Graphic by Harrison Huntley | @hhuntley17
In a “Win & You’re In” match for the 2020 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup in Lafayette, La., Louisiana Krewe FC topped visitors Livonia City FC, 1-0, to qualify for the tournament for the first time. A 68th minute penalty kick, converted by Matheus Fulini Barrozo, proved enough to propel Krewe FC into the Open Cup proper this spring.
With the win, the Krewe become just the second Open Division Local team from the state of Louisiana to qualify for the US Open Cup in the Modern Era (1995-present).
The home team had a small but energetic fanbase, along with team mascot Pele the Pelican, at St. Thomas More Catholic High School and opened the game with a solid nine minutes of possession and pressure, forcing City FC to sit in and defend. City FC soon found their legs, though, and calmed down and got their first clear chance in the 9th minute. After finishing a sharp move, Ardit Dushkaj found the back corner of the net from a tight angle in the penalty area, but the play was deemed offside.
Louisiana Krewe pose for a team photo before their 2020 US Open Cup qualifier against Livonia City FC. Photo: David Hebestreit | Detroit Soccer Central
Over the next 25 minutes the teams traded blows, each having some half-chances, but neither squad finding a method for unlocking the opponent’s defense. Krewe FC’s Henrique Pimpao, who entered the game with a team-leading five goals, and Ricardo Caliman were particularly effective in combining and posing problems for the City backline throughout the final two-thirds of the match. City FC center back Vince Bruno battled resolutely all night long, thwarting the two strikers’ efforts. And City goalkeeper Adam Moustafa made several key stops on driven crosses or attempts at goal, either parrying or punching them clear of danger.
In first half stoppage time, Matheus Fulini Barrozo smashed a direct free kick from about 32 yards out that rang solidly off the far post, a drive that no keeper would have gotten to, the post preserving the first half draw for City FC and further frustrating Krewe FC.
In the second half, Barrozo had several other free kick opportunities that were saved or went just wide or high. City FC’s Ardit Dushkaj, who was a known quantity before the match, was unable to get off the mark in the run of play as he had in the first two qualifying rounds, but grazed the crossbar on a direct free kick in the 57th minute. Dushkaj did not receive the space or service that he had enjoyed in the previous two outings with City FC.
Krewe FC head coach Joan Oliva, a former FC Barcelona Academy coach, said before the match that, “[Both teams] are very similar in the way we play, and we know about their striker, and will do what we need to keep him quiet.” Krewe FC were mindful of Dushkaj all night long, denying him the space and time on the ball he needed to be effective.
Most of the second half went to Krewe FC, who made a change in their system that allowed more attacking numbers to get forward and caused even more problems for City FC defenders. The game went back and forth for the first 15 minutes of the half, then Louisiana started to take control and string together chances, as Dril Moussoki Mboungou and Matheus Fulini Barrozo controlled tempo and created chances in the midfield and top third. At the same time, the increased numbers forward for Krewe left them susceptible to counter attacks, which Livonia found success with despite rarely challenging the keeper.
It was the 68th minute penalty that was the ultimate difference in the evenly-contested match between the two young programs. The foul, occurring along the top of the penalty area, and with the attacking player facing away from the goal, was a downer for City, because they had traveled nearly 1,200 miles for the single match (they were defeated on PKs in this same round last year).
Livonia City FC club president Craig Beebe commented after the match that “We didn’t take our chances and we will have to live with that until next year. This is going to be motivation for us that will drive the club to new heights next year.”
Both squads are enjoying success in their infancies as clubs with City competing in their fourth year, and Krewe FC in their first. However, it’s Krewe that punched its ticket to the US Open Cup proper in the spring of 2020.
“Livonia was a good team, they did a really good things on defense, but I think our adjustments at the half, playing with three up top and how our players took the initiative and were brave, was crucial and produced more chances on goal,” said Oliva. “I am happy for the Krewe players and staff, the volunteers, and this community. We are enjoying our journey!”
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