Club Deportivo Motagua of New Orleans made history this year by becoming the first amateur soccer team from Louisiana to qualify for the modern Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, but it will have to wait until at least 2017 to win its first match in the single-elimination tournament.
Motagua’s Blue Eagles lost their U.S. Open Cup debut Wednesday on the road to Mississippi Brilla FC by a score of 2-0. Brilla’s Eduardo Cruz tucked away a long-range strike in the 29th minute of the match at Traceway Park in Clinton, Mississippi, and teammate Ignacio Flores doubled the advantage about 16 minutes later, in the closing moments of the first half.
Brilla, a developmental squad appearing in its third U.S. Open Cup, will advance to a May 18, second-round match against Oklahoma City Energy FC, a professional team that competes two levels below Major League Soccer.
Little separated the teams at the beginning of the match — though Brilla earned four corner kicks in the first 21 minutes, Motagua spent a good bit of time in the opponents’ attacking half.
Motagua forward Reece Wilson even managed one of his side’s more interesting opportunities about 22 minutes in, forcing Brilla goalkeeper Brendan Ledgeway to make a near-post save after the Blue Eagles stole the ball around midfield and worked it up the pitch.
But then Brilla seized control. Flores nearly pushed in a cross by Brilla from the left, and then Motagua keeper Lamoy Graham parried a tantalizing near-post try from Brilla’s Jake McCain at the 26th minute.
Three minutes later, Brilla’s Cruz roped in a short Motagua clearance about 20 yards away from goal and unfurled a thunderous try to the upper right of Graham’s frame. Graham landed a glove on the ball but couldn’t prevent it from finding the net.
Brilla wounded Motagua again in first-half stoppage time, when Flores thumped in a service from Lucas Cordeiro off a post and past Graham.
Motagua created a handful of chances that certainly made Brilla uncomfortable for stretches in the second half. But none of the attempts were true.
Brilla then conserved possession in the match’s final moments — with Cordeiro pinging a try off a post — and ensured its first-ever U.S. Open Cup victory in three tournament appearances.
In the 103-year-old U.S. Open Cup’s current format, amateur soccer teams from across the country must win their local leagues and clear a qualifying phase to earn a tournament bid. If they then advance far enough in the U.S. Open Cup, those amateur teams can then face MLS and lower-division professional clubs.
Named after a successful professional club in Honduras, Motagua earned a berth for this year’s cup after twice winning the elite amateur Louisiana Premier League, which is entering its third season. Their roster features former members of the New Orleans Jesters and the defunct Baton Rouge Capitals, each of whom once belonged to the Premier Development League in which manager Mark McKeever’s Brilla competes.
Motagua — managed by Tony Martinez — will now focus on capturing a third-straight Louisiana Premier League title as well as a fourth consecutive championship in New Orleans’ so-called Islano League, based out of Pan American Stadium.
The only other Louisiana team to qualify for the modern U.S. Open Cup was the New Orleans Riverboat Gamblers, a pro squad that once played at the level just below MLS and went 1-1 in the 1997 edition of the tournament. The Gamblers were later renamed the Storm before eventually folding.
Notes: Each side had a pair of yellows in the first half — for Motagua, it was PJ Lynch and Leonardo Ferreira de Barros; and for Brilla, it was Jordan Radisavljevic and Cruz. There were five substitutions of a possible six made in the match — three by Brilla and two by Motagua, beginning in the 69th minute of the 90-minute contest.