RWB Adria has had their share of heartbreaks in their US Open Cup history. Wednesday, they were the heartbreakers, as they eliminated Detroit City FC on penalty kicks after a full time score of 2-2.
“It was a great game. A great great game,” said Adria goalkeeper Igor Dimov. “A great atmosphere , surprising, but very enjoyable.”
Dimov had a lot to be cheering about as he and his club, who reached the semifinals in 1978 and 1991, advanced for the first time in the Modern Professional Era (1995-present), after going 0-3-1 (0-1 in PKs) in their last four appearances.
Play started in the 2nd minute, at the rainy Livonia Stevenson High School as Vlad Baciu looked to create a scoring opportunity for RWB but his through ball found no one. Detroit City looked to get on the board early as returning leading scorer Zach Myers, the 2012 NCAA Division II National Player of the Year, was stopped after a stellar run down the middle of Adria’s defense in the 10th. A sliding tackle from an Adria defender robbed Myers of what would have surely been a goal.
Baciu was at it again in the 17th as he took his first shot of the game was it hit the left post and spun out of play. He was much more efficient three minutes later, when Judson McKinney’s long throw-in was knocked around DCFC’s box, only to find the bottom of Baciu’s foot, who put it past Detroit keeper Bret Mollon.
It nearly became 2-0 Adria as captain Semir Mesanovic launched a missile towards City’s net but it was off-target. The half continued with Detroit having numerous opportunities, but finding the cross bar or wide of the mark. Most notably with Wade Allen finding spaces in the defense but being just a touch off on his shot, twice.
After the half, DCFC made a change with Willian Mellors-Blair who promptly made his presence known with two shots within 15 minutes of joining the game. His second one was a goal that was ruled offside, which is something DCFC struggled with as a team throughout the evening.
Detroit City finally tied the match when Zach Myers crossed the ball to Tyler Arnone, who was standing at the top of the box. Arnone’s shot beat Adria’s Dimov who was out of position in the net to make it 1-1 in the 71st minute. Six minutes later, Detroit had the lead and all the momentum as Ryan Thelan’s corner kick found the dreaded hair of Kevin Taylor to make it 2-1. That goal was Taylor’s first in the US Open Cup since 2003 when he was a member of the Mid-Michigan Bucks against the Long Island Rough Riders in a 2-1 victory. Taylor’s 11-year gap in between Open Cup goals is a new Modern Pro Era record.
Adria snatched back all the momentum just before the game ended with another scrum goal. A DCFC clearance on the goal line didn’t escape danger as Baciu got his foot on the ball again to give him his second goal of the match. More tragedy struck for DCFC when Thelan was elbowed in the head going for a ball against Baciu in the 97th minute, and had to be helped off of the field. As DCFC had used all of their substitutes, they had to play a man down for the extra periods.
Adria would level the playing field in the 109th minute when Marin Vucemilovic-Grgic was sent off for a foolish challenge from behind on Arnone.
Soon after, in the 116th minute, the game began to unravel as two more red cards were issued after a tussle between Detroit defender Zeke Harris and Adria’s Dimov, which attracted RWB’s Derek Huffman into the mix, ending with Harris and Huffman both getting ejected to bring the game down to 9-on-9.
The game went to a penalty shootout after 120 minutes of play. Dimov stepped up and saved two of the first four attempts (Lochlan Savage and Kevin Taylor), with another attempt going wide. Arnone scored the lone PK for Detroit City.
Adria, however, was much more successful in their conversions as Bret Mollon was only able to come up with one save, on Josip Keran. Mesanovic, Johnny Morris and McKinney all converted to put the match decisively away 3-1.
“We were very lucky tonight,” Dimov said after the game. “Detroit played very hard, and we were lucky to get the victory tonight. We controlled the first half, but we knew Detroit being younger, would allow them to run for in the second half.” .
“When we scored our final goal, I think it took the life out of Detroit, and then we just used our experience and old man strength to finish the game,” laughed Dimov.
RWB general manager Ante Loncar weighed in as well: “It was a good game. Detroit has excellent fans. They’re a great team. Especially since both teams kind of just got together recently. In the end, I think our experience won us this match, as it could have gone either way.”
With the victory, RWB Adria will be back in Michigan next Wednesday, as they will be in Pontiac at the Ultimate Soccer Arenas to face Michigan’s other premier amateur club, the Michigan Bucks of the Premier Development League.
“It will be an interesting match. They are a great team,” gushed Loncar. “We will see next week what happens, but it should be a great match.”