South Georgia Tormenta used a goal in each half along with a second-half penalty save to advance 2-1 in the 2023 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup over the visiting Rio Grande Valley Toros.
The Rio Grande Valley Toros (USL Championship) had entered the match undefeated with a record of 1-0-3 to face the defending USL League One champions, which owned a 1-2-0 record. Throw out the previous results, add an ideal full-moon night for soccer, and sprinkle in some US Open Cup magic and the recipe for tonight’s game was complete.
Both squads were managing the extra load of recent games and rotated their squads for tonight’s match. Tormenta seemed to adjust faster and had a strong opening 15 minutes of play pressuring the Toros to open the match. The Toros then found their footing and midfield possession game to control the rest of the first half except for one major breakdown that Tormenta punished for a goal in the 39th minute. A quick switch of the ball by Mukwelle Akale caught the Toros unbalanced in front of the net and John Murphy Jr. made no mistake putting Tormenta up 1-0 heading into the half.
Rio Grande Valley regrouped at the intermission and opened the second half with more possession and sustained pressure on the Tormenta backline. This pressure forced a penalty in the 69th minute that Tormenta keeper Pablo Jara turned aside with a strong left hand to deny the Toros’ leveling the score. Energized by the Jara save, Tormenta opened the game up and a pair of substitutes caught the Toros over shifted on a Nick Akoto cross from the right flank in the 81st minute when Kingsford Adjei smashed in the second of the night for the Birds.
The final minutes of the match saw Tormenta fend off wave after wave of Toros’ attacks and as the seven minutes of stoppage time were being announced Ricky Ruiz found the net on a low drive to put the Toros on the board. The Toros continued to press the attack but simply ran out of time as Tormenta held on for the 2-1 win.
Tormenta Head Coach Ian Cameron was very pleased with the win and noted how ideas worked on in training were the difference in the match tonight.
“We knew we wanted to cross the ball early because their (Toros) center backs get very man oriented and get sucked into the pockets,” Cameron said. “So if we could play early balls across, that would make a big difference and both goals came from crosses. We’re a team that’s not crossed the ball enough so that was something we worked on this week and we got two goals off of it, so maybe we should do it more often.”
Goalkeeper Pablo Jara was asked what it is like to save a penalty kick, then laughed and replied, “I don’t know, I’ve never scored a goal but I would say like scoring a goal. For goalkeepers saving a penalty gives you a boost, maybe a reminder of why we choose the position, it’s an amazing feeling.”
John Murphy Jr. scored the first goal and praised his teammates for a solid 90 minutes of work.
“This game lands at the perfect time (in the schedule) because whether it was in the league or Open Cup we were desperate for a win. So as you could see the boys were fighting’, some of them dropped to the ground after the final whistle, it was an excellent effort from all the guys.”
It was the third time that Tormenta have won a game in the US Open Cup, with all three coming against USL Championship opposition. With the win, Tormenta will travel to play Charlotte FC (MLS) in Round 3.