In a battle of newer clubs with contrasting styles and backgrounds, it was the team with more experience and one that exercised more patience, the Roc City Boom who would advance in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup qualifying round, handing upstart Pittsburgh City United FC a humbling 4-0 defeat at No Offseason Sports Field in Russellton on Saturday afternoon.
After a scoreless first half with both sides struggling to find their form, Roc City made some halftime adjustments, then took command of the match in the final 45 minutes, as Anthony Rozzano capitalized on an early second half penalty kick opportunity, then Austin Gerber took it from there, scoring the next three goals to complete an Open Cup hat trick.
“They say patience is a virtue,” Marc Mandel, Roc City Boom’s head coach said after the match. “We played to our strengths, held the ball, moved it around, then capitalized on our chances.”
It was the first Open Cup win for Roc City Boom, a club that was founded in 2019, and has already earned some hardware in Western New York based competitions.
In its first-ever appearance in the U.S. Open Cup and as the lone amateur outfit from the Pittsburgh region to enter into qualifying, City United, who began play in its first-ever season in UPSL just a month ago amassing a 3-1 record, struggled to sustain its attack and lost its legs late in the match, leading to a harsh and humbling scoreline.
“Our most consistent thing we did all day was our inconsistency,” City United’s Head Coach Michael Monsour said when offering his modest assessment of his club after the match. “And that can happen with a young team. Some of our veterans were inconsistent as well. And I was too. I probably made some changes that we probably didn’t need to do. They’re going to learn from it. They’re going to grow from it. I am going to grow from it. And I am going to learn from it too”
Monsour wasn’t pleased with his team’s overall effort.
“Our players worked really hard today. Some players more than others. I’m addressing that. That was obvious,” Monsour “It’s difficult, but I give all credit to Roc City Boom. It’s a difficult pill to swallow.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
The last days of the summer brought some very warm weather to the Pittsburgh region. The match began with both sides feeling each other out, but with the differences in play coming to the forefront from the start.
Roc City looked to open up the field and build possession out of the back, while Pittsburgh City United played with a more aggressive, direct approach.
Using the width, Roc City had the first real opportunities of the match, with three consecutive corner kicks, with each being denied by PCU FC’s numbers in the box.
In the 18th minute Rozzano got behind City United’s Pat Miller on the far right side, then sent tough angle shot beyond the reach of goalkeeper Sam Sharpless and into the goal.
The shot was waved off as the Boom were off side.
This began a bothering trend for the visitors, who were moving the ball well, especially from side-to-side with diagonal balls and through the width, as they were called for six offside calls in the first 45 minutes.
City United, with a solid defensive shape and strong play from its holding mids Jeff Blaschka and Ikechukuw Agbaeze, were defending well, keeping a disciplined high line that kept testing the Roc City attackers’ patience.
Unfortunately for the home side, they couldn’t sustain possessions beyond midfield, instead resorted to sending balls forward and hoping its speedy forwards could create chances.
The closest City United would come in the first half resulted in shots from distance from Marquis Flowers and Ramesses McGuinness, each attempt sailed well over the bar.
Roc City started to mount some late first half pressure, but Miller and Robert Woodruff’s header clearances on the same sequence in the 43rd minute helped deny one of the most dangerous moment for the visitors and keep the match scoreless heading into the half.
The Boom has the edge in most of the unofficial stats being kept in the first half, with an 8-3 advantage in shots (4-2 on target) and 7-1 on corner kick attempts, but that offside descrepency (6-1) was also glaring.
“They were playing a high line,” Mandel explained. “At the half, that’s what we realized, if we get it wide, and instead of our forwards just hanging up and waiting over the top or trying to get around (their defenders). I hate the long ball. I hate when it gets into that. You end up running when you have no subs and you tire easily.”
At the start of the second half, Roc City used the width to get into a dangerous position on the left side, and just inside the edge of the box — drawing a foul and a penalty kick in the 46th minute.
This put Anthony Rozzano on the spot — and his penalty attempt was initially saved by Sharpless — who guessed correctly by going to his left to make a dazzling save.
However, Rozzano, a former SUNY Albany standout, was there to put the rebound back in, giving Roc City the 1-0 lead.
— John Krysinsky (@JohnKrysinsky) September 18, 2021
From that point, Roc City began to possess more and City United started to chase the game a bit more.
“When we were able to do that and get everyone involved in the play, that was able to help us out,” Mandel added.
Still, the match remained a precarious one-goal advantage for Roc City, as City United showed its talent in flashes, and were on the cusp of getting the equalizer a few times.
“They’re a younger team. They’re fast. They’re physical. They play very well,” Mandel remarked.
In the 58th minute, City United’s Ndayisanga Emmanual moved forward toward the outside of the right edge of the penalty area, driving a shot that banged off the right corner.
Moments later, in the 62nd minute, Ramesses McGuinnes was pulled down as he was getting to the box, but the infraction was ruled just beyond the line, resulting in a free kick chance for City United.
McGuiness’ attempt went over the bar.
— John Krysinsky (@JohnKrysinsky) September 18, 2021
Another blow came to City United when Agbaeze had to leave the match early in the second half due to an injury.
“He’s just an (excellent) facilitator for us,” Monsour said. “It was difficult losing Joe. The way we did. It’s really unfortunate. ”
As the match entered the last 30 minutes, Roc City started to find a lot more space once they got the ball through the middle of the field as City United’s fatigue from chasing the game started to show.
In the 68th minute, Gerber then began finding the back of the net with regularity.
First, came an absolute rocket from 15 yards, after the former Keuka College standout found a deflection from a blocked shot come his way — then took it from here to double the Roc City lead to 2-0.
In the 85th minute, Ali Shawish got forward into the box with just Sharpless to beat. The former Buffalo State standout took a shot that went right of Sharpless, who came off his line. Left exposed on back post, Pittsburgh City United FC didn’t have anyone there to clear or mark Gerber, who was the man on the spot for the easy, clinical finish.
Only a minuted later, Gerber completed the hat trick with another goal that delivered the final boom.
“He was on the money,” Mandel said. “At times, he was a little limited on what he could normally do on the shorter field, but he’s a hard worker, and it paid off. He deserves it.”
For Roc City, it’s another big step forward for a club that has already won some local trophies in its short existence, but eager to carry on the Open Cup tradition of teams coming from Western New York who’ve made a splash in the proper tournament.
That’s the plan. We would love to get there,” Mandel boasted. “There are new teams popping up in our area that are pro teams. We would love to have a chance to get there and face them in the first round and show them, we’re the local guys that are here, look at what we do.”
On the flip side, City United learned a hard lesson as their Open Cup hopes were dashed on a hot day in the Northern Pittsburgh suburbs.
“It’s really unfortunate. We wanted to go far in the Cup. We figured today would be that day,” Monsour said.
“I don’t think there’s any motivation higher than a U.S. Open Cup. “I do think the better team lost today. At the same time, not on the pitch today. We weren’t our normal Pittsburgh City United, fighting to the finish, things of that nature.”
Pittsburgh City United FC
Ikechukwu Agbaeze, Jeff Blaschka, Ndayisenga Emmanual, Marquis Flowers, Franck Kada, Mumbi Christian Kapunda, Pat Miller, Ramesses Moore-McGuinness, Gregoire Paluku, Robert Woodruff, Sam Sharpless (GK)
Subs: Osman Jouejati (54′); Shaun Murrary (90’+2)
Roc City Boom
Max Egan, Dom Francis, Austin Gerber, Mwaltizi Mutambo, Coldu O’Keefe, Anthony Ruzzano, Jared Toth, Robert Williamson, David Wrights, Konrad Zydowicz, Connor Haldsted (GK)
Subs: Dan Reger (45′); Ali Shawish (65′); Andreas Queen (85′)
Postgame Reaction on Pittsburgh Soccer Now’s YouTube Channel
Roc City Boom’s Marc Mandel
Pittsburgh City United’s Michael Monsour