2014 US Open Cup qualifying: Defense rules opening matches of USSSA tournament (with Saturday updates)

Posted by | March 15, 2014

The United States Specialty Sports Association kicked off their Lamar Hunt US Open Cup qualifying tournament on Friday night with four games as group play began in the eight-team competition.

All four opening games ended in a shutout as the Kansas City Athletics, Colorado Sporting Premier, FC Denver and defending champion Colorado Rovers all picked up three points in Overland Park, Kan. The games being played at this year’s competition are all 50 minutes long, due to scheduling limitations. The shortened games have made for some intense battles as teams have little time to waste to pick up valuable points in the group stage.

  • PREVIEW: 2014 USSSA Open Cup qualifying tournament
  • 2014 US Open Cup qualifying: USSSA Day 1 recap
  • The Colorado Sporting Premier had no trouble with Boulevard, taking the match 5-0, while FC Denver defeated Performance Soccer 3-0. (More details to come.)

    COLORADO ROVERS 2:0 COMETS EXPRESS

    Almost 700 miles from home, it took the Colorado Rovers time to find their footing.

    Once they got going, though, the Rovers looked like a team capable of defending its USSSA title.

    Brenden Hughes and Scott Crawford scored second-half goals to help the Colorado side open its title defense with a 2-0 win over the hometown Comets Express.

    “[There were] a little bit of nerves coming out,” said Rovers coach Erick French. “It took about 35 minutes to get our feet under us.”

    Nerves seemed to affect both sides in a first half that featured a scrappy midfield battle and few scoring opportunities for either team.

    The first real chance came eleven minutes in when Comets goalkeeper Chris Plooster misjudged a corner kick, but Rovers defender Dele Johnson sent his header over the open net.

    Five minutes later the Rovers had another chance to take the lead when Scott Crawford intercepted a pass in midfield and fed Arkadiusz Raclawski who beat two defenders only to hit his shot from inside the box right into the arms of Plooster.

    Colorado refocused after the break and five minutes into the second half the goal finally came. Quick, one-touch passing opened up space for Hunt down the right flank and his cross to the near post found a diving Hughes for a 1-0 lead.

    “Some of the one-touch stuff was magic,” said French. “It’s just fun to watch.”

    “[George] and I just made eye contact,” said Hughes. “It was a perfect ball and he made it easy for me. I finished it pretty nicely, but all credit to him.”

    The goal seemed to open the game up and the final 20 minutes saw chances for both teams.

    Hunt managed to get free again in the 40th minute and his cross found Brian Sheenhan alone in the six yard box, but the forward inexplicably hit his shot right into the arms of Plooster.

    Comets best chance to equalize came in the 41st minute. Brian Turner beat Colorado ‘keeper Mark Saxby to a free kick and sent a looping header toward goal, but defender Travis Hutchinson managed to recover and clear the ball before it could cross the line.

    Six minutes later Scott Crawford sealed the win for the Rovers with beautiful curler from the left edge of the 18-yard box.

    “That first half I thought we had possession pretty much the entire half,” said Comets Express coach Brad Geraldi. “Coming out [in the second half] we played very flat and they took advantage.”

    The result leaves Colorado Rovers second in Group A on goal differential after Colorado Sporting Premier defeated Boulevard 4-0 later in the evening. Coach French said his team would rotate some new players in to ensure everyone stays fresh for both games on Saturday.

    Geraldi said he’d also rotate his team. He said he knows the Comets have to get a result in game one on Saturday to stay alive, but he’s confident they can do so.

    “Absolutely not,” said Geraldi when asked if he’d make any changes to the way his team played heading into Saturday. “If we come out playing the way we did we’ll be in good shape.”

    KANSAS CITY ATHLETICS 4:0 AZTECA MOJOS

    For the KC Athletics the USSSA Nationals represents a second chance at qualifying for the US Open Cup after the team was knocked out of USASA Region II qualifying by the Des Moines Menace last fall.

    “We’re not changing the emphasis,” said player/coach Kyle Perkins when asked if there was extra motivation. “We put out 100% in Iowa and we’ll do the same here. Hopefully it’s a better result this time.”

    So far so good.

    KC used a pair of first half goals from Garrett Webb and second half strikes from John Markey and Matt Kuhn to cruise to a 4-0 win over Azteca Mojos in its opening group stage game.

    The Athletics pressed high up the pitch and controlled the game throughout, generating midfield turnovers and scoring chances through smooth build-up play.

    “With the halves being shortened we can really high press,” said Perkins.

    That high pressure paid off in the 13th minute. John Markey’s shot was parried by the Mojos keeper, but fell right into the path of a sliding Webb, who poked home the rebound to open the scoring.

    Kansas City doubled its lead on the stroke of halftime. Slick passing down the right flank released Webb into the box and he rifled a shot inside the near post for his second goal of the game.

    Things got chippy in the second half after several hard fouls and five cards where handed out between the two teams.

    Markey sealed the win in the 42nd minute with a wicked curling shot to the far post that left the Mojos keeper rooted to the spot and Kuhn added an insurance goal in stoppage time after Chris Markey made a run from inside his own half and got all the way to the end line to cross.

    With the win the Athletics move into first place in Group B on goal differential.

    Perkins knows the first game on Saturday will be important, but said KC may not press as much in order to conserve energy for the rest of the tournament.

    “We’ll gauge everyone’s fitness level and go from there,” he said. “If the results go our way and we can rest the third game that’s always a bonus.”

    2014 USSSA Open Cup qualifying tournament
    Overland Park Soccer Complex – Overland Park, Kan.
    All times CT
    Note: Group stage, Semifinals are 50-minute games
    Note: We apologize for the formatting problems

    Group A PTS W L D GD
    Colorado Rovers 7 2 0 1 +3
    CO Sporting Premier 6 2 1 0 +8
    Boulevard 4 1 1 1 +0
    Comets Express 0 0 3 0 -11

    Friday, March 14
    Colorado Rovers 2:0 Comets Express
    CO Sporting Premier 5:0 Boulevard
    Saturday, March 15
    Boulevard 0:0 Colorado Rovers
    CO Sporting Premier 4:0 Comets Express
    Colorado Rovers 1:0 CO Sporting Premier
    Comets Express 0:5 Boulevard

    Group B PTS W L D GD
    KC Athletics 7 2 0 1 +13
    FC Denver 5 1 0 2 +3
    Azteca Mojos 4 1 1 1 +3
    Performance Soccer 0 0 3 0 -19

    Friday, March 14
    FC Denver 3:0 Performance Soccer
    KC Athletics 4:0 Azteca Mojos
    Saturday, March 15
    Performance Soccer 0:9 KC Athletics
    Aztexa Mojos 0:0 FC Denver
    FC Denver 0:0 KC Athletics
    Performance Soccer 0:7 Azteca Mojos

    Tiebreakers: (1) Head to head (2) Fewest goals allowed (3) Goal difference (Max +/- 4) (4) Most shutouts (5) Most goals scored (no maximum) (6) Fewest red cards (7) PKs or coin flip

    Sunday, March 16

    Semifinals (9:30 a.m.)
    Colorado Rovers 1:0 FC Denver
    KC Athletics 6:0 CO Sporting Premier

    Final (12 p.m.)
    Colorado Rovers 1:0 (AET) KC Athletics

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