The Maryland Soccerplex has played host to plenty of wild US Open Cup matches and Wednesday night was no different as the Maryland Bobcats defeated the Ocean City Nor’easters 3-2 in a chippy extra time affair in Boyds, Md.
After overcoming an early 1-0 deficit, the Bobcats came back to take the lead late in the game. When it appeared that the NISA side was going to pick up its first US Open Cup win, the Nor’easters scored an equalizer in second half stoppage time to send the match into extra time. Thirty minutes of game time later, the visitors from USL League Two appeared to be ready to take the pros to penalty kicks. But the Bobcats scored a goal in the second minute of stoppage time in overtime off a corner kick. It would prove to be the last kick of the game.
The Bobcats will advance to Round 3 where they will get a rematch with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL Championship). Last year, Pittsburgh ruined Maryland’s tournament debut by eliminating them, 2-0.
From the start of the first whistle, both sides came out looking for a tough match. They certainly got it with Bobcats defender Ryan Machado-Jones earning the first yellow card of the match in just the fifth minute. The Nor’easters certainly didn’t want to be left out of the card party, with Kaleb Jackson making an aggressive tackle in the 13th minute.
Ocean City did find their breakthrough with Jackson as he headed home the go-ahead goal on a delivery from Kyle Galloway in the 23rd minute. It was the first career US Open Cup goal for the former Rockhurst University standout. Last year, he made his Open Cup debut as he suited up for AC Syracuse Pulse in their First Round match against FC Motown.
Things once again got testy around the 40th minute when Jackson was sent off with his second yellow card after a reckless tackle. In the scuffle that followed, Richard Forka of Maryland was shown a straight red card which reduced each team to 10 men.
In the second half, the Bobcats offense came alive early with Abdul Kooistra lacing together a series of slick passess with Darwin Espinal. But credit to the Ocean City defense for maintaining a tightly organized line led by captain Dylan Evande.
Maryland got their breakthrough in the 67th minute with a handball in the box going in their favor. Espinal walked up to take the penalty and coolly slotted it home for the Bobcats. It was his first US Open Cup goal since 2017 when he tallied for the South Florida Surf of USL League Two.
Espinal would bag his second for the Bobcats in the 82nd minute hammering home a pass taken from Kooistra to give his side the late lead.
It looked like they might escape with a come-from-behind win, but a shot by Ocean City’s Farid Mancilla was saved by Maryland goalkeeper Alexander Sutton. Unfortunately, he was unable to control the shot and Ocean City’s Vilius Labuis pounced on the rebound. It was the first career US Open Cup goal for Labuis, who was a first-team NAIA All-American at Rio Grande University in Ohio.
In extra time, the two sides traded attacking chances with neither side able to break the deadlock. Espinal very nearly had another match-winner and a hat trick with a dangerous free kick in the 98th minute but Ocean City goalkeeper Brady Hochman parried the chance over the bar.
In the final minute, the Bobcats made one last push for the game-winner. A shot from the right wing forced a diving save from Hochman that was sent out for a corner kick. Moments earlier, the referee had signaled for a minimum of one minute of stoppage time and as the stadium clock eclipsed that one minute mark, it was clear that the Bobcats’ corner kick was going to be the last kick of the game. The ball was driven into the penalty area and Bobcats teenager Phillip Brown crashed the box and volleyed it into the back of the net from point blank range.