Cleveland SC claimed an opening round victory in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup for the second year in a row. On Thursday night, they defeated Lionsbridge FC 1-0 in front of their home fans in North Olmsted, Ohio.
With the win, Cleveland SC will advance to Round 2 where they will travel to take on a professional team from USL League One. This year, the opponent will be the Richmond Kickers on April 6.
This game was a defensive battle that ended in an all-out physical and emotional war as nine cards, including one red card, were given out during this game.
“We have to be smart and manage the game, some of those cards were cheap.” said Vlad Muresean on what he told his team on handling emotions.
Cleveland SC played near 20 minutes one man down as they held out for the win as Lionsbridge FC was on the attack.
Cleveland was fast from the jump thanks to a high press and a direct attack that kept Lionsbridge in their own end in the first half. Cleveland used their back four defenders to help move the ball up.
The home side tried various through ball attempts to the wings and striker trying to set up offense. Cleveland had more attempts in the first half with three shots on net.
Cleveland held possession for majority of the first half while Lionsbridge could do nothing but buckle down and buckle down they did. Cleveland controlled majority of the of the half while Lionsbridge started to control the ball and keep it away from Cleveland defenders.
Despite Lionsbridge finding their pace on offense, Cleveland found magic in a bottle after Chris Cvecko put one in the back of the net to give Cleveland their first lead in stoppage time. Kieran Toland delivered a through ball to Cvecko on the right side of the penalty area and the veteran forward ran onto it. On his way to the goal, he hit the brakes and cut the ball back to his left foot to avoid a sliding defender, and beat the keeper.
As Cleveland led going into the half there was a yellow card issued to the Lionsbridge bench, this was just the beginning of yellow cards issued.
The second half was a defensive showdown filled with high emotions. Both teams shared the same number of chances on offense. Around the 60th minute of play, the game turned into a heavyweight boxing match. Eight cards were earned in the second half by both sides with a red card received by Jannis Schmidt in the 73rd minute.
Defending for 20 minutes, one man down in an elimination game is a tall task, Cleveland rose to the occasion as Lionsbridge FC tried taking advantage of Cleveland’s misfortune. The visitors had a few golden chances to even up the game, they could not beat the Cleveland back line as time expired eliminating Lionsbridge FC and sending Cleveland SC to Richmond for the Second Round.
“We have nothing to lose … This is a very confident group,” Muresean said about advancing to Round 2 of the US Open Cup. If they are able to upset their first pro team in the next round, they would become the first amateur team from Northern Ohio to reach the Third Round in the Modern Era (1995-present).