Cinderella stories tell the tale of how a team of low recognition achieved something no one thought to be possible. This was not that story. Although, being the first time a team from the Asociacon Nacional Futbol en USA (ANFEEU) has even attempted at qualifying for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, Virginia United and their supporters acted like seasoned veterans in the “Win & You’re In” qualifier on Sunday, scoring twice from a deficit to bring the game level and sending the game to overtime where they stole the victory from World Class Premier Elite FC. United clinched the club’s first-ever US Open Cup berth with a 5-4 win in a penalty kick shootout. A pair of penalties in regular and extra time from Virginia United’s PK specialist Bernardo Majano saw the amateur team match a brace of goals from Olakunle Banjo of World Class Premier Elite FC.
With the win, Virginia United will represent the Woodbridge (Va.) Soccer League and the organization it is a part of, the ANFEEU, in the 106th edition of the tournament. The ANFEEU, like other soccer organizations like the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA), US Club Soccer and the United States Sports Specialty Association (USSSA), are able to submit teams into the US Open Cup’s Open Division Local Qualifying tournament.
“Being a small local club and small Hispanic community and to have the type of supporters that we do is incredible,” said Virginia United’s head coach Jonathan Romero.
The first five minutes of play was in WCP’s favor as they were the aggressors from kickoff, conceding four fouls and losing possession for only short periods of time. It paid off shortly after as a few combination passes in VAU’s defensive half saw Olakunle Banjo’s sweetly strike a shot with his right foot from outside of the box and buried it into the bottom left corner of the goal.
Proceeding the goal VAU was able to counteract WCP’s quick and intense build up play with counter attacking style of play, intercepting the ball in the back and then spreading the ball wide, which led to multiple crossing efforts and a near equalizer by striker Ernesto Marquez Jr. after a long cross on the left wing by eventual goalscorer Bernardo Majano was settled and taken around the WCP goal keeper but couldn’t be controlled and rolled out for a goal kick.
WCP continued to make the most of their possession having created the majority of chances in the first half by either team but were looking susceptible on the counter attack when a long VAU goal kick found the ball quickly in the WCP box at the feet of VAU striker Luis Aguilar when he was awarded a penalty for a foul in the back which saw VAU draw level with Majano’s first goal of the game right at the stroke of half time.
It took until the end of regulation and one half of extra time for the ball to find the back of the net again, this time for WCP. Banjo reacted to a bad mistake by the VAU defense giving the ball away poorly in front of goal and the lurking striker found himself with another goal after his shot grazed the left post of United’s goal and went in.
Down 2-1, the hopes of reaching the tournament after months of qualifying matches were fleeing from the minds of Virginia United fans and players alike. However, a quick secession of back-and-fourth play between the two teams beginning with a corner from VAU, led to a clearance by the WCP defense that found its way to WCP’s extra time sub Joe Elton who hit the post after a one-on-one chance with the VAU goalkeeper. Moments later, a freekick in the WCP defensive end led to another penalty call for VAU.
In the dying minutes of the half Majano stepped up once again to take the penalty only to have his initial shot saved but the deflection only prolonged the inevitable when Majano followed up his own shot for a rebound goal to tie the game.
The match went to penalties and VAU goalkeeper Manuel Medrano was the hero, making the crucial save to give the ANFEEU side a 5-4 win in the shootout.