Santa Ana Winds FC have a tendency to complicate games for themselves, and on Nov. 17 in Open Cup qualifying vs Buena Park FC (BPFC), the same was true. Winds FC came back to win in extra time by a score of 3-2, after going down to 10 men near the end of the first half due to a foolish elbow by Carlos Torres that struck a BPFC player’s face. Overall, three unanswered goals, with two big ones in overtime by Max Rico and Xavier Corona, was the story of the night for Winds FC.
Buena Park had the numeric advantage for the majority of the match, it was actually Santa Ana that controlled most of the possession. However, the Winds struggled to score goals in regulation.
After Buena Park’s Nate DeRosa took advantage of a defensive miscue and dribbled 40 yards to beat the goalkeeper in the 13th minute, the Winds needed help to find an equalizer. In the 31st minute, Santa Ana gained possession near the Buena Park endline, by the corner flag. The ball was played across the face of the goal and in an attempt to clear the ball, a Buena Park defender put it into his own goal to tie the game.
“We got over confident,” said Corona about Buena Park’s opening goal. “We have a good team and we needed to be scored on to wake us up. Sometimes you need to be down to start playing better.”
Despite playing down a man the majority of regulation, the Winds still had more shots, corner kicks and possession than the visiting Buena Park.
“Coach told us to remain calm at halftime,” said Rico. “We had to play different positions. We played well with 10 men, but that’s the kind of soccer we play.”
Santa Ana turned the tables in the first minute of overtime, on a left-footed blast by defender Max Rico, after a poor clearance by a BPFC defender landed at Rico’s feet in midfield. Minutes later, Xavier Corona almost single-handedly scored in the 107th, darting up in attack from the deep midfield and passing to a player in space who found him in return. Corona then created space for himself on that returned pass and blasted a right-footed shot away from the keeper to seal the three answered goal comeback.
Most of Buena Park’s scoring opportunities came on long vertical counter attacks, where they occasionally found their striker on the right flank facing Winds FC one-on-one. BPFC did not stray, nor adjust, from this game plan though they had the man advantage. Both teams were left with 10 men after BPFC’s Mustafa Juma was red carded in the 93rd minute. BPFC would add a late goal through Grant Carlson but they were unable to find an equalizer in the final seven minutes of the match.
With the win, Santa Ana advances to the Fourth Round but it is unclear, as of now, whether a Fourth Round, which is tentatively scheduled for March of 2019, will take place. Every professional team in the United States is automatically entered into the US Open Cup, and with the addition of an entirely new professional league with USL League One (Div. 3), and a number of expansion teams in the USL Championship (Div. 2), the format of next year’s tournament has yet to be finalized. Without a finalized format, it’s unclear how many Open Division teams (National Premier Soccer League, USL League Two — formerly Premier Development League — , and all of the Open Division Local teams) will be granted entry into the competition. It’s possible that the Winds will have to play a Fourth Round qualifying match, but they won’t find out until January.
“The first half was mostly mental mistakes on our part,” said Winds head coach José López about his team’s performance. “So motivation was the answer for us, letting them know what was at stake in this game, reminding them of who we are, and what our club’s goals are was our halftime strategy. After that, everything we worked on in practice and in games during the season came out and we pulled through.”