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U.S. Open Cup

FC Tucson turns out the Lights in soccer 'cupset'

Crull, Bedoya & Adams all score against upper-division Vegas squad

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Tucson midfielder Daniel Bedoya takes a free kick in the second half of FC Tucson's U.S. Open Cup match against the Las Vegas Lights. - Joshua Pearson/TucsonSentinel.com

The U.S. Open Cup pits teams of different levels of American soccer. A lower-division team can take on a more well-heeled and talented upper-division side. Those lower teams can win, and when they do, Open Cup watchers call it a "cupset."

FC Tucson had a cupset at Kino North Stadium on Wednesday night with a scrappy win over Las Vegas Lights 3 - 2 in a second-round Open Cup match.

Las Vegas plays in the USL Championship, a level up from FC Tucson’s League One. Their relationship with Major League Soccer’s LAFC means that they have access to top-tier talent. However, Danny Musovsky (a former FC Tucson player) and Cal Jennings, two of their top players with LAFC experience, were left off the lineup.

FC Tucson owned the ball for the majority of the first half, but had trouble getting it out of their half of the field. Goalkeeper Carlos Merancio had to make a couple of spectacular saves to keep things level at zero.

There were a couple of good chances for FC Tucson, and late in the half the team earned a corner kick. Daniel Bedoya delivered the kick to the face of the goal. It eventually ended up at the head of Luca Mastrantonio, who knocked it down to the foot of Jacob Crull. Crull sent it past Las Vegas keeper Abraham Romero.

It was Crull’s first goal as a professional, the team’s first Open Cup goal as a pro squad and the first the team scored in the Open Cup since 2017.

The second half saw a change-up in tactics from FC Tucson. Too much of the attack was going through the center of the field, so the team got more service to Gio Calixtro and Tyler Adams to stretch the field a bit.

It paid off as the team earned more corner kicks, but some of the defensive slip ups that cost them the match against Richmond over the weekend struck again. Mohamed Traore, a loanee from LAFC that entered the game in the second half, buried a cross in minute 66.

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FC Tucson responded only a few minutes later when Daniel Bedoya’s corner kick was bobbled into the net by Las Vegas’s Romero. It may not have been a pretty Olimpico, but it earned back the lead for the home side.

Tyler Adams extended the lead after getting just a little bit of distance from his marker and sending a missile of a shot into the top of the net.

A two-goal lead with less than 15 minutes left on the clock should have been safe, but Las Vegas’s Daniel Cristomo took a shot from the top of the box that beat Merancio.

The Lights weren’t able to take advantage of either their new momentum nor the five minutes of stoppage time. The whistle blew with FC Tucson as winners.

“I’m happy most of all from the players, who bounced back after a tough result on Saturday,” said coach Jon Pearlman. “We were goal dangerous this game and Carlos had a big save… overall I thought we deserved the match.”

The team will find out its next U.S. Open Cup opponent after a draw on Friday. The team has a break from league play this weekend and faces Forward Madison on April 16.

Phoenix advances and other cupsets

Since the matchups are largely determined by geography, a late win by Phoenix Rising over third-tier pro side Valley United FC might make for an intriguing match up in the next round.

Rising was unable to score against Valley United over the course of a 90-minute match that saw former FC Tucson player Ricardo Velazco get time on the field. It took until deep into extra time, minute 115, for the USL Championship side to score and put away the underdogs.

In addition to FC Tucson's, there were six “cupsets” in this round so far, including one by amateur side North Carolina Fusion FC U23. Third division sides St. Louis City 2, Central Valley Fuego, Northern Colorado Hailstorm and Bay Cities FC all advanced along with semi-pro side FC Motown.

Eight more second round matches are scheduled for Thursday.

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Stars and smoke

Michigan Stars FC plays in the third division National Independent Soccer Association. They didn’t have a cupset, but instead lost to USL Championship side Detroit City FC on Tuesday. It wasn’t a complete surprise, but the team took issue with the playing conditions in a tweet.

To all of the soccer fans around the world, yesterday we played a game for the U.S. Open Cup where we got sabotaged with smoke, darkness, and smell. We asked the match officials multiple times to take charge, but it was unsuccessful. We hope no team has to go though this. We would like to thank staff and players for finishing the game. - Thanks again, George Juncaj

The tweet got, in Internet parlance, ratioed, and not just because of the misuse of commas. It was pointed out by several responders that the smoke wasn’t any more than what other teams deal with and that, yes, both teams played in the same conditions. Also, it is traditional for smoke to be released after a goal, meaning that the Stars were likely already down before the smoke was on the field.

Soccer fan Gary Wiggins wrote “Sounds like someone needs to grow up and spend more time building a better team.”

The Stars lost the match 3 - 0.

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