As first reported by TheCup.us, U.S. Soccer upheld a protest filed by FC Motown regarding the team’s extra time loss last Tuesday to West Chester United SC. The federation announced on Sunday that the two teams will replay the full match this Friday, April 1, at Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 PM. This is only the second time in the Modern Era (1995-present) that a result has been successfully protested into a full second match.
Motown’s protest was reviewed by the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Adjudication and Discipline Panel. In conclusion, the panel determined that:
- West Chester United SC was permitted by the referee to field an illegal substitute.
- The result of the March 22 FC Motown and West Chester United First Round has been voided.
- FC Motown and West Chester United are to replay this First Round Open Cup match at the first possible date, and no later than Sunday, April 3.
The winner of this game is still scheduled to host National Independent Soccer Association side AC Syracuse Pulse in the Second Round on Wednesday, April 6.
When reached for comment, West Chester head coach Blaise Santangelo said he accept the outcome and his team was ready for the replay.
“It’s not often that you get the chance to play in the First Round of the U.S. Open Cup twice in the same year,” Santangelo joked.
Motown co-owner Dan Karosen told TheCup.us he believes this is the right outcome.
“Given the difficult circumstances I think U.S. Soccer got to the correct decision,” he said. “Unfortunately, there was a rules violation that impacted a terrific game. A fresh start replay gives both teams a chance to move in the Open Cup under normalized game conditions.”
Karosen also said that U.S. Soccer confirmed the match will be broadcasted. Unlike the original game, it will not be on ESPN+, though. This likely means the replay will be shown on the federation’s YouTube page.
The protest stemmed from an incident late in the second half of the original game. West Chester forward Blaise Milanek tied the score at 2-2 in the 78th with a jumping header off a long cross by Levi Maruca. Following the goal, Milanek was visibly unsteady and checked on by teammates. As he left the field to be looked at by medical staff, fourth official Rafael Martinez told West Chester head coach Blaise Santangelo that his team could use a “temporary sub” while Milanek was checked out. The official told this to the coaching staff multiple times. United’s Ryan Fincher entered the game at that point. In the 84th minute, Milanek returns to the game and Fincher exits the field. The goal scorer remained in the game for the rest of regulation before being subbed out “officially” between the second half and first extra time half.
In it’s ruling, U.S. Soccer noted that this fact was not disputed by any parties. The panel also noted that the Fourth Official was the party that presented the possibility a player re-entering the match after exiting via a Concussion Substitution Card. This is likely what saved West Chester from a forfeit loss.
Motown and West Chester are no strangers to one-another. The two teams are members of three shared leagues (National Premier Soccer League, USL League Two, and the regional Northeast Elite Soccer League) and regularly compete in USASA Region I tournaments. That familiarity that helped convince Karosen to protest the last game after finding out about the substitute, noting just how much of a coin-flip the original game was. Had this been a blowout loss, Motown probably wouldn’t have used resources to file this protest. But considering the close outcome, team officials agreed that they needed to intervene. That meant protesting a result against a club which Karosen, in the words of coach Santangelo following West Chester’s original win, communicates with almost every day.
“We have a great relationship and have the utmost respect for the West Chester United program. We feel that they are one of the best in the nation and played a terrific game on Tuesday,” Karosen explained. “Unfortunately, this situation is unique and given the stakes we had a duty to our players to protest the result. Hopefully, as we move on from this, the heated feelings from Tuesday’s game will dissipate and our relationship will get back on track. What people don’t realize is that these amateur clubs don’t have the huge support staff to vet every rule and protocol. These things happen unfortunately at our level.”
Motown actually faced a similar situation last season in the NPSL. The team’s Keystone Conference regular season title hopes were crushed after a June 2021 Motown win, 2-1, was protested by Atlantic City FC. Motown unintentionally made a roster violation that wasn’t caught by either the team or fourth official. The result was overturned into a 3-0 win for ACFC and Motown finished in the season third place, having to go on the road for the playoffs.
“We know how painful it is for West Chester and sympathize with that,” Karosen said. “That being said, we are at a high enough level where you have to follow rules and protocols and have to accept the decision of U.S. Soccer.”
The committee’s decision means that the first game, essentially, never happened. That includes nullifying the red card earned by Motown goal scorer Joseph Fala. Karosen confirmed that he along with most, if not all, of the players from last Tuesday should be available for the replay. It also means Motown’s two best players, former Major League Soccer star Dilly Duka and Haitian youth international Nerlin Saint-Vil, have a chance to heal up.
The two players were the stars for the New Jersey side last Tuesday. Saint-Vil especially was a menace to West Chester’s back line. His speed was unmatched and he worked as a key connector in almost all of Motown’s attacks. Either he was the one spearing threw the defense himself, passing off to other players, or even running the entire length of the field to hamper an opposing offensive player.
However, he played nearly all of the first half with an ankle injury that forced him out of the game in the 53rd minute. Duka, who had been injured in the team’s friendly against Penn State University 48 hours prior, only lasted 45 minutes.
“As we expected going in, we felt we had more difference makers but they had a more fit and cohesive team,” Karosen said. “ The results of that played out as we had a dominant first half and they had a dominant second half and extra time.
He continued on by saying “Dilly and Nerlin are two of the best players in amateur soccer that we could find in a 20 million person metro area. We just don’t have subs who can replicate their ability… The game changed when those players came out.”
Replays are nothing new in the U.S Open Cup. Historically, they were commonplace in the tournament’s early editions. This was helped by the fact that if a match ended in a tie, a replay would be played at the visiting team’s grounds. However, replays due to rule violations were also just as common – with the inaugural National Challenge Cup having two separate protested results that led to replays.
In the Modern Era (1995-present), a successful protest and replay is much rarer. There has only been one other protest since 1995 that resulted in a replay. On June 11, 1995, the Richmond Kickers (USISL Premier League) defeated Fairfax Spartans SC (USASA), 5-2, in a First Round match. Spartans SC filed a protest, claiming that they were not given enough notification for a change in kickoff time. They won and a replay was ordered for June 18, where the Maryland club once again lost, 6-1. The Spartans attempted to protest again by saying Richmond used ineligible players, five of which were injured, but were denied. The Kickers went on to win the 1995 tournament over the El Paso Patriots, 1-1 (4:2 on penalty kicks).