The USASA National Amateur Cup Finals kicked off with the semifinals on Saturday Aug. 6 at Heartland Value Fund Stadium in Glendale, Wisconsin. Winners from each of the four regions gathered to compete for a spot in the USASA National Amateur Final on Sunday. Two quality contests saw Northern Virginia FC and hosts Milwaukee Bavarian Soccer Club inch one step closer to a 2023 US Open Cup spot.
The first semifinal between Region 1 champions Northern Virginia FC (NoVa FC), led by head coach Kareem Sheta and Region 3 champions ASC New Stars (TX), led by head coach Lucas Simon, finished regulation at 2-2. Two team’s with previous US Open Cup experience looked prime to head for penalties as fatigue took over. The scorching 90 degree weather slowed the game down and during extra time neither team had any quality chances to score. After a 2-2 draw after extra time, NoVa FC punched their ticket to Sunday’s final with a 3-1 result in penalties. Northern Virginia will face the Bavarians on their home field in the championship game, who blanked the Los Angeles Strikers 2-0.
The first 20 minutes were evenly matched with possession. ASC continued to press the backline of NoVa, getting called for four offside calls in the first half hour. Despite ASC looking like the more threatening team, their opponent was the first to get on the board. In the 32nd minute, NoVa’s Johnny DeSouza bent in a corner with the inswing of his left foot. Lias Laghjibi got his head to it and gave NoVa the lead, 1-0.
The momentum of the match shifted from there as two minutes later. After a ball was served into the box, ASC’s Miguel Repata gained control of both it and the game, placing it in the net’s corner. The game was tied, 1-1.
The hectic scoring wasn’t over. In the 42nd minute, NoVa’s Vagner Marques sent a shot high into the net from the six yard box. Brandon Williamson beat two defenders and passed it off for the assist.
The game headed into halftime with a 2-1 NoVa Fc lead, and as the second half began both teams were fighting for the position as the defensive pressure intensified between each side. A chippy tone fell over the game, combined with the heat affecting team’s rhythm. Despite that the referee only gave out his first yellow card in the 52nd minute to Aaron Etienne of NoVa FC.
Shortly after, in the 61st minute Mohammad Hanif assisted Carl Rasmus Forsten to tie the game, 2-2. A quick restart off a free kick allowed ASC to move the ball around the NoVa backline. Eventually it fell to the right side where it was crossed in towards the opposite post. Hanif headed the ball there back towards the right post, where Forsten slide on the ball to knock it in.
After this the match quickly became defensively-oriented, as each team played a 4-4-2. In this mindset the NoVa side made an emphasis to have a defensive midfielder in front of their backline. Center backs on each side Eric Robertson (ASG) and Franki De Souza (NoVa) had key clearances both laying out their bodies to stop close opportunities.
The final 30 minutes of regulation was filled with stiff defensive emphasis. The end of regulation finished with a prime opportunity for ASC with a 1-v-1 opportunity from Emmanuel Usen that NoVa FC keeper Emmanuel Vargas pushed wide.
After a slow end to regulation, extra time had a five minute span that threatened ASC, after creating two corner kicks in the 94th and 95th minutes. Virginia’s Jean Ayolmjong had the best chance of overtime getting his head on a corner that was saved by Solomon Moctezuma. There were no other shots on goal or scoring opportunities for either side. Right before extra time ended ASG substituted Solomon Moctezuma out and replaced him with Emmanuel Frias for penalty shootout considerations.
The penalty shootout showed its fate quickly.
First was Miguel Repata, the only player from ASC who converted their kick from the spot, opened up the spectacle. Things went downhill after that when Eric Robertson’s penalty was saved by Vargas before Bryan Celis’s attempt went high. On the other side NoVa was clinical. Brandon Williams placed his shot in the bottom left to open the shootout. Both Jonathan Arguta and William Zarco subsequently converted their attempts as well making it 3-1 after three rounds.
Needing to make his Jose Alvarez skied his shot over both the crossbar and field’s fense to give NoVa the win.
”Our guys did great and fought as much as they could, our opponent gave us a run for our money,” said New Stars head coach Lucas Simon. “Losing in penalty kicks is always tough. We wish them the best.”
NoVa FC moves on to the Final after winning all of their USASA Region I tournament games in penalty kick fashion.
”Honestly we didn’t play our best game today, we just needed to keep the ball, it was hot, hot, hot,” said NoVa FC’s Brandon Williamson, who assisted on the team’s first goal and was a vital part of the success in the midfield. “We were running a lot, create chances and not giving up the ball, we were giving it away a lot toward the end. My emotions the whole time even before penalties, I told everybody to chill out, Eman is going to do this thing he’ll save or two and all we have to do is put it in the back of the net, and it’s game.
Williamson added: “We started progressively getting better and I wish we could have gotten out at the beginning a lot better today. The message to the team for tomorrow but is to hold the team accountable, it’s a final right? The team is going to be better, it’s the final. It’s going to be a big game but we have to get the dub.”
The second Semifinal match between hosts and Region 2 champions Bavarian Soccer Club, coached by Tom Zaiss, and the Region 4 winners Los Ángeles Strikers (CA), coached by Victor Lorenzo, finished 2-0 in favor of the home team. The Bavarians came out victorious with a solid group effort to defend their home soil.
“We have an advantage playing at home, but also a disadvantage because of a loose team environment,” said Bavarians head coach Tom Zaiss before the game. “The first 10-15 minutes are the most important because this is a team we have never played. Handling the emotional impact first and realizing it is win or go home, we have to execute.”
The first half proved to be a feeling out process between the two cross country sides with no shots on goal through 35 minutes played.
The Strikers came out in a 4-4-2 with heavy rotations between their midfielders attempting to find channels through the middle. They held a majority of possession through the first 25 with Axel Mendez, Jonathan Grado, and Jordan Lopez controlling possession and attempting to find scoring opportunities. The Bavarians in their 4-3-3, with their wingers mainly tucked in providing a solid defensive unit, was difficult for the Strikers to penetrate. Bavarian Logan Andryk was crucial in the counter efforts moving forward early in the match. His willingness to take defenders on and make passes through the channels made the Bavarians threatening in the final 3rd. After three yellow cards getting shown to the Bavarian side in the first half (Dogara Zamani 8′, Alex Mirsberger 21′, Logan Andryk 41′) halftime came with a goal scoring chance from BSC’s Patrick Coleman. Dogara Zamani passed it off to Coleman on a 3v2 as his shot went high and wide.
The Bavarians started the second half with urgency as they began pressing the backline of the Strikers looking for scoring opportunities. They finally broke through in the 49th minute with a ball to Nick Wilson near the half line. He turned and played a perfectly weighted ball 40 yards to Zamani who found Wilson again. He sprinted from midfield and placed the ball in the bottom left up the net to go up, 1-0.
“I found the ball in the middle of the park, they gave me a lot of space I was trying to find an option and touch a touch found him on the long ball,” Wilson said after the game. “(Dogara) did a great job facing the guy up, I was screaming for the ball he found me and I slotted it back post. It was instinct, as a striker I have to get involved in that play.”
Coach Zaiss from Bavarian started substituting quickly after the first goal. Players like Braden Andryk and Gutierrez replaced the offensive threats Wilson and Zamani. As frustration built for the Strikers Jorge Contreras was shown a yellow card in the 56th minute. After that foul, Alejandro Pacheco placed a freekick back post where Alex Mirsberger headed it home in the 56th minute to make it 2-0.
Los Ángeles responded with a 15 minute window where they continued to stay aggressive, creating chances and holding possession. Larry Lopez shot on goal in the 64th minute but wasn’t able to convert. They continued to swing balls in the middle of the field where the veteran BSC backline of Jake Streicher and Captain Brett Dietz cleared the ball. This combined with excellent goalkeeping by Augie Rey who displayed a perfect clean sheet performance in the evening.
In the 73rd minute the Strikers were still pushing aggressively as Jordan Lopez headed a swinger on frame but was saved by Rey. The game got chippy as the LA side’s frustration poured, drawing a couple corners through the 70th – 76th minutes but all were all cleared by the Bavarians. This culminated with a Strikers’ bench player being shown a red card for verbal altercations.
he backline of Bavarians and tactical approach wore down the Strikers and proved to pay dividends as the final whistle rang out. The hosts advance, 2-0, to Sunday’s final. They look to become the first team to qualify for the US Open Cup as National Amateur Cup champions on two seperate occasions. They were the first team qualify for the tournament as champions after winning the 2018 edition.
The USASA National Amateur Final between NoVa Fc vs Bavarian United is scheduled for Sunday, August 7th at 2:00 p.m Central time. Fans not able to attend in person can watch it live on Eleven Sports. It will be a high level matchup between two of the nations most dominant clubs. High level players on both sides with experience backgrounds and both sides are very well coached between Tom Zaiss and Kareem Sheta.
FULL MATCH BROADCASTS: