UPDATE (March 27, 2022): U.S. Soccer has upheld FC Motown’s protest against West Chester United SC. The original result from Tuesday, March 22, a 3-2 extra time win for United, has been nullified. This has been confirmed individually with both teams.
The two sides will play a Full Replay of their First Round match this Friday, April 1, at Montclair State University. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 PM. No broadcast information has been announced.
The first game of the 2022 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup is being protested.
FC Motown is appealing the result of its 3-2 First Round extra time loss to West Chester United SC from Tuesday night. The reasoning stems from an alleged violation of Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and FIFA rules in regards to player substitutions. The New Jersey team filed to injunction on Wednesday afternoon to US Soccer. This has been confirmed by both teams and the USSF.
The matter will now be reviewed, discussed, and ruled on by the US Open Cup Adjudication & Discipline Panel. West Chester is currently scheduled to host AC Syracuse Pulse of the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA) in the Second Round on Wednesday, April 6.
TheCup.us has received a confirmed copy of Motown’s protest letter to US Soccer. In it, the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) side claims West Chester received a “competitive advantage” after Protocol B of the substitution rules were not properly followed.
The point of contention came immediately after West Chester’s tying goal in the 78th minute. After Blaise Milanek headed in Levi Maruca’s pass, the now prone scoring player remained on the ground, visibly shaken. His teammates crowded around him and Milanek held his head and remained seated on the ground for over a minute. This moment was captured and shared in the tweet below.
Blaise Milanek ‘21 puts his body on the line 🤯
— Lehigh Men's Soccer (@LehighMSoccer) March 23, 2022
Following this, Milanek exits the field of play and is examined by medical staff.
The protest stems from what happened next.
In the 79th minute, U.S. Soccer’s official match report lists Ryan Fincher as coming in for Milanek. This was observed by TheCup.us contributor Matt Ralph (BrotherlyGame.com) and the match commissioner in the press box across the field at Montclair State University. However, it is not listed on other publicly available match reports such as ESPN.
In the 84th minute, five minutes after walking onto the sideline, Milanek returns to the game and Fincher exits the field. The goalscorer remained in the game for the rest of regulation before being subbed out “officially” between the second half and first extra time half. Reports such as ESPN confirm that Clay Moyer entered the game at this point.
The 2022 US Open Cup Handbook, Finalists’ Edition states in Section 303 “Match play” that:
“(a) Each team will be allowed to select not more than 18 players from its official league roster who shall be designated for its match day roster… A team may use not more than 3 substitutes from its match day roster unless a match proceeds into extra time, in which case an additional substitution shall be granted… Once a player leaves the match and is replaced by a substitute, the player leaving may not re-enter the match. As permitted by the Laws of the Game, the Committee may consider adding a provision for additional substitutions for a player suffering a concussion injury.”
When reached for comment, West Chester United head coach Blaise Santangelo told TheCup.us that this error solely fell on fourth official Rafael Martinez. As Milanek left the field, Martinez approached the head coach and told him he had a “temporary sub”. Santangelo questioned this and even doubted that was allowed in the tournament. Martinez insisted that the team could replace the injured player since he was suspected of having a concussion.
Santangelo provided TheCup.us videos of the match’s ESPN+ broadcast feed. In it, an unseen person, who Santangelo says is fourth official Rafa Martinez, is heard saying the USL League Two team has a “temporary sub”.
Martinez was applying rules previously in place by the U.S. Soccer Development Academy and currently used by MLS Next. The rules currently used by the latter allow teams to make temporary substitutions while players being evaluated for concussions are checked by medical staff.
“The temporary substitution will not count against the team’s total number of allowed substitutions or substitution moments. If the player being evaluated has received clearance from the HCP or an ATC to return to the game, that player may re-enter at any stoppage of play and must replace the original temporary substitute, who will remain an available substitute and will be permitted to re-enter the game.”
Like most US Soccer leagues and competitions, the US Open Cup has added “concussion substitutes” in the time since the 2019 tournament concluded. The 2022 US Open Cup is participating in the International Football Association Board trial of additional concussion substitutes, specifically utilizing Protocol B (the same in place for all U.S.-based professional leagues this year). This all can be found in the Open Cup handbook under the “Concussion Substitution Trial” section. But in essence: Each team receives up to two ‘concussion substitutes’. For each concussion sub used, the opposing team receives one additional substitution.
In no place does the rulebook allow a player who is suspected of being concussed to be temporarily substituted out of the game.
In this situation, the match commissioner was not seated at midfield between the two benches, which is common, but according to US Soccer, it is not a requirement. Instead, he was seated in the press box across the field. This meant an official, who may have known the correct ruling procedure, was not readily available to directly aid any of the other match officials. While he was reachable in the press box, a US Soccer official claims the match commissioner was not consulted.
Also, as the home side, Motown is required to produce two complete sets of cards for each team (one set each) to use for substitutions. These cards are color coded for normal substitutions (white, five cards), concussion substitutions (pink, 2 cards), and additional substitutions (blue, 2 cards). According to the source, and confirmed by Santangelo himself, Motown did not provide any colored cards for concussion subs. Each team only received white cards to use.
Coach Santangelo is ready to accept whatever ruling US Soccer hands down. However, he made it clear that he believes his team’s performance on the field should speak for itself.
Realistically, U.S. Soccer has four options in regards to this protest.
- The protest is thrown out (unlikely considering the evidence)
- The protest is upheld, West Chester is disqualified and Motown advances
- The protest is upheld, the game is restarted entirely
- The protest is upheld, the game is restarted from the point of the error (84th minute, the point where Milanek re-entered the match, score tied 2-2)
Interestingly, if option four is chosen it wouldn’t be the first time it has happened in US Soccer in the last six months. In October 2021, a USL Championship match between The Miami FC and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds was replayed starting from the 67th minute, 11 days after originally completing. Following the original game, which finished 0-0, it was revealed that a match official erroneously disallowed a Pittsburgh goal. The error, described as a misapplication of the FIFA Laws of the Game, forced a replay from the moment of the infraction and the Riverhounds went on to win a 23 minute game, 1-0.
Interesting note: Miami played FC Motown in the 2018 NPSL National Championship. So both teams from that final may very well compete in separate shortened replays (due to referee error) within half-a-year of each other.