Arizona United opened their 2014 US Open Cup campaign with a dramatic 3-2 win over the Portland Timbers U23s. After going into the break with a 2-0 deficit, United stormed back in the second half, grabbing three goals in the final ten minutes of the match, including a stoppage time winner seconds before the final whistle.
After pulling back two goals to even up the score in the 84th and 88th minutes, United continued piling the pressure on the Timbers, keeping them off balance and unable to put a foot to the ball.
With the match’s five minutes of added time ticking away, Bradlee Baladez corralled the ball at the top of the Timbers’ box and fired off a low shot that had Timbers’ keeper Justin Luthy diving the across the goal, only to see his defender, Devon Fisher, stick out a leg and deflect the ball the opposite direction and safely wide of the goal, giving Arizona their fifth corner kick of the game. The corner kick came in and a header was headed on frame and deflected up in the air by Luthy and Arizona’s Jon Okafor rose up to head the ball back into the mix and he found Daniel Antunez, who vollied it home for the game winner in the final seconds of the match.
FULL MATCH REPLAY
Arizona United narrowly avoided repeating the disappointment of their Open Cup debut last year when they were upset by a PDL team, FC Tucson, 2-1. With the win, they advance to Round 3 where they will play the winner of Tulsa Athletics (NPSL) and fellow USL Pro side Oklahoma City Energy.
While the second half was all Arizona, the first half was an even exchange between the two teams, with each generating a handful of half chances. The difference came on the set pieces, with the Timbers striking twice off of bent in free kicks. The first came in the 11th minute, when Jesse Garcia-Aguilar bent in a long dead-ball from the Timbers’ left wing, finding the head of Kyle Fisher. Fisher flicked the ball on goal and around Arizona keeper Evan Newton to open the scoring.
Then, with the first half winding down in the 45th, the Timbers struck again from a free kick. Garcia and David Rose stood over the ball wide on the Timbers right, but this time it was Rose who sent in the free kick. His in-swinging delivery bounced in the box and was nearly blocked away by his teammate, Foster Langsdorf. The Timbers’ forward nimbly dodged out of the ball’s path, instead letting it bounce past a screened Newton and into the back of the net.
After halftime, Arizona came out ready to take the game to their opponents and the lack of playing time together for the Timbers U-23s began to show. With only a few days of practice under their belts, and 18 of the 22 players on the roster new to the club, the Timbers U23s scrambled to keep up with Arizona, but the size and stamina advantage enjoyed by United allowed them to break the TImbers down time and time again.
Finally, in the 84th minute, Arizona pulled back their first goal of the game and Kadeem Darces broke into the Timbers box. Darces tried playing the ball through a mass of packed in Timbers’ defender, only to have the ball bounce back to him. The second time there was a slight opening and Darces picked it out perfectly, slotting the ball into the far corner of the net for Arizona’s first goal of the game.
Only four minutes later in the 88th, Arizona struck again and it was a similarly scrappy goal. After a number of headers and bounces in the box, with the Timbers trying unsuccessfully to clear the ball, London Woodberry found himself in the right place at the right time. With defenders all around and Justin Luthy rushing off his line, the ball was crossed to Woodberry, who brought it down, had the ball blocked by a sliding defender, and then tapped it home between Luthy’s legs for the game tying goal.
Follow William Conwell on Twitter @williamconwell