New Jersey Copa FC’s first trip to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup went the distance, but NJCFC did not get the result it desired. NJ Copa FC led 1-0 after a 26th minute Ryan Campbell strike, but FC Motown tied it in the 39th before scoring on a free kick in the 109th minute of the second overtime to advance to the second round of the 104th edition of the oldest ongoing national soccer competition in the nation.
“I shared with the team before the game that today history was going to be made, regardless of the outcome,” NJCFC Head Coach Roberto Aguas commented. “For us, an organization going into its second year, to play in the U.S. Open Cup, is an incredible accomplishment. We have tremendous pride, regardless of the score. Obviously, it was a heartbreaker at the end, but to play in this Cup is something that everybody that grows up in New Jersey dreams of and today 18 players got the chance to do that and a whole bunch of our coaching staff.”
In front of a near-capacity crowd of 892 at Saint John Vianney High School, the young New Jersey Copa FC side pressed late looking for the equalizer in the 2-1 game but could only get one shot off in the final five minutes on a cool night in Central Jersey. Campbell was tabbed the Jersey Mike’s Subs New Jersey Copa FC Man of the Match.
In the first match of the 2017 season, New Jersey Copa FC fans were out in full force with record attendance levels. NJCFC’s Official Supporter’s Club, COPA NATION, featured all the usual trappings of a traditional supporter’s section, with drums, face paint, cheers and custom t-shirts. COPA NATION, comprised of players from NJCFC’s youth affiliate FC Copa Academy, was honored in an on-field ceremony at half-time.
FC Motown had a 25-8 advantage in shots, but few were dangerous with only eight on goal, and the NJCFC defense managed to block a number of opportunities or generate clears. FC Motown had a 16-2 differential on corner kicks, but the NJCFC defense contained those threats.
New Jersey Copa FC scored early in the 26th minute as Kevin Veliz curled a long serve from the left side of the field, hitting Campbell in stride before he beat Motown keeper Andrew Tartara (one save) on a breakaway with a shot into the far right side netting.
Motown drew even 12 minutes later. Rodrigo Santiago’s shot from the far left wing was tipped up in the air by NJCFC keeper Matt Perrella, but the hosts couldn’t clear it off the line and Dritan Sela headed the ball in before the ball fell to the turf.
Tied 1-1 at halftime, FC Motown outshot NJCFC 9-4 in the second half and 6-0 in the first overtime but it remained deadlocked until late in the 109th minute when Samuel Gehman’s free kick from 35 yards just eluded the outstretched arms of Perrella with the go-ahead goal that proved to be the winner.
Perrella made five saves in front of a defensive unit that included Dan Pizzimenti, Jonathan Firmino, Nick Sica, and Matty Berman.
“We have to give a lot of credit to our opponent,” Aguas concluded. “They’re fantastic and had a great year. For us it came down to two things. One is the season gets going pretty quickly for us and we don’t have enough preparation and enough time to get everybody in shape. Second, it’s just lack of chemistry. That chemistry will come from this great group of young men as the season goes on.”