It was a physical battle to kick off the New Year in a Open Division qualifying match for the 2019 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup as Academica SC moved past a ten-man Oakland Stompers side, 1-0. This game was originally scheduled to take place on Nov. 17, 2018, but safety issues surrounding the wildfires in northern California postponed the match.
With this win, Academica advances to the recently announced fourth and final round of qualification, which will take place the weekend of April 6-7. The draw for the Fourth Round will be announced following the conclusion of the two remaining postponed Third Round matches in mid-January.
Based on geographical locations, the most likely scenario is for Academica to face IPS/Marathon Taverna from Portland, Ore. in the next round. Academica and IPS are both attempting to qualify for the US Open Cup for the first time in their respective club’s history.
From the whistle, both sides struggled to get a decisive grip against one another and weren’t helped by the pouring rain which picked up around the 20th minute of play. Tempers and emotions ran high throughout the game, but it reached a breaking point right as the halftime whistle blew.
Academica forward Cody Golbad and Stomper defender Gilbert Coulibaly exchanged words before the latter gave a hard push into Golbad’s face. While it isn’t known what was said between them, the interaction earned Golbad a yellow card and Coulibaly a red – meaning his team would need to play the entire second half down a man. This was not pleasant news to the defender who continued to verbally harass the referee in protest, causing his teammates to intervene and help lead him off the pitch.
“That red card changed the momentum of the game,” Academica forward Ramiro Ceja said after the game. “It was a hard, physical game and kind of changed the reality of the game. kind of lost their heads with it and we took advantage to prepare ourselves and take over with the mistakes they did.”
He continued on to say that players on both sides were going down with hard tackles as the referee tried his best to keep order, which included doling out multiple yellow cards and warnings to both sides. But at a certain point, Oakland’s aggression on the field shifted the team’s focus to something that could be taken advantage of.
Despite being up an extra man for an entire half, Academica could not get an advantage early in the second half. Both teams got chances back and forth, with opportunities on both sides of the field to keep their team in it. But those tempers and the physicality persisted throughout.
The visiting team finally broke through against its Oakland hosts when Ceja knocked in the winning goal, unassisted, in the 80th minute. In the remaining 10 minutes plus stoppage time, the Stompers chances never felt threatening. Multiple offensive opportunities were blocked or cut off as Academica held on for the win.
Academica, which has local roots dating back all the way to the 1970s as a church youth group in Turlock, Calif., are now one step closer to qualifying for the US Open Cup. While they await to see who their next challenger is, Ceja knows preparation will always be the same.
“It’s everyday preparation,” Ceja said. “Making myself prepared making my sure my teammates, as family, get together. Making sure the team understands each player how we play. Making sure we understand why we do what we do to make the team more successful.”