A brace from forward Ignacio Ten Lopez was enough to lift visiting Club de Lyon (Fla.) 2-1 after extra time over host SC United Heat to advance to the 2023 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
There was nine “win and you’re in” matches across the country this weekend and the lone match in South Carolina delivered on the soccer and the cup drama the US Open Cup provides each year.
SC United Heat had one foot in the knockout tournament in the 90th minute when a Club de Lyon ball was slipped into the edge of the penalty box. A tangle of legs on the attempted cross saw the Lyon player tumble to the ground and the center referee awarded the penalty kick. Ten Lopez stepped calmly to the spot and rifled the ball into the back corner of the goal to level the game in the 91st minute.
The first half of the game was all SC United Heat as they enjoyed most of the possession and a 7-2 advantage on corner kicks. The Heat was looking to go over the top with probing diagonal balls flighted into the box while Club de Lyon was comfortable building out of the back on the ground. The Heat tactics pinned Lyon deep in their half and only on a couple of occasions in the first half did Lyon have sustained possession in the attacking half of the field. The one shot on goal in the first half required a fully-stretched Jon-Paul Franscini in the Heat goal to punch the bending shot to safety.
Level at the half, the second half was more even with both teams trading attacks over the first 20 minutes of play. Then in the 70th minute, a long, searching ball by the Heat into the penalty box rattled around until it fell neatly at the feet of Seth Hanson who made no mistake slotting the ball into the empty net left vacant by the Lyon keeper caught in no-man’s land. The physical play of the game increased and the Heat looked to have weathered the flurry of Lyon attacks with two huge saves by Franscini in the 78th and 80th minute to preserve the score line.
The penalty conversion in the 91st minute flipped the game and energized the Club de Lyon attack into the extra time session. Then in the 103rd minute, Lopez struck again, slotting in a low cross that was whipped in front of the goal by winger Gerald Ramirez. Now with the lead, Club de Lyon looked to kill the clock and break up any flow to the game.
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The Heat changed formation and personnel up top to make one last push to equalize the game in the final minutes. Several flicks and quick combinations around the top of the box provided some loose balls inside the Lyon penalty box but the visitors were able to calmly deal with the pressure and prevent the Heat from finding that decisive final touch on goal. A deliberate handball by Lyon’s Mateo Borelli in the 118th minute was his second caution of the match and gave the Heat an excellent opportunity to send the game to PKs but the ensuing free kick was blocked by the Lyon wall as the 10-man visitors killed off the final seconds of the qualifier.
Club de Lyon could now have an interesting situation on their hands as they have qualified as an amateur side and have declared their intentions to field a NISA professional team in 2023, which would have an automatic qualification to the cup. Players are now cup-tied to this amateur side and how all this plays out will certainly be an item of curiosity entering the 2023 US Open Cup.