There is something about U.S. Open Cup matches that bring out the best in Union captain Brian Carroll.
See he’s never won one.
But it’s one of the last things in his 11-year soccer career that he’d like to hoist before he calls it quits.
It’s why with the Union’s back against the wall Tuesday night in third round U.S. Open Cup play, Carroll made sure his head connected on a Sebastien Le Toux corner kick that proved the gamewinner in a 2-1 defeat of USL-PDL side the Ocean City Nor'Easters at PPL Park.
The Union will now face D.C. United for the third straight year in U.S. Open Cup play who took the USL’s Richmond Kickers into extra time Tuesday, eventually winning on penalty kicks. The venue for that fourth round USOC match will be hosted at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Md., the scene of the crime the last two seasons.
“I am just happy to be advancing,” Carroll said postgame. “This is a tournament I would really like to win one day and hopefully we are able to do it this year with this group.”
It was Carroll who fueled an extra time thriller against D.C. United three years ago in Boyds, when he scored in 100-plus minutes of extra time. Carroll, who has five goals in all competitions for the Union has scored three in Open Cup play – two against D.C. United.
Carroll’s goal in Tuesday night’s installment arrived in second half stoppage, just minutes after Nor’Easters forward Emmanuel Kollie evened the match at 1-1 finishing off a scramble in the box, squeezing the ball inside near post. The goal nullified a score in the 49th minute from Jack McInerney who calmly placed a ball across the box from Le Toux past Nor’Easters goalkeeper Brian Billings.
“When you play against a team like that it’s kind of like their World Cup game, so you know they are going to come out strong,” McInerney said. “They are going to throw everything at you and try to do everything possible to defeat you. For us, it’s a game where we try to come out and try something different. But [Ocean City] battled and it took a while to break them down, but it finally came.”
Playing the majority of his starters, Union manager John Hackworth found a crew eager to get on the score sheet creating chances (18 shots, seven on goal) but found either a stingy Nor’Easters defense or an unfavorable pass in the final third to their detriment. However, the Union attack never wavered after Kollie’s goal and a furious attack spearheaded on numerous occasions down the right flank by second half sub Danny Cruz proved too much for Ocean City to contain.
“We obviously have [winning this tournament] one of the goals we set out for this club,” said Hackworth. “You can tell that by the lineup we put out tonight that there was no thought that this was going to be an easy game for us, so our focus is trying to win one of the few trophies you can win in U.S. Soccer…[now we head to D.C.] and anyone that’s been down to [Boyds, Md.] will tell you that is a tough place to play the past couple years. It’s always a battle.”
That game is June 12, but in the immediate the Union will take another trip North to Canada to take on Toronto FC in MLS league play on Saturday (6 p.m., The Comcast Network).
“Hopefully we can learn some things from tonight’s game and move past the couple tough performances that we’ve had,” said Carroll. “Road games are never easy and Toronto is a much different club now than they were when we played them the first time, so we are going to have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org