It was over. No one, in their wildest dreams, would’ve thought a 3-0 lead for the New England Revolution with just nine minutes to play in overtime against the third division (USL Pro) Harrisburg City Islanders wasn’t safe.
Yet, the Islanders had other ideas, shocking the 10-man Revs with three late goals and then going on to win 4-3 on penalty kicks in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup third round match at Skyline Sports Complex in Harrisburg, Pa, on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, the heavily-favored Revs, of the nation’s top league, MLS, were eliminated from the Open Cup by the Islanders for the second time in four years.
A match that saw both sides spurn chances in regulation time, and the Revs play down a man for the majority of the game after Diego Fagundez’s 35th minute red card, came to life in overtime with second half substitutes Lee Nguyen, Blake Brettschneider and Benny Feilhaber leading the charge for the Revs.
Nguyen was the catalyst four minutes into over time when the Revs grabbed a 1-0 lead. The creative midfielder made a nice run and then sent Kelyn Rowe behind the defense. Rowe made no mistake powering a shot past goalkeeper Nick Noble to open the scoring.
The Revs kept the pressure on and doubled the lead four minutes later after Feilhaber earned a penalty kick. Nguyen stepped up and converted from the spot to make it 2-0.
The visitors weren’t done attacking yet and made it 3-0 through Feilhaber in the 13th minute of overtime (103rd minute overall). After some impressive work by Brettschneider, the young forward found Feilhaber at the far post and the experienced midfielder finished to seemingly put the game out of reach.
But with such heralded names finding the score sheet, it was easy to forget this was far from a first choice line-up from the Revs. None of the players who started in the Revs 3-2 loss to D.C. United on Saturday were on the field to start this match.
New England’s starting defense featured Alec Purdie, a midfielder, and the midfield was devoid of any defensive-minded players with creative attackers Kelyn Rowe and Fernando Cardenas partnered in the center. Add to that Fagundez’s early ejection leaving the Revs to play the final 85 minutes down a man and it wasn’t too hard to understand why the Revs struggled at times until Brettschneider, Nguyen, and Feilhaber were injected into the line-up.
While the three provided a clear spark off the bench on offense, they didn’t change what was clearly a makeshift lineup defensively with many players who had never before started – let alone played 90 minutes – in a first team match. Over 105 minutes into the match, things started to fall apart.
The collapse began in the second period of overtime. Signs of the Revs demise came four minutes in when Englishman Tom Mellor forced Revs ‘keeper Bobby Shuttleworth to push a shot wide.
In the 111th minute, Mellor turned provider. The midfielder sent a cross from the left flank to Kenyan Brian Ombiji. Ombiji finished passed Shuttleworth to cut the Revs lead to two.
Six minutes later, Gambian Sainey Touray really made things interesting after a poor defensive sequence for the Revs. J. T. Noone sent a long ball into the box, that Darrius Barnes failed to reach with an attempted header, allowing Drew Yates to get behind the defense. John Lozano then slid in to block Yates shot, but the Revs failed to clear and Touray was there to finish off a rebound and make it 3-2.
Then, the seemingly impossible happened. In the last minute of overtime, the Islanders found the equalizer. After a Revolution defender failed to deal with a cross from Jason Pelletier, Noone, a former Philadelphia Union trialist, hit a first time shot past Shuttleworth to knot the score at 3-3 and send the match to penalties.
Noone, a Harrisburg native, took the first penalty, only to see it saved by Shuttleworth. Nguyen then gave the Revs an early 1-0 lead. Harrisburg would knot it at 1-1 after Stephen Basso scored and Rowe was denied by the crossbar.
Bilal Duckett and Drew Yates scored the next two goals for the Islanders, while Michael Roach and Blake Brettschneider finished shots of their own for the Revs to make it 3-3. Andrew Marshall then put the Islanders up 4-3 and Noble denied Feilhbaer to give the Islanders a historic upset and a trip to face the New York Red Bulls in the fourth round on June 5th.
New England returns to league action on Saturday, June 2, against the Chicago Fire at 7:30 p.m. at Gillette Stadium.