By Will Brown/NPSL.com
Miguel Benito stood on the touchline roasting the caliber of the Jacksonville Armada defenders during a second half stoppage. The Miami United FC midfielder didn’t think they were any good and told his manager as much.
The Armada didn’t hear him. Their play said more than words.
Jacksonville’s back line resisted, tackled, and held on long enough to send Thursday night’s U.S. Open Cup first round match to penalties. They did so while playing the last 36 minutes with 10 men.
Jacksonville held on to win the penalty shootout 9-8. Armada goalkeeper Nick Rulle denied Benito in the eighth round to keep the match going. Then, the goalkeeper coach turned cup hero, converted his penalty in the tenth round.
Rulle denied Miami United keeper Peterson Occenat to win the match and convert the pitch into a cacophony of jubilation and sound.
“It’s a moment that I probably won’t get back ever again,” said Rulle, who admitted he hasn’t taken a penalty kick since he was a U-10 player in Denmark. “So, I wanted to enjoy it and I did. Fortunately, I put it in the back of the net.”
The match ended 1-1 after 120 minutes.
Jacksonville’s Mikah Thomas opened the scoring in the 43rd minute. The 17-year-old’s first effort was denied by Occenat, but he followed home with a shot he put into the roof of the net.
Miami United’s Bautista Pablo Dominguez equalized in the 48th minute. He rose to meet Roberto Insua’s corner kick and beat Rulle with a bullet header.
The visitors tried to isolate winger Marcos Bakale Esono on the right against Thomas in the second half. But, the Armada academy player had enough pace to keep the 22-year-old winger from getting to the byline.
Jacksonville started with a five-person defense with Thomas and Jed Bowman as the wingbacks. But, neither of them finished the match. Bowman hobbled off with a first half injury and Thomas received a second yellow card in the 84th minute.
“One thing I challenged them to is within that short of a time frame was to find team cohesion within the game,” Armada head coach Tommy Krizanovic said. “The game got progressively better for us. Then, a big dip because of the rules of the game. But, then, I think we were challenged more. We worked through adversity and worked through some things, and I thought the boys did a fantastic job.”
Miami United thought it won the game in second half stoppage time on another corner kick. The Armada cleared the ball off the goalmouth to send the match to extra time. Though Miami United piled on the pressure, forcing the Armada to retreat all nine outfield players within 45 yards of their own goal at times, the visitors could not beat Rulle.
The Armada advances to play Miami FC in the second round. Kickoff is slated for April 4 at FIU Stadium. Krizanovic says the Armada are up for the challenge.
Photo Credit: Will Brown/NPSL.com