Duluth FC Falls 2-0 to Pro Side Forward Madison FC 2-0 in U.S. Open Cup

By Joe Chatz/NPSL.com

Magic wasn’t in the cards for the National Premier Soccer League in Madison.

Duluth FC made it anything but easy for Forward Madison FC at Breese Stevens Field but fell 2-0 in the first round of the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

The NPSL side kept themselves in the contest for the full 90 minutes but failed to hit the target a single time in Madison while conceding goals on each side of the halftime break. 

Duluth FC earned a place in the main draw of the 2024 U.S. Open Cup after an exceptional 2023 season in the NPSL. Duluth finished the season with a 10-0-1 record and won the North Conference with a +33 goal differential, the highest in the league. 

Duluth’s goalkeeper Ezekiel Foltz was called into action within 120 seconds of kickoff and made a massive save to keep the match scoreless.  Madison’s Agustín Dávila received a pass in behind the Duluth defense from Michael Chilaka, who was in his own half of the pitch.  Dávila took a dribble before taking a shot that was destined for the net before Foltz got his right boot on the ball, knocking it away from danger.

Foltz’s magic wasn’t enough to keep his side level for too long as the professional USL League One side took a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute.  Jake Fuderer played a ball down the left flank, finding Christian Chaney in stride as he made his way into Duluth’s penalty area.  Chaney had space and chipped the ball over the head of Foltz, placing it perfectly in the corner of the NPSL side’s net. 

Duluth had a chance on the breakaway in the 23rd minute and came inches from leveling the match at one.  Joshua Bellamy made a run from inside his own half all the way to the edge of Madison’s penalty area.  Bellamy cut in to his left and ripped a shot that just missed wide of the far post. 

Madison nearly doubled their lead before halftime.  Wolfgang Prentice made a run down the left side in the first minute of stoppage time and found Agustín Dávila in front of the Duluth goal. Dávila’s effort lacked power but was drifting toward goal before Foltz claimed the loose ball inches from the goalline.

Duluth’s backline held up well until halftime despite endless pressure from the hosts.  Madison outshot Duluth four to one and had the only two on-target efforts of the first 45 minutes. 

Madison finally doubled their lead in the 53rd minute. Halftime substitute Ferrety Sousa made a wonder-run down the right side and showed immense skill to get around Duluth’s Colin O’Mahoney. Sousa played a cross into Duluth’s penalty area that found Christian Chaney, who hammered his first touch into the back of the net without giving Foltz a chance of making a save. 

Duluth should have scored in the 59th minute in the recycle of a corner kick.  O’Mahoney had the ball on the right side and played a cross to the far post that found the head of Joe Pickering, but his header missed just wide of the post. 

The visitors had another chance on a breakaway that nearly saw Duluth’s 2023 leading goalscorer Tyler Limmer cut the lead in half in the 65th minute.  Felipe Carli Díniz Oliveira played a first touch into Madison’s penalty area that Limmer was about to tap in the net before goalkeeper Martin Sanchez dove and beat the Duluth attacker to the ball. 

Although their substitutions helped generate traffic offensively, Duluth was not able to break through and Madison secured their 2-0 victory.

Though he made a single save, Ezekiel Foltz was constantly in action for Duluth as he intervened in most of Madison’s attempted counter attacks throughout the cup match.  The former Sioux Falls Thunder goalkeeper was proud of his side’s effort despite their “unlucky” start to the contest.

“Unlucky first half,” said Foltz post-match. “That first goal, I couldn’t see it.  The light was in all of our eyes, I couldn’t see it but great finish by them.  We came in, we knew it was going to be a good game.  We respected them, and I think they respected us as well. They didn’t press too much, sat in, kind of let us play as well.  It’s tough obviously with some guys flying in today, that’s just the beauty of the cup, though.  But I think it was a great showing all around.”

Duluth FC head coach Sean Morgan was proud of his side’s effort, especially given the lack of training compared to their professional counterparts. 

“We held our own and made it difficult and challenging for them,” said Morgan. “We were compact enough to not allow ourselves to be played through.  And a couple of chances maybe in the second half where it goes your way and maybe it’s a different game or a little bit more pressure in the final stretch.  But overall, I can’t complain.”

Result aside, Morgan expects his side to be ready to compete once again at the top of the NPSL in 2024. 

“Obviously we wanted to end last year with some silverware,” Morgan said. “That didn’t go quite to plan, but hopefully this year with a lot of the core returning back again and then adding quality in a couple of areas, I think we’ll have another strong season ahead.”

 

Photo Credit: Joe Chatz/NPSL.com

 

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