By Michael Battista/NPSL.com
FC Motown, the defending NPSL National Champions, were eliminated from the 2023 U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night. The team that cupset its way to the Third Round last year fell victim to the same type of result on the road against New York City side Manhattan SC, 2-1 in extra time.
“We knew going into this game it was going to be tough,” head coach Gideon Baah said after the match. “We’re playing away from home. We know they are young, they’ll come at us running. It’s heartbreaking and sad we’re out in the first round, it’s disappointing. But looking at it football wise, tactically, I thought we did great. We have a lot to improve on, and I think this is a lot to take home with.”
On a beautiful pitch at the College of Mt. Saint Vincent in the Bronx, overlooking the Hudson River, both teams used the first half as a feeling out stage. For Motown, that meant limited possession time but leading the game in critical chances.
“We definitely tried to slow down the pace of Motown, tried to cut down transition,” Manhattan head coach Ray Selvadurai said. “Our fullbacks… looked really strong.”
Former professional Joe Holland got his team’s first chance in the 13th minute when his high cross into the box hit off the crossbar. Ryan Peterson followed not long after with a shot that ripped into the side netting.
Motown eventually broke through in the 26th minute. Former Hartford Athletic midfielder Samuel Nii Ashitey passed into the box from the near side to Franco Catania. A quick look on net saw his shot slip between the right post and the goalkeeper to make it 1-0. That scoreline remained through the first half.
Following the break, Manhattan began to regroup. The eventual turning point came with the substitutions as players like Holland and Joseph Fala left the game. Their replacements, while hard working, didn’t have the same offensive push. The younger Manhattan group began to pressure high and didn’t allow Motown out of their own end.
MSC teenage forward Hakim Karamoko was a constant threat along the right side. He tucked away the tying goal in the 54th minute to make the most of his debut. For the rest of the half Manhattan tallied up corner kicks and shot attempts. One chance in the 79th minute saw Motown keeper David Greczek make a point-blank, diving save off a header to keep the game level.
“Words can’t even describe how important he is to the team,” Baah said about his goalkeeper, who he called one of the team’s leaders. “He stood out in moments when he was called on.”
The match ended in regulation still tied, meaning two more halves of extra time would be needed. While Motown dominated the first 15, none of their shots found much. A free kick just outside the box didn’t turn into a convincing chance. Meanwhile Manhattan seemed to get tired as they struggled to make passes out of their own end. But the second 15 started with the home side taking the lead off an opening run from William Lulka.
The champions fought valiantly, including banging a response immediately off Manhattan’s crossbar after the restart, but failed to find an equalizer. MSC moves on to April’s Second Round where they will face Flower City Union of the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA).
For Baah, he and his team have a goal they can continue to look ahead towards.
“Focus on the NPSL and have another target to hopefully retain the title,” he said. “We’re going to put in every effort to make that happen.”
Photo Credit: Michael Battista/NPSL.com