On Wednesday night in Charlotte, NC, USL PRO’s Charlotte Eagles defeated Greensboro’s PDL side Carolina Dynamo 3-1 in the Second Round of the 2014 US Open Cup, thanks to two goals and one assist from Colombian forward Jorge Herrera.
“We wanted to impose ourselves from the first minute. We wanted to make them uncomfortable,” said assistant coach Steve Shak, who was handed the reigns for the night by Eagles head coach Mark Steffens.
Neither team dominated possession in the first half, but Charlotte took shot after shot until Juan Guzman finally slotted one home in the 43rd minute, on an assist from fellow Colombian Herrera, putting the Eagles up 1-0.
The second half was a bit more one-sided, with Herrera’s two unassisted goals and a plethora of other chances for Charlotte that sailed wide, high, and into Dynamo keeper Alex McCauley’s hands. Before Herrera’s second goal, however, the Greensboro side did put up quite a fight.
“Carolina Dynamo has a great reputation,” coach Shak said after the match. “A lot of those guys will be professionals.”
The towering Mamadee Nyepon, a Greensboro native and High Point University graduate, who scored the Dynamo’s lone goal in the 60th minute, was dangerous all night, especially in the latter part of the second half. Were it not for a few offside calls and mistimed kicks, the Dynamo could have easily tied things up 2-2.
But when it comes to the US Open Cup, the Charlotte Eagles have enjoyed some recent success in the tournament after 13 years of struggles. From the first year they qualified in 1998 until 2011, the Eagles never won multiple games in a single tournament and never defeated a professional team. That changed in 2012 when they won three straight road games in Texas, defeating the El Paso Patriots (PDL), FC Dallas (MLS) and the San Antonio Scorpions (NASL) to reach the Quarterfinals for the first time.
Their win over the Dynamo on Wednesday extended a club record with their fourth tournament in a row with at least one win.
In the end, Charlotte’s Jorge Herrera proved to be too much for the Premier Development League side to handle on Wednesday night as he scored his 5th and 6th career Open Cup goals.
“He leads by example,” said Shak. “Which is what you need your top players to do.” A few years back, Herrera got a good look from a few MLS teams, including New England Revolution, but his international status may have hurt his chances. Currently, MLS teams only have eight international spots to work with.
In the 2011 US Open Cup–the last time these in-state rivals met–the results were identical: a 3-1 Charlotte victory. Nevertheless, the Eagles didn’t treat their matchup with the Dynamo lightly. “PDL teams are very good,” Shak said. “We knew we had to be sharp.”
Team morale may have been a factor for the Dynamo, who lost their head coach to nearby Elon University just days before the start of the 2014 season.
With their Second Round victory in the bag, Charlotte now faces another North Carolina team in the Third Round in two weeks time: the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks FC in Cary, NC. The RailHawks, who outdraw the Eagles by an order of magnitude at home, knocked Charlotte out of the 2010 US Open Cup. “We’ll do our research and look into them this week,” said Shak. “We usually play one another in the preseason, but this year’s match was cancelled.”
Regardless of how deep Charlotte Eagles make it in the tournament this year, one thing’s for certain, according to Coach Shak.
“We love the US Open Cup.”
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