Maryland Bays: 2014 USASA Open Cup champions
The first one is always the best. Whether it is the rush of emotions, the sense of accomplishment, or the flood of memories, being able to hoist a trophy and call one’s self a champion is an immense feeling and an important moment for any player or team.
The Maryland Bays had such a moment this weekend as the club won their first-ever USASA Open Cup championship defeating the Des Moines Menace of Iowa by the score of 3-0.
“We finally got over the Open Cup hump,” said Bays coach Bryan Bugarin. “It seems like it was always that one game, or an extenuating circumstance that kept us from getting back to Nationals since our U23s lost to the Chicago Fire in the Final.”
The team nearly had a another extenuating circumstance derail them when seven days before the opening game, their starting goalkeeper Phil Saunders told Bugarin that he had just signed a professional contract to play for a club in Iceland. Luckily for the Bays, they had a quality backup netminder in Kris Ward who performed well, allowing just a single goal in the two games at Nationals.
For those unfamiliar, the USASA Open Cup, officially named the Werner Fricker US Open Cup championship, is an annual competition hosted by the United States Adult Soccer Association which is the main arm for adult club soccer for the United States Soccer Federation. The Open Cup Championship is composed of the best teams from the four major regions in the United States. The Maryland Bays are a part of the Maryland Soccer Association and the Maryland Major Soccer League in Baltimore, Md. The team has won five consecutive Fall Premier League Championships in MMSL and has won five consecutive Stewart Cups, which is the Maryland State Soccer Association Cup. They are the first Maryland-based team to win the USASA Open Cup Championship since the Baltimore Colts FC won the title back in 2005.
This has been quite a run for the Bays. They defeated regional rivals West Chester United (Eastern Pennsylvania), Aegean Hawks (DC/VA), and Mass Premier Soccer (now known as GPS Massachusetts) in the Region I tournament. By winning the Region I tournament, based on last year’s format, the Bays are expected to qualify for the 2015 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
The win also booked them a spot in the USASA Nationals and found themselves matched up with Triangle Brigade in the Semifinals. Against the Region III winners, the Bays dominated possession and were able to defeat the newcomers from North Carolina by the score of 4-1. Glenn Leitch, Danny Baxter, Marco Mangione and Elton Joe all scored goals for the Bays to punch their ticket to the national title game.
“We actually changed up our formation five minutes before kickoff and it proved to be the difference as neither opponent really seemed to figure out any answers to hinder our pace offensively,” said Bugarin. “Our center midfielders clogged the middle and controlled play, while our outside midfielders constantly got around opponent’s backs to provide forward support to our lone striker (Elton Joe). Our back line was very quick to lock things down and the outside guys provided an extra bit of offense as they overlapped our outside midfielders with attacking runs quite often. The six players who came off the bench also provided a great deal of support later in each game.
In the championship game, the Bays faced a Menace side that had beaten Chula Vista FC in the Semis. However, the Bays were able to overcome the Menace with goals by Elton Joe in the 12th minute, Danny Baxter in the 60th minute, and by Bryan Moffa at the end of regulation.
Bugarin credits all the support the team has received over the years to help the club win their first national title. “I would like to thank all of our friends and family who have supported us along the way no matter what the travel distance, or weather conditions,” said Bugarin. “I would like to thank my Assistant Coach, Andrew Dicea, for the countless hours of work he put in to registrations, travel, and of course, helping to coach this great group of guys. And a special thanks goes out to our main sponsor, and very good friend of mine, Mark Shiflett. Mark has supported the Maryland Bays financially since I assembled the team in 2009. Without his contributions we would not be able compete, and properly run the team.”
Maryland Bays roster for 2014 USASA Nationals
Starters: Kris Ward (GK), Josh Taylor, Aaron Beale, Matt Shell, Glenn Leitch, Chris Ports, Mike Gill, Marco Mangione, Danny Baxter, Jon Ports, Elton Joe
Reserves: Collin Rome, Bryan Moffa, Nino Mangione, Ray Kuemmer, Chris Weaver, Chris Williams