The Strikers run in the 101st edition of the US Open Cup has come to a devastating end.
With the game tied at 2-2 in the final minute of stoppage time, Orlando Bayona coolly put a penalty kick past veteran Oka Nikolov to give the Laredo Heat of the Premier Development League a 3-2 win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the North American Soccer League.
The Strikers started off hot, scoring two goals in less than 20 minutes. Fort Lauderdale opened the scoring in the eighth minute on Gonzalo De Mujica’s first professional goal thanks to a great pass by Darnell King that sent Carlos Salazar up the middle, who fed De Mujica to give the home team the early 1-0 lead.
Four minutes later, the Strikers added to the lead, once again, thanks to Carlos Salazar who found Yaikel Perez at the top of the penalty box to give Fort Lauderdale the 2-0 lead.
However, the turning point came in the 20th minute when the Strikers were reduced to 10 men after goalkeeper Lionel Brown handled the ball outside of the box and was shown a straight red card having denied Laredo a goal scoring opportunity.
Back-up keeper Oka Nikolov entered the match at the expense of Matt Hall.
Down to 10 men, it didn’t take long for Laredo to capitalize on their man advantage. Salvador Luna carved his way into the box and crossed to the back post for Irving Villanueva to head home for a goal in the 27th minute.
As the Heat tried to equalize the game, the play on the field became chippy, and in the 80th minute Laredo’s midfielder Placide Buduri, who had just came into the game, made a hard tackle on Pecka, which saw the Brazilian fall straight on the floor. Referee Caleb Mendez showed Buduri a red card and Laredo was forced to play with ten men.
But the loss of a player didn’t stop the Heat as they continued to work on finding the equalizer. Then in the 86th minute forward Orlando Alvarado, who had been inserted into the match just two minute prior, found a loose ball in the penalty area and sent it past Nikolov to make it, 2-2.
In stoppage time, Laredo drew a penalty kick through Orlando Bayona. The forward stepped up to take the ensuing spot kick, burying a high effort past Oka Nikolov to send Laredo into the Fourth Round of the Cup.
“It’s tough when you’re up 2-0 and you go down a man,” said Strikers head coach Gunther Kronsteiner. “It was the exact same situation as we were in last week [against Tampa Bay Rowdies]. My congratulations to the Laredo Heat, they were down by two goals and they could have given up, but instead they kept fighting back.”
It was the first time the Strikers have fallen to a Premier Development League (PDL) team in three Open Cup matches.
Laredo advances to play the Houston Dynamo of MLS in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.
FULL MATCH REPLAY