Manhattan SC claimed a thrilling victory in extra time victory against FC Motown in the First Round of the Open Cup to mark its debut in the historic tournament. | Photo courtesy Manhattan SC
The giant-killing dreams of some USL League Two clubs in the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup continued this week, while others came to an early end after three compelling nights of action across the country in the historic tournament’s First Round.
Here are five storylines that stood out after the final whistle blew.
Making its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup debut, Manhattan SC had the obstacle of many of the players that earned the club that spot being unavailable for the First Round contest due to college commitments. As it turned out, the two players that came through to deliver a remarkable 2-1 victory against FC Motown on Wednesday night aren’t even college-eligible yet.
17-year-old Bibi Karamoko had a goal and assist, and 18-year-old William Lulka delivered the winner in extra time to send Manhattan through, with the duo a great example of the pathway the club has developed in the youth ranks up to the League Two level. Both players starred as Manhattan reached the Boys U-16/17 Final at the USL Super Y League Finals in 2021, both competed for the club in the USL Academy League’s regular season last year, and Karamoko also made his debut in League Two. As Manhattan gets ready for a Second Round contest with Flower City Union, its youngsters will have the chance to step up again.
Every season, the Open Cup gives us performances that players – especially those beyond the professional ranks – will be able to look back on one day with pride. In the Ocean City Nor’easters’ 3-1 victory against West Chester United FC on Tuesday night, goalkeeper Brady Hochman delivered a masterclass. While he conceded once, Hochman posted a seven-save performance that was crucial as the visitors rallied for victory.
Hochman spent his senior season of college soccer last fall at NCAA Division III school Rosemont College, where he posted a 1.01 goals-against average and 80.2 save percentage in 17 appearances. He’ll now potentially get the chance to create more memories as the Nor’easters head to face Maryland Bobcats FC in the next round.
It’s almost a rite of spring – when the Open Cup kicks off, the Des Moines Menace advance to the Second Round. The visitors were made to work harder than their 3-0 victory might have indicated against Tennessee’s Beaman United on Wednesday night, but in the end a pair of goals by Gabriel Rodriguez and a late insurance marker Fernando Garcia saw the Menace through.
The win will have made the ten-and-a-half hour drive home back to Des Moines that much more tolerable for the side, which includes some recent professionals like Chris Nanco (Forge FC) and Christopher Bermudez (Greenville Triumph SC). Even better, they’ll get to stay on their home turf as Chattanooga FC makes the drive up to Iowa in two weeks.
You could hardly have asked for a better start to NONA FC’s Open Cup history. Fifty-eight seconds into its visit to Club de Lyon II in Kissimmee, Fla., recent Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC forward William Eyang put the side into a lead it wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the night in a 1-0 victory. It certainly wasn’t a simple result – NONA had to play the final 25 minutes down a man after Jeferson Junior was sent off – but goalkeeper Rafa Santos’ five-save shutout and a solid defensive display locked the victory down on a big night for the reigning Southeast Division champion.
Now NONA gets a dream scenario – visiting one of the USL Championship’s top clubs with the chance to become the team that makes headlines in the next round. The League Two side will have nothing to lose as it heads to face the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium as it looks to become the first amateur team to knock off the Rowdies since the 2018 tournament.
Capo FC earned its place in the 2023 Open Cup field as a local qualifier from the Western Region, but its 4-1 victory against the Ventura County Fusion on Wednesday night served as an appetizer for what’s to come for the side from San Capistrano, Calif. as it prepares to join USL League Two for the first time this summer. Capo and Ventura County will be part of this year’s Southwest Division lineup, and will square off for the first time on May 31 in league play.
Make no mistake, Ventura County could have advanced on Wednesday night. The hosts hit the woodwork three times in the first half after Jerry Desdunes had given the Fusion an early lead and held a 17-12 shot advantage. Capo’s goal in first-half stoppage time proved crucial, however, as Hevany Ramos put the side ahead before another pair of second half goals by Parker Scalzo and Ramos iced the game. Capo now gets a date with the USL Championship’s Orange County SC, with Ventura County left to plot its revenge in the summer.