GREENVILLE – It was another classic, chaotic, grueling U.S. Open Cup match in Charlotte FC’s debut in the competition against the Greenville Triumph. The Triumph played valiantly, forcing CLTFC into extra time, but the Crown came out victorious with a 2 – 1 win.
The first half went pretty much as it normally does when MLS teams play against a lower division side. As the underdog, Greenville was comfortable sitting back and loading up the center of the pitch in order to limit the scoring opportunities for CLTFC. When Greenville would finally get on the ball, they would quickly counter and try to create something in transition.
They almost managed to catch Charlotte on a counter in the 16th minute but a timely interception by defender Anton Walkes heroically prevented what would have been a likely goal. After the 30-minute mark, however, Charlotte was starting to find the gaps.
They almost broke through with a chance in the 35th minute from Mckinze Gaines who's chip attempt landed just above the goal. Following that attempt in the 39th minute, Adam Armour tried a cheeky backheel shot which forced a save from the keeper and the rebound landed for Titi Ortiz to bury the opening goal.
In the second half, Greenville came out of their shell and started to press CLTFC high up the pitch. It paid dividends when they equalized in the 59th minute from an excellent strike from striker Jake Keegan after knocking on Charlotte’s door for the entirety of the opening minutes of the second half.
Soon after the goal, CLTFC head coach made four substitutions which helped bring the momentum back to the Crown. CLTFC were edging closer and closer to scoring the winning goal when in the 89th minute their best chance was cleared off the line.
Charlotte couldn’t break through which forced the game into extra time. In the 106th minute, it was a beautifully executed give and go between new signing Kamil Jóźwiak and unlikely goal scorer, right back Harrison Afful, that earned CLTFC their ticket to the next round.
Many would have said that playing an entire rotated side would be a risky decision, but Miguel Ramírez trusted in his depth. But whatever the final result was, it was always going to be a good opportunity to see players who normally don't get many minutes.
Players like Anton Walkes, McKinze Gaines, Harrison Afful, and Adam Armour who haven’t gotten many minutes this season got a chance to show what they got. We also saw the competitive debut of center back Jan Sobociński, goalkeeper George Marks, fullback Koa Santos, and newest designated player, winger Kamil Jóźwiak.
It took everything Charlotte FC had, but in the end, it was a historic night as the Club earned their first-ever win in the U.S. Open Cup advancing to the next round.
Up next is the Round of 32 draw which will take place on Wednesday, April 21st at 12 PM ET live streamed through Twitter and Youtube.