The match began with an early score and late fisticuffs, as the New England Revolution overtook USL Division Two side Harrisburg City Wednesday night by the score of 2-1 in the U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals.
After a lethargic performance versus DC United over the weekend, the Revs came in ready to bounce back and return to their usual, offensively-potent selves.
Immediately from the opening whistle, the home side came out attacking, setting the tempo for an aggressive assault on the Islanders net. No sooner did the Revs succeed in doing so when Andy Dorman corralled a bouncing ball within the box and laced a close-range shot past keeper Matt Nelson for the early one goal lead during the 4th minute of play.
“The ball was just bouncing around in the area, and I just hit it with my left foot,” said Dorman after the match. “I just tried to get it and it just ended up going through a player’s legs and it ended up in the back of the net.”
While ahead by a score, any delusions that the local lads would sit back and retreat to their shell to protect the lead were thoroughly dismissed after prolonged stays in the Harrisburg City end.
Their efforts culminated in the 17th minute, when Pat Noonan pilfered the ball away from an Islander defender and streaked down the right flank as Taylor Twellman ran parallel yards left toward the net. With a defender closing in, Noonan struck a skipping ground delivery to an unmarked Twellman who flicked the ball past a helpless Nelson for the two-goal advantage.
The dominance did not subside there, as Steve Nicol’s boys were poised to increase the lead with relentless pressure in the Harrisburg end. The Islanders, who upset DC United in their previous U.S. Open Cup match, countered with a physical and, at times, reckless approach that resulted in numerous dust-ups with various Revolution players.
Minutes before halftime, Steve Ralston hooked up with Dorman in search of goal number three as the attacking midfielder took the pass and rocketed a shot that was amazingly stopped by a rather busy Harrisburg keeper in the 42nd minute.
Half two commenced the way the first frame ended and the Revs refused to back down in the face of their overmatched opponent. In the 48th minute, Ralston mailed a beautiful corner kick into the mixer as Twellman deftly headed the ball goalward until an Islander defender stationed right on the line cleverly headed the ball right back out, preserving the two-goal gap.
The match fell into an uneventful affair from that point on until the 78th minute when, off of an Islander free kick from 30 yards out, Harrisburg forward Matt Tanzini launched a screamer right past Matt Reis, as the keeper stood frozen as the missile flew by him. Thus the drama missing from the previous thirty minutes had quickly returned, as the visitors had suddenly cut the lead in half.
Hoping to locate the equalizer soon thereafter, the Islanders scratched and clawed their way through the Revolution end by doling out as much bodily harm to anyone in their way. The desperate approach came to a climax in the 89th minute when Reis strolled into away from his line and box to recover a high bouncing ball in the area. As the keeper came down, Anthony Calvano tried to jar the ball away with a deliberate push to Reis’ midsection, causing him to fall to the ground. Reis’ teammates immediately converged upon Calvano near the goal to defend their keeper, and a melee ensued.
After the dust settled, referee Richard Heron awarded Calvano two yellows for the unsportsmanlike sequence, as the Harrisburg defender was subsequently sent off. The sour series of events forced the guests to play the waning minutes of the match one-man down, as the Revs killed the clock and punched their ticket to the U.S. Open Cup semi-finals with the 2-1 win.
“It was kind of a tough game,” said Twellman. “We made chances in the first half, and then in the second half, we had a two-goal lead, which is kind of dangerous. But we were professionals, and we did our job.”
The Revolution will face the Carolina Battery (USL-1) in New Britain, CT, on September 4 at Veterans Stadium.