The second day of the United States Sports Specialty Association’s US Open Cup qualifying tournament produced four semifinalists. Those four winners will square off on Sunday in Overland Park, Kan. to decide which club will represent the USSSA in the 101st edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, which will kick off in May.
The defending champion Colorado Rovers moved on with a 2-0-1 record in group play. They finished in first place in the group with a 1-0 win over Colorado Sporting Premier in the final game. Luckily for Sporting Premier, they had won their first two group matches to clinch a spot in the semifinals already.
2014 US Open Cup qualifying: USSSA Day 1 recap
In Group B, the Kansas City Athletics took advantage of their second opportunity to qualify for the 2014 US Open Cup as they finished unbeaten (2-0-1) in the group stage, outscoring their opponents 13-0. The only team who held them to a draw, FC Denver, will join them in the final four as they used a 3-0 win over Performance Soccer on Friday and two scoreless draws on Saturday to advance.
A surprising trend so far in the tournament has been the defense, as all 12 matches in group play were shutouts, with only three of them finishing as scoreless draws.
Here are more details from Saturday’s action:
GROUP B >> KC Athletics 9:0 Performance Soccer
The KC Athletics continued their prolific USSSA tournament campaign with a 9-0 blowout win over Iowa’s lone representative, Performance Soccer, on Saturday morning.
The left-side combo of Skelly Kellar and John Markey was effective once again for the Athletics and it was Markey opening the scoring in the fourth minute after being played in by Kellar.
Two minutes later, Garrett Webb flicked the ball on to the near post for Jesse Baker to head home and the rout was on.
Kyle Perkins added a third right before halftime with a rocket off the underside of the crossbar.
KC continued its dominance in the second half and it wasn’t until the 31st minute that Performance managed to get a shot off.
The highlight of the second half was a pair of terrific goals by Markey to complete his hat-trick. The left-winger now has four goals in two games.
“[We] didn’t expect to score that many,” said player/coach Kyle Perkins. “It’s always nice to get that many guys on the scoresheet.”
More importantly, the win means the Athletics qualify for the knockout rounds regardless of what happens in their afternoon match against FC Denver.
“We’ll go out to win it just like every game,” said Perkins when asked about the afternoon game. “We’re not going to take it easy on anyone.”
KC can claim the top spot in the group with a win or draw. Perkins said he’s happy with the fitness levels of his team, but he’ll continue to rotate players in the third group game.
“Most of the younger guys are pretty good, some of the older guys might be dragging but we’ll be alright,” Perkins said.
In the other, group game taking place at the same time, FC Denver was held to a scoreless draw by Azteca Mojos. This result put Denver in a difficult position because they needed a win or tie in their game against the high-scoring Athletics in order to advance. If they lost, they would need help from other results or a tiebreaker.
GROUP B >> KC ATHLETICS 0:0 FC DENVER
Both the Kansas City Athletics and FC Denver came into Saturday’s matchup having allowed zero goals in the tournament.
Both teams would keep their tournament clean sheet going as the teams battled to a 0-0 draw in a potential preview of Sunday’s championship game.
“We had our chances to win it,” said Athletics player/coach Kyle Perkins. “But in the end, we did what we came to do and finished top of the group [so] a draw’s fine.”
One of those chances came just seconds into the game when Matt Kuhn took the kickoff and split the Denver defense, but his shot from just inside the 18 went wide.
Physical play from the Athletics in midfield continued to lead to chances. In the 7th minute, Martin Johnston had a beautiful pass to free Garrett Webb, but the forward saw his shot saved at the near post.
Denver’s chances were few and far between, but the Colorado side came close in the 19th minute when Brody Yarletts’ dangerous free kick rattled around the penalty area before being scrambled clear.
FCD threated again off a set piece in the 35th minute when Joel Miller flicked on Felipe Donato’s free kick to the back post, but Ian Cross pushed his shot wide of the open net.
Brian Williams had a good chance to break the deadlock in the 37th minute after Johnston played him in alone on goal, but the big forward failed to test the keeper with his shot.
The game ended in controversy when Denver keeper Walter Fink misjudged a backpass with Skelly Kellar bearing down and appeared to foul Kellar in the box. Perkins was animated on the sideline asking for a penalty, but his protests fell on deaf ears as the referee waved play on.
The result means KC wins Group B on seven points and advances to play Colorado Sporting Premier in one semifinal while FC Denver advances as the runner-up with five points and will face the Colorado Rovers in the other semifinal.
“It’s going to be tight,” said Elbin when asked about the semifinal. “We share the same practice facility [with Rovers], we have a few of their former players so we’re super familiar with them. We’re a pretty defensive group and we’re going to lock it down tomorrow too.”
“We’ll play a stronger lineup for longer periods of time the next two games,” said Perkins when asked how he planned to approach the knockout rounds. “We’ve been playing 50-50, but [going forward] we’ll stick with a stronger lineup.”
Azteca Mojos fell short of second place, defeating Performance Soccer 7-0 in their final game, but they needed an FC Denver loss to advance.
GROUP A >> BOULEVARD 0:0 COLORADO ROVERS
Boulevard managed to get its first point of the tournament Saturday morning, drawing 0-0 with Colorado Rovers.
After playing with just nine men on Friday night, Boulevard showed much better against the Colorado side and gave itself a slim chance of qualifying for the knockout rounds.
Despite the improvement, there were plenty of chances for Rovers.
George Hunt burst down the right in the fifth minute and squared for Craig Thompson, but the forward scuffed his shot into the hands of Bangu keeper Matt Gow.
Three minutes later, a bad backpass from Michael Gow was intercepted and nearly sent in by one of the Rovers, but the ball was cleared off the line.
Colorado thought it had the lead when Hunt found Marc Herschberger for a tap-in at the back post, but the goal was ruled offside.
“One of those games where you’re obviously better than the other team, but the guys just aren’t sharp and we couldn’t finish,” said Rovers coach Erick French
Boulevard had its best chance of the game in the 21st minute when former MLS player Kyle Brown used a fake shot to free himself in the box and forced a diving save out of Rovers’ ‘keeper Mark Saxby.
Bangu, as Boulevard is also referred to, was almost forced to play down a man for the second straight game when Fabio Caresia lunged in with both cleats exposed, but received only a yellow card.
Rovers continued to throw players forward in search of a winner as the game wore on, but Boulevard defended well and Matt Gow made another big save one minute before full time to preserve the draw.
Rovers will play Colorado Sporting Premier Saturday afternoon to determine the top spot in the group.
Boulevard needs to make up a six-goal differential as well as a Rovers loss to make the knockout stages. Colorado Sporting Premier won their group game 4-0 over Comets Express to clinch a spot in the semifinals
GROUP A >> COLORADO ROVERS 1:0 COLORADO SPORTING PREMIER
Colorado Rovers and Colorado Sporting Premier know each other well.
As two of the Centennial State’s top teams it was no surprise Saturday afternoon’s game was for the top spot in Group A.
But when the dust settled on the physical affair, it was Rovers who took all three points with a 1-0 victory.
After a sluggish performance in a scoreless draw earlier in the morning, Rovers came out bursting with energy and used a high press to frustrate Sporting and control the game.
Rovers came close to opening the scoring when Wesley Post crossed to Brenden Hughes at the back post, but the midfielder sent his header wide of the target.
Two minutes later, Hughes made a second chance at goal count. George Hunt found space on the right flank and swung in a cross that was misplayed by Sporting goalkeeper Andrew Simonete. The ball fell to Hughes who turned and fired home to give Rovers the 1-0 lead.
Sporting’s best chance to equalize came four minutes from time when forward Daniel Perez was able to turn his defender at midfield and run unchecked into the box, but his attempted cutback pass was cleared.
The win means Colorado Rovers finish top of Group A on seven points and will play another local rival in FC Denver in one semifinal Sunday morning.
Sporting Premier finishes the group stage with six points and will play KC Athletics in the other semifinal also on Sunday.
The other game in the group was just for pride as Boulevard blanked the Comets Express 5-0 to finish in third place.
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
|CO Sporting Premier
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
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 vs. FC Denver
KC Athletics vs. CO Sporting Premier
Final (12 p.m.)
Colorado Rovers/FC Denver vs. KC Athletics/CO Sporting Premier