It took a three-hour drive and 120 minutes of physical soccer, but the Mississippi Brilla came to the Crescent City and eclipsed the New Orleans Jesters after a back-and-forth penalty shootout.
Brilla keeper Jordan Bell saved Igor Siscov’s kick to clinch the shootout, after Thomas Peers’ goal in the 72nd minute canceled out Oliver Brock’s opener in the 65th minute.
The game started tentatively, with neither side really able to generate a substantial attack during the first half. Possession was hard to come by with both teams overloading the midfield and playing hopeful passes over the top. After a few hard fouls the referee intervened, and issued a yellow card to players on both teams for tactical fouls.
At halftime, the Jesters made adjustments that opened the game up – within the first five minutes they had the ball in the back of the net, but it was ruled out as the last touch came from a player in an offside position. New Orleans were pushing the tempo of the game and creating chances, but it was Mississippi who scored first as Oliver Brock sent a low, driven strike from 35 yards out into the bottom left corner of the goal.
At that point Brilla were content to sit back and defend their lead, but it wouldn’t last for long thanks to a wonderful bit of skill from Thomas Peers. Facing down his defender, he lobbed a pass to Chase Rushing, who used his head to continue the 1-2 pass and set Peers in on goal. He took one touch with his right foot to control the ball, and another to scoop it over the head of the last defender coming to his left. With just the oncoming keeper to beat, he volleyed the shot with his left foot into the right side of the net.
The last best chance of regular time came in the 88th minute, when a Brilla forward met a driven cross about 10 yards from goal. He hit it with power but Jesters keeper Chad Collins was able to make a reaction save to keep it out. Neither team was able to break the others’ defenses down in extra time, so it would take penalty kicks to decide who would advance from what had been a fairly even game.
“[The game] was even enough, I felt as though we probably out possessed them just a little bit,” said Brilla head coach Mark McKeever. “We probably had the better of the chances, but it was a good game between two good teams and [we got] lucky in the end.”
While Brilla did take more shots than the Jesters, 13 to 9, neither team was particularly clinical in the final third – Collins made three saves for the Jesters, and Bell only was called into action once before the penalty shootout.
In the shootout, Mississippi shot first and scored first. Then, Oliver Roberts shot over the bar on their kick, but their keeper saved Mississippi’s next shot to bring the shootout back level. Both teams’ kickers made their third shots, but after Brilla’s fourth penalty taker scored Lucas La Vanway’s shot hit the inside of the post with the keeper beat and bounced out. Jesters keeper Collins saved the shot to keep New Orleans alive, but Bell sealed Brilla’s win by stopping Igor Siscov’s attempt.
For Kenny Farrell, head coach of the New Orleans Jesters, there were still positives to take away despite bowing out in the team’s debut in the US Open Cup.
“It was a tough one, I don’t really believe we deserved to lose the game … but that’s why we play the games, and that’s why people come to watch them – it’s great!”
The New Orleans Jesters will now focus fully on their league matches – they host Emerald Force SC Saturday May 12 at 7pm to open the NPSL season. Meanwhile, the Mississippi Brilla will prepare to host Indy Eleven when the US Open Cup continues with the Second Round. That match will take place on Wednesday, May 16 at 7 p.m. in Clinton, Mississippi.