By Kristian Dyer/NPSL.com
Dan Karosen spent much of the match standing near midfield. One of the owners of FC Motown, Karosen nervously lived every moment of his team’s second-round U.S. Open Cup match against AC Syracuse with a combination of nerves and yelling.
Every half-chance and every foul elicited some response from the lanky Karosen. His salt-and-pepper hair soaked from the rain, Karosen was up and down multiple times in the span of a typical minute during the match. His energy output during Wednesday night’s extra-time match likely rivaling some of the players on his squad.
But when his team found the game’s lone goal in the fifth minute of extra time, Karosen ended his pacing and the nervous wringing of his hands. He made a full sprint down the length of the stands to the corner where his team celebrated. Leaning over the railing, Karosen nearly toppled over as his side grabbed the difference maker in what was a tight match.
Motown lives to play another game, beating AC Syracuse Pulse 1-0 on Tuesday night. A goal by Federico de Oliveira just five minutes into extra time proved to be the game-winner on a cold and misty night at MSU Soccer Field on the campus of Montclair State University.
This Open Cup run and the make-up of this club has a sense of déjà vu to Motown’s inaugural season when they beat the New York Red Bulls U-23 side in the Open Cup, a match that was their first competitive fixture as a club. That season ended with a remarkable run through the NPSL playoffs that ended in the championship match with a 3-1 loss to Miami FC.
“This kind of feels like 2018 – the confidence we’re playing with,” Motown head coach Sacir Hot said after the game.
“We’ve had two shutouts in the last two games, which is big in knockout games,” Hot added. “The longer you can keep a zero up there, the better your chance to win. And that tells you the true identity of a champion team. If you’re bleeding goals, eventually you’re going to lose one day or another. But when you keep a zero, you can always give yourself a chance to win. The intensity that this team has shown in the last few games is what we need. We can keep zeros on the board so that’s been big for us to advance in the Open Cup.”
It was a well-deserved result for Motown as for much of the match, the home side controlled the flow of play. Their edge in possession, however, produced few concrete opportunities. In fact, opportunities and chances on goal were few and far between in the first half as both teams played it a bit tight and even a little chippy.
The visitors grew into the match but didn’t really start to look dangerous until well in the second half. Their first true chance of the match came in the 87th minute.
Syracuse’s central midfielder Minjae Kwak took control of the ball about 30 yards from goal. Down the left channel, Kwak sent in forward Molley Karpeh with a well-touched through ball. With two touches, Karpeh was inside the penalty area and sent a blistering shot just inches away from the back post.
The game was well controlled centrally by the Motown midfield duo of John Casey and Daniel Cordeiro. The deep-lying midfielders rotated well, won second balls, and clogged things up centrally, frustrating a Syracuse side that wanted to play down the middle channel.
“We gave them a game plan today and they executed it perfectly,” Hot said. “I mean, how many times do we pick them off in good spots? We did a good job making things difficult for them, pressing at the right time, closing down the lanes. And that’s a testament to Danny Cordeiro, Kian Alberto, and John Casey in the middle as well as Nerlin [St. Vil] and Joe Fala – the guys up top, who are normally just thinking offensively today also did the dirty work on the defensive side. So that was key for us.”
The aforementioned St. Vil put in a tremendous shift for Motown. The Haitian winger, who is full of speed and ingenuity down the left flank, was constantly getting behind the Syracuse back four. St. Vil, who looked good in Motown’s first two Open Cup matches, combined well with left back Zachary Perez who played a very solid match on both ends of the pitch.