The stage is set for an all-North Carolina battle as Carolina Dynamo of the PDL dispatched Legacy 76 (NPSL) 2-1 to advance to the Second Round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Mamadee Nyepon, a player who grew up in the Greensboro United youth system, scored the winning goal for the Dynamo in the 57th minute.
The Dynamo went up early in the 13th minute, as Shane Mecham turned on a ball at the corner of the box and smashed it into the bottom corner, leaving Legacy goalkeeper David Phillips helpless.
The goal opened up the game as Legacy started to put together possession and even a few chances. As the clock wound into the 20th minute, Legacy put in two dangerous crosses. James Grace, Legacy’s dangerous attacking midfielder, made it to the endline but couldn’t find anyone with a cross before a corner narrowly missed the head of Henry Gotay.
The game continued at a comfortable pace for Dynamo, as midfielder Daniel Elliott sent a shot just over the bar in the 28th minute. The pace was not so comfortable for Legacy, as they made an early sub in the 30th minute, bringing on Justin Burrell for Gotay.
Early subbing wasn’t a bad strategy against a Dynamo team operating with just a 4-man bench. But it didn’t have much pay off in the first half, as Dynamo continued to generate the majority of the danger. Nyepon first showed his aggressive touch as he jumped on a poor back pass from Ryan Flesch in the 36th minute, only for Phillips to deny the near-post effort.
Things started to come together for Legacy at the end of the first half, as Grace was brought down on the edge of the box. The equalizer nearly came then, but James Lee’s free kick skipped just wide.
The equalizer did come six minutes after the restart, as halftime substitute Max Poelker roofed a wonderful endline pass from Marcel Berry. It was the culmination of a rough night from Dynamo left back Samuel Orisatoki, who played multiple awkward back passes to goalkeeper Ryan Cretens that required attention.
Despite the turn in the run of play, Nyepon got his winner in the 56th minute. He collected and fired a ball from the top of the box past Phillips into the bottom corner. But perhaps the more impressive play was the assist, as Ebe Kudolo evaded a Legacy defender with a spin.
The game then became very disjointed for the next 30 minutes, which was no accident. “I think as we re-took the lead, the guys slowed it down,” said Dynamo Head Coach Tony Falvino. “We didn’t want to be chasing the game, especially short numbers with many of our guys still coming out of exams. We had to be smart about how to play defensively.”
Between cramps and stoppages, Legacy never really got back into the flow of game. They did still manage to create two more chances though: One in the 87th minute where Poelker’s wide-angle shot was easily saved by Cretens, and a final 94th minute diving desperate header by Phillips, the goalkeeper. Alas, the ref blew his whistle as the header went wide, preserving another Open Cup win for the Dynamo.
“The first half was big for us as we had to shake off the rust,” said Carolina Head Coach Tony Falvino of his team that was playing its first competitive game of the season. “I thought we were lively in the first half, the second half was a little bit different.”
The Dynamo will host an NASL team for the first time in their history in the Open Cup next Wednesday.
“For our guys,” said Dynamo General manager Scott Zapko, “it’s a chance to play against the pros, and that’s where they want to be ultimately.”