On May 13, 2015, Brendan August Willms, 3 year old son of Casey and Erin, brother of Colin, peacefully succumbed to pediatric brain cancer. In his honor, we ask that you donate to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. www.chop.edu
It was an historic night for soccer in Lansing, Michigan. Lansing United, a second year club in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), played in their first ever U.S. Open Cup match and the first ever USOC match in hosted in Lansing. They scrapped by their opponents, RWB Adria of the Great Lakes Premier League, by the slimmest of margins.
On a night which set the U.S Open Cup record for most games being decided by penalty shootouts in one round, Lansing United defeated RWB Adria with a 4-2 penalty shootout win after the teams played to a scoreless draw after 120 minutes. A staunch defensive effort and clinical finishing under the pressure of penalties helped Lansing United overcome RWB Adria to advance to the 2nd round of the USOC.
While Lansing United midfielder Yvez Nzwanga received much of the acclaim post-match for scoring the match clinching penalty, it was United goalkeeper Quinn McAnaney who was the hero on the night. Behind a solid back line that mostly kept RWB Adria at bay, McAnaney was spectacular in goal. He answered the call each and every time he was needed, to the tune of six saves during 120 minutes of play and a tone-setting save on Adria’s first attempt in penalties. After McAnaney saved the first attempt from Adria’s Antonio Aguilar, United forward Cholo Petit slotted home his attempt and United were on their way to victory.
The first 120 minutes were not nearly as comfortable for the home side. RWB Adria dominated possession and chances on goal for the first half and significant portions of the second half and extra time. Approaching the game with a bend but don’t break attitude, United’s backline and midfield sat deep, absorbing the pressure of the Adria attack and looking to get the attack going on the counter.
Adria clearly benefited from the fact that the team plays together through the winter, with the chemistry and familiarity evident in their attack. Despite all their possession, and forcing McAnaney into six saves, most shots came from under defensive pressure and the final ball was lacking.
Much of that was likely down to the performance of United’s back line. Center-back Austin Dunn, who played every minute of Lansing’s inaugural season in 2014, which included an NPSL Midwest Regional Championship and a run to the National semi-finals, moved to right back, while Ben Lamb and newcomer Jimmy Fiscus got the starts at CB. Throughout the first half, Adria’s Maria Vucelimovic was a constant threat down Lansing’s left side, until United manager Eric Rudland switched Dunn to the left side midway through the first half. The move not only helped solidify the back line, but freed up Freddy Gomes, playing opposite Dunn on the backline to push forward a bit.
United looked much more comfortable in the second half, maintaining possession for longer periods and seeming more secure defensively. They still failed to put any real threatening attempts on goal, but the improvement was evident. The United midfield, made up of Jack Smith, James DeCosomo, and Andrew Hill, was everywhere in the second half, breaking up Adria’s attack and shielding the back line.
Extra time seemed mostly an exercise in passing the time while teams lumped long balls back and forth, with no real chances being created aside from the occasional set-piece, where Adria’s size advantage made them a constant threat. By the end of the first period of extra time it seemed both teams were content to go to penalties, focusing more on not conceding than on scoring.
For United, the dream that began in May 2014 continues. After a magical first season which saw them capture the Midwest Regional Championship and earn their berth in this year’s Open Cup. With the win against Adria, United advances to the second round of the USOC, in which they will host USL side Lousiville City FC on Wednesday, May 20 at 7 p.m. at the Archer Stadium in East Lansing. Lousiville is the USL affiliate of MLS club Orland City Soccer Club.
After the game, United Head Coach and General Manager Eric Rudland had this to say:
Getting a result tonight is massive – whether it’s extra-time, PKs, or within 90 minutes. for us as a club to even be in the tournament is monumental – and then to get the result tonight – it’s a great thing for us moving forward.
Here’s full video of the penalty shootout:
Main photo credit: Kristen Walcott