From the moment the starting lineups for both squads were announced, it was clear how both Duluth FC and Saint Louis FC were approaching their second round U.S. Open Cup round. Duluth lined up with what so far has seemed to be their standard group: Kyle Farrar (C), Julian Villegas, Vladik Margolin, Dana Kowacheck, Sean Morgan, Santiago Castro, Joe Watt, Ryan Tyrer, Cori Hill, Jan Hoffelner, and Liam Moore. Perhaps the biggest stand out is keeper Jan Hoffelner who made his first start for the club, having subbed on during the TwinStars game and his USOC debut. Saint Louis lined up with a squad of starters and bench players, with their squad featuring six of the players that played against Orange County (USL) on the 12th in a 1-1 draw. Saint Louis’ squad featured: Jack Fenlason, Jake Maher, Sam Fink, Sean Reynolds, Austin Ledbetter, Kadeem Dacres, Aedan Stanley, Joey Calistri, Lewis Hilton, Corey Hertzog, and Albert Dikwa.
Getting real close to kickoff. pic.twitter.com/UP1PdVjPco— Saint Louis FC (@SaintLouisFC) May 16, 2018
Duluth’s line up reflects what we all expected and hoped their approach would be. They wanted to put up a real fight and feature as many of their best players as possible. With the weekend game being an away game at the ever struggling La Crosse Aris, it’s clear that Duluth FC wanted as many eggs in the USOC basket as they could get. Saint Louis’ lineup shows they aren't apathetic of the tournament but didn’t want to overcommit. Saint Louis’ next game will actually be the third round game against Louisville City as league play doesn't resume until the 26th. Essentially the two lineups reflected what we all expect from an amateur vs. professional match up in a cup competition. It’s the type of face-off that occasionally proves useful for the amateur or lower league side, but can still prove easy for the pros, as some of the second round scorelines reflected.
Now to the actual game. Duluth’s last two matches have been surrounded by question marks around calls, cards, and fouls, but it wouldn't be heresy to say that the two goals Saint Louis scored in their 0-2 loss were about as right and deserved as they come. In the first half Saint Louis absolutely dominated possession and came close to scoring a few more, only to be stopped by Jan and, in an early panic moment, the post. The Saint Louis front line, including goal scorers Dacres and Hertzog, looked keen to impress and certainly managed to do so.
The second half showed a shift as Duluth applied far more pressure and brought on different attacking talents in Garga, Arad, and the debuting youngster Brooks Rice. Despite not putting one past Saint Louis, who defended well despite the pressure, Duluth were able to make the second half feel like a real contest and kept the crowd, which was Duluth’s biggest so far this year by all accounts, aware that the game could change any moment.
Head Coach Person had humbly positive observations to report after the game, acknowledging the loss while seeing the good the squad could take away from the match, “I actually thought it was really positive. That was a very quality team that we just played and we showed a lot of improvements compared to our last two games. Against NPSL competition we had some trouble giving up easy goals, we made it very difficult for them to break us down tonight.”
In the end both teams marched off the pitch, welcomed by applauding fans and excited children and there was a feeling in the air that everything was going to be okay. The result was not a good one, but it showed that even amongst the different scales of losses suffered by PDL and NPSL clubs in the second round, Duluth had something to build on. Amongst staff, players, and encouraging fans, there was a feeling in the air that it wouldn't be too long until the next time Duluth played in the U.S. Open Cup again, something only time will tell.
With this ends the NPSL North’s involvement in the 2018 U.S. Open Cup both Dakota Fusion and Duluth FC managed to make history this year, though neither will be satisfied with one or two rounds of play. Saint Louis FC will now face Louisville City FC, who thrashed the Long Island Rough Riders 5-0, and hope to advance to the 4th round, in which MLS clubs join in. As our time in the tournament as a region closes out, until Minnesota United get in that is, I can say it’s been an exciting and challenging ride. I can’t wait for more, but until then, the NPSL is calling.