Derby City Rovers fell in a heartbreaker of a match to the Tartan Devils Oak Avalon, 1-1 (4-3 PKs), in opening round play of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The visiting Tartan Devils, a pub team from the greater Pittsburgh region, absorbed the Rovers early pressure, at some points packing the defensive third with up to 10 men, and hung in the game until an equalizer at the death sent the game to extra time and ultimately a penalty shootout.
A strike early in the game by David Ibrahimkadic off a feed from Cory Thomas--both players are Rovers Youth Academy products--beat TDOA netminder Zachary Varga to the far post, smashing into the side netting to put the home side up 1-0 early in the game. TDOA's counter-attack style of play was mostly held in check by Derby City defenders men Sam Brooks, Joey Kunzel, Greg Fischer and Moustapha Fofana. Anything that got behind them was handled comfortably by Derby City's netminder, Wyatt Durbin.
The first half saw the Rovers dominate possession in the TDOA had of the field, but with very limited preparation time leading up to the match, they seemed to run out of ideas for breaking down their resolute opponents. Just before the whistle at the end of stoppage time, Igor Ibrahimkadic took a brilliant go at goal, only to be denied by Varga.
The second half was more open with both teams creating chances. While the Rovers remained dangerous through the penetrating runs of former Louisville City striker Kenny Doublette, they seemed to lose their way a bit, conceding possession carelessly and opening themselves up to the direct approach of TDOA. Yudai Tashiro had two sharp chances for the Rovers but couldn't quite find the mark. A scary moment occurred following TDOA's first substution, in which Tyler Solis received a booking for a poorly timed challenge on Wyatt Durbin. Deeper into the match, it appeared that TDOA had found the equalizer, as a scrum occurred off a corner kick. The referee and the assistant waived it off amidst vociferous protests from the TDOA players. In the 86th minute, it appeared that Derby City had found its insurance goal, but the assistant's dreaded flag went up to signal off-sides even though Tahiro's deft chip clearly sailed well over the head of the Rover's player that was in an off-sides position on it's way to the back of he net. The dubious decision would prove decisive as disaster struck for the home side in the 90th minute when Yoojin Kang commited a foul 40 yards out, and received a caution for his actions. The ensuing free kick found the head of Robert Heuler who nodded home the equalizer at the back post.
Extra-time brought several attempts for the Rovers and a couple run-outs for TDOA, but each effort went off frame, or was devoured by one of the two net minders. After 120 minutes of football, the whistle sounded again, showing the sides still knotted at one apiece.
A collective sigh went through the crowd as the realization that the match would be decided by kicks. Derby City sent Kenny Doublette, Yudai Tashiro, Sam Brooks, Moustapha Fofana, and Greg Fischer as their five. TDOA sent Tyler Solis, Dereck MacKenzie, Samuel Luffy, Robert Heuler, and Travis MacKenzie. Doublette, Brooks, and Fofana converted their kicks. D. MacKenzie, Luffy, and Heuler all converted theirs as well. Travis MacKenzie struck true on the fifth and final shot, and won the match for Tartan Devil-Oak Avalon.
Player-Coach Andrew Kalas of TDOA, was asked "No one likes going to kicks, what were you thinking when it got there?" He responded, "To be honest, I was glad the game was over. We're not used to playing 120 minutes. We had a couple chances in the first extra period, but by the end of the second extra period we were just hanging on."
Following the game, I had a moment with Coach Nathan Pitcock of Rovers, "We really wanted to get it done tonight in regulation, and we had our chances, but we just couldn't get finish." Kenny Doublette attracted a lot of attention, and Pitcock said that he hopes to have the guys move better off of him as the season progresses. Pitcock sees a lot of positives coming out of today's game, as well as some things to work on as they prepare for their next match.
Derby City's next fixture is this coming Saturday, May 13th, at 7:30PM, as the Rovers look to bounce back when they host West Virginia Chaos to open PDL play. Tickets for the game can be purchased in the Rovers Shop at roverssoccer.com