In the world of soccer, England’s FA Cup is probably the most prestigious domestic cup competition. But that’s unfair to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Our tournament has been going over 100 years, and while it’s not as influential as the FA Cup, it does have its history. In this city, the Rochester Raging Rhinos were the only non-MLS team in the modern era to win the tournament. No professional Rochester team has ever lost the opening match. So there was a lot on the line to live up to as the Flower City Union met up against the amateur side Manhattan SC.
Coming into this Second Round off a disappointing loss in Maryland, FCU was looking to get their first win of 2023 in the USOC. Manhattan SC on the other hand upset their First Round match-up to come to Rochester. Two games this season, and two kickoff delays, although this game had one of the strangest kickoff delays I’ve ever seen. The referee required the football lines on the field to be painted yellow before play was to proceed, and then later delayed some more because the keeper’s socks were the wrong color.
The first ten minutes of the game showed a noticeably better FCU than last match. I’m sure it was a combination of factors (no gusting wind, an amateur team) but they were a much stronger team, especially in the midfield, which was a weakness in the opener. While the first shot was a long time coming, they did well to string together longer periods of possession. Manhattan didn’t sit back though, as the first half hour saw multiple corners that were easily defended, as well as a couple shots that went directly to Michael Meija, the keeper.
The slight change of formation to move Luke Ferreira to the left wing brought some new tactics to the team, as the first few real chances came from his play or free kicks. FCU finally went ahead in the 36th minute off of a corner kicker. While the original kick was batted away by the keeper, then a brilliant save on the line from the Manhattan defender, they couldn’t keep out the third attempt by Stephen Elias. The crowd on this chilly night wasn’t massive, but the stadium was loud in its celebration for our first goal of 2023. A mere 6 minutes later saw a nice chip into the box by Fredrick Opoku. Alioune Diakhate knicked the ball and it fell right to Elias again, who put it in from a few yards away. I was strong in my praise of Elias after watching him in preseason and in the first match, but I wasn’t expecting him to come out this strongly.
The second half didn’t see FCU sitting back to defend their lead. They kept up the tempo and the pressure that they’d had which led to their goals. If I had access to the stats, I’d predict their passing completion was probably noticeably higher than it was in the first game, as there was a lot of sustained possession. The two best chances on goal came around the hour mark, as there were a couple long shots that dipped just over the crossbar.
Very much against the run of play, the 71st minute saw Manhattan get back in the game. A turnover saw a few seconds of pressure by Manhattan before Bibi Karamoko, one of the First Round’s scorers, put it past Mejia to give them new life.
While I’ve been critical of Diakhate’s lack of what was hyped before the season, he finally showed why he was so highly talked about in the off-season. He’s not had the sort of balls that play towards his strengths, and when he finally did, it was exactly what we needed. With two defenders in front of him, he got some space, did a little turning to get it on his right foot, and put it into the goal without even seeming to look at where he was putting it. It was a great play to ease our lead back to 2 goals heading into the final stretch.
I think it’s undeniable that Elias was our player of the game. Giving us a two goal lead going into halftime, the second half saw a lot less stress thanks to his goals. I think moving Ferreira’s position slightly also helped. He wasn’t on the score sheet, but he was serving up balls and one of our main players in the attack all night. I also liked the way that Oscar Sanchez performed. He’s small and got a great hustle, and was really physical. If he tightened up his passing, he will be one of our standouts in the middle of the field.
Overall, it was a great night for FCU. A 3-1 win saw them keeping the Rochester US Open Cup streak alive to advance to Round Three. The draw for our next match-up will take place tomorrow, April 6th, so keep an eye on social media to see who we face on either April 25th or 26th. In the league FCU next plays at Chattanooga FC on April 22nd, then returns for the home opener on May 13th.
April 4, 2023, 7:30 pm (delayed to 7:52)
Weather: 42 degrees, cloudy, still
Referee Andrew Musashe
AR1 Douglas Clayton
AR2 Alex Parent
4th Daniel Simich