November 24th - Clemente Field - Boston
The fixture was set weeks ago. Two teams, Mass Premier Soccer and Mass United FC, were to meet on a Sunday afternoon in late November to decide who would be Massachusetts Open Cup Champion.
As the poet once said, "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."
The game was set for a 2:00 kick-off, but got moved up to a 1:30 kickoff over concerns of running out of daylight. So as this reporter arrived at the field shortly after 2 PM, the game was already 30 minutes in and Mass Premier were trailing 1-0.
The problem was - Mass United FC were not on the field.
Prior to the game, Mass Premier Soccer were informed that Mass United FC were disqualified after fielding an ineligible player in the semi-final. The disqualification resulted in the loser of the semi-final, Valeo Sports, moving on to the final instead.
Despite fielding a team of irregulars, Valeo Sports took the lead in the first half with a brilliant piece of individual play from Marillo Zanetti. Zanetti reportedly beat the defender by bouncing the ball over his opponent, and bringing it down on to his foot, fired past the MPS Keeper, Jeff Newman.
However, Mass Premier Soccer were able to keep their composure and equalize near the 40 minute mark. MPS pressured their opponents deep into their own half, and former SMU and FC Dallas midfielder Ben Shuleva managed to capitalize by beating the keeper inside a very congested penalty area.
The second half saw both teams struggle against the elements with sub-freezing temperatures, and a swirling wind that whipped down the field and back the other way. Other than the cold and wind, the only constant in the game, was the stream of profanity coming from the Valeo coaches sitting in the stands, presumably prohibited from the touchline. The verbal tirade had little effect however, but despite their overall poor play, they were able to hold off an ineffective MPS attack.
Both teams had chances toward the end of full time to go ahead, and Valeo probably deserved a penalty awarded in their favor for a trip near the box, but the referee called no foul as MPS was able to counter. MPS also had a chance in the second half with a free kick from Nick Crestman, who wiped it inside the box from the right side 25 yards out. The ball was flicked on to Ben Shuleva by forward Chuck Romero, but Shuleva's header was caught by the keeper right on the line.
The game quickly went into extra time as daylight was running out. MPS proved to be the more consistent with the ball and pressed hard for the go ahead goal. It came finally in the second extra time period with about 10 minutes left to play. When a corner kick found its way to MPS forward Tyler MacNee, who was left unmarked, and was able to take a touch in the box, settle the ball, and drive it past the Valeo keeper with his right foot for the go ahead goal.
Valeo however did not give up and continued to press forward. With under 5 minutes left, they pushed forward and seemingly had Newman beat, but the shot was cleared off the line by MPS defender Jake Edwards. Time eventually ran out on Valeo and MPS secured their spot in the Open Cup USASA Region 1 tournament next spring.