2022 US Open Cup Qualifying: Nine-man NoVA FC ends 21-year USOC drought

Posted by | November 24, 2021

Northern Virginia FC celebrates the club’s 5-0 win over Districtonia Futbol in the final round of the 2022 US Open Cup qualifying tournament. Photo: NoVa FC

Winning with eleven players is usually a challenge. Winning with ten players is downright difficult. But winning with nine players takes a certain bit of skill, a lot of luck, and courage.

On Sunday night at Revolution Sports Complex, Northern Virginia FC (NoVa FC) showed they had all three traits. Despite going down two men in the first half, the Eastern Premier Soccer League (EPSL) side persevered pushing ahead and earning a 5-0 win over Districtonia Futbol.

For Northern Virginia FC, the victory in a “Win & You’re In” match against the D.C. area side ends a US Open Cup drought of more than two decades. While also fielding a team in the EPSL, NoVa has been a member of the United Soccer Leagues since 1998. They began in the D-3 Pro League as the Northern Virginia Royals and qualified for the US Open Cup in 1999 and 2000. The club has undergone multiple name changes, and joined what is now known as USL League Two in 2006, but has not qualified for the tournament since.

While the scorecard at the end of match was certainly filled with goals and bookings on one side, the beginning of the game appeared to be a close game. It was an interesting match in terms of conflicting philosophies with NoVa FC spreading the field and Districtonia creating their chances through the middle of the field. NoVa FC might have appeared to have the edge with midfielder Daniel Akinkoye and Brandon Williamson creating chances inside for KJ Nadula. But credit to Districtonia, whose work on the inside with Bryan Aguilar and Franklin Fodup created some promising opportunities.

After some excellent midfield work from both sides early on, NoVa FC struck first. In the 15th minute, Nadeau connected with a chip from the NoVa midfield, breaking past the Districtonia goalkeeper to earn the 1-0 lead. Nadeau wasn’t done though as he smashed home his second of the match just 11 minutes later.

Now normally two goals in the first half hour is exciting enough for any regular football supporter. But the match took an interesting turn in the final 15 minutes of the first half. In the 32nd minute, NoVa FC defender Luke Campbell took his second yellow card of the match putting the EPSL side in relative danger. The sense of uneasiness amongst their supporters was only made worse with Francisco Diorio earning a straight red for a challenge just outside of their 18-yard box.

Although they were down two players and facing some pressure in their defensive third, NoVa continued to stretch the field using their speed on the outside to open up the Districtonia defense. Thanks to some excellent off-the-ball runs by Akinkoye, Williamson, and Aaron Etienne, NoVa found themselves with fantastic chances to add to their lead. After a series of close calls, they finally found their third with Nadeau completing his hat trick in the 63rd minute to give him four goals in his last three US Open Cup qualifying matches.

NoVa would continue to place pressure on the Districtonia backline with substitute JP Ayolmbong scoring in the 72nd minute and then assisting on Ahmed Ismail’s goal in stoppage time to round out the scoring.

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