Players from The Villages SC (left) and Lakeland Tropics battle for the ball in a 2019 US Open Cup First Round match. Photo: Christopher Arnold
The opening round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup in Auburndale, Florida, featured two USL League Two (formerly Premier Development League) teams from Central Florida with the Lakeland Tropics hosting The Villages SC.
One could not ask for a more balanced match than this one. So much so that it ultimately took extra time and ten rounds of penalty kicks to determine the victor with The Villages advancing 8-7 after the game finished tied 1-1 after 120 minutes.
While it was an equal match, both sides had very distinctly different styles of play. Lakeland Tropics, being the home team, were comfortable quickly working the ball up to the forwards and attacking midfielders but being calm and patient around the box, moving the ball to try and open scoring opportunities.
When the Villages had possession, it was a different game. The visitors focused primarily on finding the piercing balls into the attacking third to utilize their speed and quick movements to disrupt the defense.
The Villages found one of these breakthroughs in the 16th minute in what appeared to be the start of a very one-sided match. With a powerful overlapping run far into the Tropics penalty box, left back Danilo Seglio opened the scoring after his first shot rebounded to him from the keeper.
Not to be undone, the Tropics picked up their tempo from this point forward and attacked with more initiative. Bringing their fullbacks further forward, right back Chase Hovious broke down the flank and played a beautiful ball in to Raheem Taylor-Parkes inside the penalty box who leveled the scoring.
From there, the match got scrappy. A fierce midfield battle saw frustrations flair and two cautions were issued at the end of the first half.
In the second half, Lakeland appeared knackered come the 60th minute. This saw their midfield break up and they began to attack and defend with two lines. The strong defenders and confident and technical attackers kept the team in the game while fashioning two big chances of their own.
While the Villages remained the more organized side, they struggled to dominate the midfield. All level, the teams headed into extra time to settle the score.
Extra time showed Lakeland’s substitutions proving worthwhile. In both halves they managed 65% possession and had the only three shots after the ninety. With fatigue fighting both sides, this match was destined for penalties and that is just where it went.
Both sides sealed their first kicks but the Villages SC had their second chance saved. However, the Tropics would miss their fourth and fifth shots courtesy of nice saves by goalkeeper Jerfesson.
It would be Jerfesson who would step up to take the Villages fifth kick in attempt to seal the match. His attempt proved too easy for the Tropics keeper Joel Serrano and the penalty rounds continued.
With both teams making their next four kicks it was a deft save by the Villages goalkeeper who broke the run. The Villages SC secured their victory by way of midfielder Sukrija Dudic who would be the hero on the day.
After a thrilling match through ten penalty rounds The Villages SC will try to upset their first pro team in team history when they face the Tampa Bay Rowdies on May 14 in St. Petersburg Fla. in the Second Round.