It was an unseasonably cool night for San Diegans, but, there was plenty of action on the field at Mission Bay High School. Albion Pros SC hosted Chula Vista FC in the First Round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, and it was the visitors who prevailed, 3-2.
It was a wild final 16 minutes as all five goals were scored during that span with Chula Vista earning a date on the road with the LA Wolves FC in Round 2.
Albion would play most of the match with 10 men as defender Luke Staats received a straight red card in the 18th minute. Speed and size got the best of Chula Vista’s front line despite them having the man advantage. Despite that advantage, the match went into halftime scoreless.
In the 75th minute, Alberto Diaz would break the deadlock. Diaz curved the ball into the back of the net just of reach of Albion’s goalkeeper Jean Antoine.
“We knew we had to be patient and the goal would come after they went down to 10 men.” said Diaz.
The visiting fans would soon be silenced as Albion’s David Luquen was awarded a penalty kick after a hard tackle from Gilberto Perez-Lopez. Luquen would kick the ball wide and off the left cross bar, keeping the score at 1-0 in favor of Chula Vista.
Not less than 30 seconds later, Albion would cross the ball back into the danger zone and the ball would skid off Perez-Lopez’s shoulder. It earned him his second yellow card and an ejection from the game.
With both teams playing with 10 men, Albion would even the score at 1-1 in the 80th minute when Luan Oliviera would bury the ball into the net past a diving Miguel David.
The pressure was on. Both sides were fiery and looking for an opening to score in the final 10 minutes. Chula Vista would earn a corner kick in the 89th minute. Diaz would launch it to the center of the box and Alejandro Lopez Rodriguez would head it right at Albion’s goalkeeper. Antoine couldn’t push it out of harm’s way and the ball landed right in front of Jaime Verdin who put the ball in the back of the net.
Electric. Exhilarating. The score was 2-1. The visitor’s side, including the packed bleachers, with fans donning all black knew this was a crushing blow to the home club.
“It feels good to represent San Diego in this tournament. Last year we got a little too confident, but, we’re happy to back.”
The final whistle would blow but not before each side would score a goal of their own in three minutes of stoppage time to leave the game at 3-2. The club from the South Bay San Diego advanced.
Chula Vista coach Hector Diaz was proud of his team’s opening round performance.
“We have a good group of experienced players, also they are young, they just keep on going and don’t stop believing.”