Fresno FC’s Elijah Martin (3) Martin reaches to kick the ball while El Farolito’s Ronaldo Herrera (7) and Aramis Haywood (4) looks on in a US Open Cup second round at Boxer Stadium in San Francisco, CA on May 15, 2019. (Photo: Douglas Zimmerman)
Fans were left to wait until the 76th minute during a very tense affair between home side, El Farolito and Fresno FC for a match winner in Wednesday’s US Open Cup Second Round match at historic Boxer Stadium in San Francisco. At halftime, Adam Smith’s one change made the difference as forward Qudus Lawal was able to slot home after a mix-up in communication in El Farolito’s backline and goalkeeper Luis Castro.
El Farolito’s Edson Carona (11) chases Fresno FC goalkeeper Sam Howard (28) as he kicks a ball out of bounds during a US Open Cup second round at Boxer Stadium in San Francisco, CA on May 15, 2019. (Photo: Douglas Zimmerman)
The Foxes were 1-0 winners on the day and will travel to Sacramento in two weeks time to take on fellow USL Championship club, Sacramento Republic FC. El Farolito, previous US Open Cup winners in 1993, hosted the Second Round match after their 2-1 victory and wonder-strike from Leonard Fredes in Turlock last week defeated Academica SC. Unfortunately, last week’s hero, Fredes was unavailable for the match after breaking his arm when he hit the ground after his Sportscenter-worthy game-winner.
Twelve minutes into the match, Fresno FC center back, Sam Strong was issued a yellow card for a rash challenge on Carlos Montez during a counter attack. He had to play cautiously and carefully throughout the half to ensure he was not sent off. A minute later, Montez had some freedom off a corner with a chance on a half volley but he dragged his shot wide.
Fresno FC were given an opportunity right after during a free kick, which was just outside the area on the right. From 22 yards away, captain Juan Pablo Caffa’s attempt flashed wide to the near post.
After about 20 minutes, both sides seem to settle into the match. Just before the half hour mark, El Farolito’s Aramais Hayward blazed a curling effort close after a nice buildup by the home team. However, the best chance of the first half fell to Jemel Johnson after his strike beat the goalkeeper, hit the underside of the bar and was cleared off the line.
At halftime, Adam Smith made one change in tinkering with his strike partnership. Qudus Lawal joined Jemel Johnson in the attack. In the 52nd minute, the ball was cleared off the Fresno FC backline after a slow looping header that beat the Sam Howard during a El Farolito free kick. About 10 minutes later, Fresno’s Renato Bustamante was alone after a missed clearance from El Farolito inside the area, but Castro read the angle beautifully.
A couple of crosses bothered Castro in a matter of minutes and which led to him receiving medical attention.
As the match slowed into its final 15 minutes, a quick throw in El Farolito’s half and a chip toward goal caused confusion between Castro and Angel Chavarria. The two collided and the ball popped loose resulting in Lawal’s match winner. A proper goalscorer’s strike to settle things.
El Farolito had two golden opportunities about five minutes from time while pushing for the equalizer. In a patient buildup, Wilmar Aguinaga had a wonderful effort from the top of the 18 saved by Howard. The ensuring corner saw Chavarria free by himself, but his header went over the bar.
Fresno FC’s victory means that they’ll face Sacramento Republic FC in two weeks time.
On the match, coach Adam Smith said: “I wasn’t very happy at halftime. I wasn’t that happy in the second half either. Sometimes you have to win ugly. We won ugly today, but I’ll take 1-nil any day of the week, at the end of the day. It’s nice to get the win and be able to move on in the competition.”