Barrage of goals powers United past Lubbock, 3-1

Barrage of goals powers United past Lubbock, 3-1

The US Open Cup is one of those times of the year when lower league soccer takes center stage in the US pyramid. Between Cupsets and the magic of the moment, there’s always the possibility of something unusual taking place. If not for a barrage of second-half goals, a strong showing by the Lubbock Matadors could have ended in a Cupset. In the end, United took control and earned their spot in the 4th round with a 3-1 win.

There were a lot of unknowns for United coming into the match. The biggest being the unknown of an amateur team whose season hasn’t even begun. That uncertainty could have played a role in how the early stages of the match played out as University of the Cumberlands forward Shuma Sasaki controlled the left side of the pitch. Attempting to defend him for United was Academy player Jackson Dubois. Although he was able to make a number of recovery tackles, Dubois was beaten by Sasaki multiple times.

This was one of the keys of the game for the Matadors and the wide areas were good to the visitors early. Sasaki kept finding room behind Dubois and chances to cross the ball into the area. The first chance came as early as the 4th minute and again in the 14th minute. In the 14th, Sasaki’s cross found midfielder Luke Jones, who arguably had the best chance of the entire half. His left-footed shot appeared destined to find the net, but the motion of the shot caused the ball to drag across the face of the goal and out for a goal kick.

United’s first real chance of the evening was in the 12th after Lubbock defender Nicola Brocca turned the ball over deep in the defensive third. Seizing the opportunity, striker Daniel Bruce jumped at the chance to go one-on-one with the Matador keeper Owen Jack. Jack closed down on Bruce and was able to prevent the Black and Yellow from taking an early lead.

The physicality and technical play of the Matadors surprised many, as they weren’t willing to back down from the professional side. They expertly won fouls and kept putting themselves in chances to get the ball forward despite giving up much of the possession.

Passing the half-hour mark, United earned another chance this time from Sergio Rivas. Rivas found some space in the 34th minute just outside of the area and took the opportunity to go for goal. If not for a fantastic kick save by Jack, United might have taken the lead, but the score remained 0-0.

Much like the Matadors, United had their own scary moment at the back just before halftime. In an odd decision, Will Seymore opted to play the ball back to keeper Kris Shakes but misjudged the pace on the ball. Struck too hard, Shakes couldn’t control the pass and nearly turned the ball over to Jones. The Matador midfielder was able to get a touch on the ball, but not enough to take it away from Shakes and truly threaten the goal.

After halftime, United came out with a renewed sense of urgency and pushed the action to try and break the deadlock. Their efforts paid off in spades because when it rains it pours. The first of United’s goals on the evening came in the 58th minute when Bruce and Harry Swartz connected inside the area. Bruce took charge and drove the ball nearly to the byline before squaring it back to Swartz who was able to push the ball with the outside of his foot into the far side of the netting for the lead, 1-0.

Less than a minute later, Bruce would claim a goal of his own. In the 59th, Jack strayed just too far off of his line and the Englishman chipped the ball over him from the right side of the area, leaving the keeper flatfooted. The ball would loop into the left corner of the netting to double the lead, 2-0.

United wasn’t done there. In the 62nd, Swartz won a foul for United thirty yards out from goal and newcomer Mukwelle Akale, who inherited the role of set-piece specialist, stood over it. With plenty of options ahead of him, Akale kept his head up and drove the ball towards goal. The shot had more than enough pace and it dipped into the upper right corner of the net to extend the lead again, 3-0.

Lubbock wouldn’t go quietly into the night, however. In the 89th, Sasaki was still attacking the left wing, and this time, his efforts paid off. As he got into the area, he was pulled down from behind by Avionne Flanagan for a penalty. Having drawn the foul, Sasaki was sent to the mark for the attempt. Taking no chances, he drove the ball down the middle as Shakes dove to his right and the lead was cut to 3-1 before the final whistle sounded.

Player of the Match

Daniel Bruce – Another Brucey Banger found its way into the net and the forward was great throughout the evening. The legend of Daniel Bruce continues to grow with another goal and assist to his name and his energy throughout the match drove United’s play.

Up Next

Once the third round of the Open Cup concludes on April 17, United will have a better idea of who they might face in the round of 32. Their opponent won’t be known until they’re already on the road for their next league match, which is this Saturday against North Carolina FC. Coverage of the match against North Carolina will begin at 4 pm (MT) on ESPN Radio 101.7 FM The TEAM, The TEAM website, and TEAM apps. The match will follow with kickoff at 5 pm (MT).