Short-handed MPS Prevails in PKs

Mass Premier Soccer defender Sam Brill (center) helped keep his club’s defense strong for 120 minutes in Saturday’s victory over East Providence Sports. (Photo: Joao Vieira/Joao Vieira Photography)

BOSTON – Matt Hoff converted the game-winning penalty for a short-handed Mass Premier Soccer squad, which staked a 1-1 (4-2 PKs) victory over East Providence Sports in Saturday’s U.S. Open Cup Massachusetts state final.

It took only 20 seconds for Tyler Macnee to put Mass Premier in the driver’s seat, but the goalscorer was red carded three minutes later. Kyle Teixeira equalized in the 81st minute before penalties were employed to separate the sides.

Jimmi Underhill stopped the first Mass Premier penalty, while Jeff Newman stopped East Providence’s second bid, and was helped by the post on the fourth attempt. Seconds later, Hoff struck it true to send his teammates through to the USASA Region 1 portion of the 100th edition of the U.S. Open Cup tournament.

“It was a tough game,” said MPS co-manager Dan MacGregor. “It wasn’t a flashy game, but I think both sides showed a lot of resilience. Everyone dug in real deep, it went back and forth a lot.”

MacGregor’s club wasted no time tipping it in their favor. As East Providence cycled the ball inside their half right after the whistle, Mass Premier seized a lazy ball, and Nick Christman sent it to Macnee. With only Underhill standing in his way, Macnee slid it through to grab the lead in the first minute.

Yet, Macnee’s match was over before the fifth minute for putting his elbow into Gomes’ forehead on a 50/50 ball near center circle. With Gomes sporting a sizable gash on his forehead, the referee issued a straight red card to Macnee.

“You start off and score a goal in the first minute, and we have real good combination play that kind of set the tone of the game,” MacGregor said. “Then, you get a red card. Obviously, that’s not what you want, especially in the Massachusetts final.”

Gomes returned to action bandaged up moments later, and helped steer his team’s attack against a short-handed opponent.

In the 28th minute, Jimmy Hernandez chased down a pass from Teixeira into the box and was brought down by Newman. A penalty was awarded, and Newman was cautioned before Teixeira lined up his shot. But Newman redeemed himself when he denied the penalty.

“We had a great opportunity to take advantage,” East Providence manager Larry Alves said. “Missing that PK was huge. Their goalie came up with a big save. Kyle’s usually pretty good about putting those away. But going forward, a man up, you have to take advantage.”

Instead of dwelling on their misfortune, East Providence only sharpened the attack. Teixeira and Anthony Petrarca each fired dangerous free kicks that curled away from frame at the last moment.

Alves’ squad almost leveled right before halftime when Andres Perdomo found an open look on frame. But the attacking midfielder couldn’t keep his shot down.

The second half opened much like the first 45 closed: with East Providence pressing the issue. Gomes and Joaquim De Pina each put Mass Premier on notice with open headers that came close to frame.

“We attacked well,” Alves said. “We were pretty much in their end for the entire game. But we couldn’t put more balls away. It’s just unlucky.”

While the luck may have eluded East Providence, Mass Premier relied on its defense to snuff out a host of chances. Former Revolution defender Sam Brill helped keep the back four strong by winning a number of aerial chances.

“Our defensive line played real, real well,” MacGregor said. “It’s one of our strengths. We have an unbelievable backline. We don’t give up very many goals.”

The only goal Mass Premier gave up came from a curious sequence in the 81st minute. Teixeira went inside the area and chipped it far post with Hernandez nearby. Realizing he was offside, Hernandez ducked away, and watched the ball crash into the net on its own. Initially, the assistant referee’s flag nullified the goal, but the referee consulted with assistant referee, and East Providence was back in business.

Overtime concluded 10 v. 9 after Mass Premier’s Andrew Hench and East Providence’s Eddy Lopes were issued red cards in the 97th and 102nd minutes, respectively, for dangerous challenges.

Knotted at one apiece after 120 minutes, each team selected players for penalties. After East Providence missed their second attempt, Hoff stepped to the spot with his club holding a 3-2 advantage, and buried it to send Mass Premier to its second U.S. Open Cup state final triumph in the last three years.

“The guys did a great job. We’re ready to go (to the USASA Region 1 portion),” MacGregor joked. “We’ve got knocks, so it’ll be good to take some time off and wait until March for the draw.”

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About Brian O'Connell

Brian O'Connell serves as editor and staff writer at New England Soccer Today. He's also the Revolution beat writer for ESPNBoston.com, and is Officer at Large for the North American Soccer Reporters. He's contributed to The Associated Press, The Canadian Press, and has been featured on MLSSoccer.com & RevsNet.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianOConnell21 or e-mail him at BOConnell21@aol.com