With a win and you're in opportunity of entry into the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup last night for the PSA Los Gatos Storm, they came up short by a score of 3-0 against the Sonoma County Sol. Played at the PAL Stadium in San Jose, the North Bay opponent proved to be too much for the Storm to handle as their attempt to become the first U.S. Club Soccer team to qualify for the Cup came to an end.
On an evening that felt more like January than May, both teams started off a bit cold. The field at PAL is very narrow, while the center of the field was not in good shape, making ball possession difficult for both teams in the early going. However, the Sol quickly found their way, and were leading 1-0 early in the match.
The Storm, playing in a modified 4-5-1 formation with a classic post-up striker at the forward position, were finding it difficult to break down the Sol defenders and create many chances on goal. Even when they did get the ball to their striker, it was unusual for the midfield to be in a position to contribute right away, and the Sol were quickly able to react.
In the 30th minute, the Sol doubled their lead through a well headed shot off a corner kick. A well lofted kick was easily smashed home as the Sol goal scorer created just enough space to tuck the ball in at the far post.
The Storm did create a couple quality chances at the half wore on, but both efforts were flashed wide of the goal. The Sol goalkeeper played both shots well, forcing the off-target efforts.
With the score at halftime still 2-0, the Storm must have fancied that they could come back in this game. After all, they were having some success advancing the ball along the touchline, despite the narrowness of the field, and on a few occasions made the necessary crosses into the penalty area. The Storm defense was looking comfortable as well, as the Sol were content to push forward only on the counterattack, leaving plenty of space for the defense to initiate possession from their defensive third.
However, the second half did not provide salvation for the Storm, as the gap in quality between the two sides became more apparent. Adjusting to the Storm's play along the sidelines, the Sol pressed their defenders more to the outside, and cut down any pathways toward the attacking third. This new pressure by the Sol created a third goal just minutes into the half.
In the 50th minute, the Sol completed the scoring on the night after a defensive miscue for the Storm allowed the Sonoma left midfielder room in the far corner of the field. He took his time and picked out his teammate 10 yards from goal with a beautifully weighted pass that was easily converted for the third goal of the game. Caught a bit flatfooted on the sequence, the Storm never recovered on the night and fell 3-0.
The Sonoma County Sol now advance to the U.S. Open Cup proper, where they join the other 39 qualifiers in the single elimination tournament. The eight MLS entries will enter the tournament in the round-of-16, leaving the other 32 teams to battle it out for the other eight spots. For more information on the U.S. Open Cup, go to the official USSF website, or click here.