Players from Lansing Ignite FC and AFC Ann Arbor battle for the ball in their First Round match in the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: Lansing Ignite FC
It was a monumental game for Lansing Ignite FC as they won their first Lamar Hunt US Open Cup match in their young team history, holding off instate rival AFC Ann Arbor 2-1 behind a brace from Njeta Elma N’for to advance to the next round of the tournament. The Ignite made some history as the first professional team from Lansing to qualify for the US Open Cup and the first team of any kind to get in since Lansing United of the NPSL beat RWB Adria in penalty kicks in the opening round of the 2015 US Open Cup.
The game was delayed as Lansing Ignite had to change venues on the day of the game due to weather. It was moved from their normal home field of Thomas Cooley Law School Stadium, a downtown minor league baseball stadium to Lansing Catholic High School’s turf field. Kickoff was also pushed back two and a half hours to 9:30 p.m.
The first chance of the game would be for the Ignite as Rafa Mentzingan sent a through ball for a streaking N’for, but the Cameroonian’s shot would be deflected up and out by Marlon De Freitas. Ann Arbor’s first shot came in the 19th via Jordan Montoya but his curling effort drifted over the left side of the post. The first official shot of the game didn’t come until the 27th minute when Montoya’s second effort was deflected and then scooped up by Lansing’s Kyle Ihn.
Lansing almost took the lead in the 29th as Mentzingan found Ricky Lopez-Espin from the right wing, but the Creighton product’s one touch stab drifted just wide of the right side of the net.
Lansing would soon put a ball in the net, as Lansing found Ann Arbor’s defense in disarray and started a counter attack through the middle. Mentzingan found N’for dashing up the middle of the field. N’for received the pass and gently prodded it past Ann Arbor’s Spencer Ward to give Lansing a 1-0 lead in the 30th minute.
Lansing almost doubled their lead seven minutes later as Mentzingan picked off an errant back pass by the Ann Arbor defense, but his low shot was scooped up by Ward.
Alex Alexis would pick up a yellow card in the 40th minute for a rash tackle on Lansing’s Kevin Coiffic.
Ann Arbor had a chance to tie it up just before halftime but midfielder Jake Rufe’s volley in the box skied over the left side of the net.
Ann Arbor would tie the game up in the 67th minute as Rufe tracked a bad back pass to Lansing’s Ihn and took a shot that was deflected by Lansing’s Grant Stoneman. It fell to Alexis, who was at the top of the box, and the young Haitian winger calmly slotted the ball into Lansing’s open net. Ann Arbor tried to build on that pressure when recent sub Yuri Farkas came on and forced Ihn into another save.
Lansing would restore their lead, however. After a corner kick was deflected back into the run of play Lewis Jones lashed a cross into the box and found the head of N’for, standing all alone. N’for headed the ball in to give Lansing the 2-1 advantage in the 72nd minute.
Mentzigan had a chance to put the game on ice in the 76th minute when he found himself in acres of space, but his shot was kick saved by Ward of Ann Arbor.
Late in the game, AFC Ann Arbor’s final chance fell to Jack Hallahan who found space to make a run with the ball in the box, but Lansing’s Ihn was game as he cartwheel swiped the ball out of the air and to a Lansing player who cleared it.
Lansing advances the Second Round in its inaugural US Open Cup run. Next they will play on the road against Indy Eleven (USL Championship) on May 15. AFC Ann Arbor remains without a tournament win in three consecutive trips to the competition.