos
With the win, Cal FC is expected to join 2013 Region IV Open Cup champion PSA Elite as the region’s two entries in the 2014 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The reason their Open Cup spot is unofficial is because the US Soccer Federation has yet to announce the tournament’s 2014 format, so the region’s two spots are not set in stone. However, USASA officials have told TheCup.us they expect to retain their eight entries (two per region) for the 11th year in a row.
The Cal FC side, which made a name for themselves in 2012 by upsetting Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers in the third round, were managed by Friedman and former US international Eric Wynalda. This year, Wynalda is still involved with the club, but it is unclear if he will be roaming the sidelines for the team during this year’s cup run.
Down 2-1, thanks to two goals from Doxa Italia midfielder and former New England Revolution player Bryan Byrne, Cal FC substitute German Alfaro headed in a cross in the 93rd minute to force overtime.
Doxa Italia had subbed out Byrne late in the game, so they were forced to play the remainder of the game without their star attacker.
“The ball was in our defensive third for most of the game,” said Friedman. “It wasn’t until the last 10 minutes of the half that we started connecting and were able to transition the ball from the midfield to our target forward, Jaime.”
“In the second half, we were just schooling these guys.”
The game was not without controversy. When Cal FC scored their second and third goals of the game, the Italia bench erupted with calls for offside, but the officials, and Cal FC, saw it differently.
“There was excellent refereeing. There were no problems with that,” said Friedman, who did earlier admit that he had trouble seeing across the field due to the foggy conditions and poor lighting.
Despite falling short of a second straight Open Cup berth, Doxa Italia manager Joe Cartlidge was proud of his team’s effort.
“Undoubtedly, we’re disappointed with the loss but we played extraordinarily well as a team,” said Cartlidge. “We defended as a single unit, our communication was the best it’s been all season and we had two stellar goals.”
The Cal FC continued the state of California’s recent dominance of Region IV with their victory. 2014 will mark the fourth year in a row that both of the region’s entries will be from the Golden State.
PAST US OPEN CUP ENTRIES FROM REGION IV
2014: Cal FC (SCA), PSA Elite (SCA)
2013: Doxa Italia (SCA), PSA Elite (SCA)
2012: Cal FC (SCA), PSA Elite (SCA)
2011: Doxa Italia (SCA), DV8 Defenders (NCA)
2010: Arizona Sahuaros (AZ), Bay Area Ambassadors (NPSL)
2009: Arizona Sahuaros (AZ), Sonoma County Sol (NCA)
2008: Arizona Sahuaros (AZ – NPSL), Hollywood United (SCA)
2007: Banat Arsenal (AZ), El Paso Indios (NPSL)
2006: Arizona Sahuaros (AZ), Sonoma County Sol (NCA – NPSL)
2005: Salinas Valley Samba (NPSL), Sonoma County Sol (NCA – NPSL)
2004: Chico Rooks (NCA – NPSL), Sacramento Knights (NCA – NPSL)
2003: Chico Rooks (NCA – NPSL)
2002: Mexico SC (NCA)
2001: Mexico SC (NCA)
2000: Mexico SC (NCA)
1999: Mexico SC (NCA)
1998: San Nicolas (CSA)
1997: Inter SC (NCA)
1996: San Jose Oaks (NCA)
1995: Flamengo SC (UT)