Cal FC scored on two penalty kicks to advance past San Francisco FC 2-1 in a 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play-in match Saturday afternoon at Kezar Stadium in front of a crowd of 1,519.
Goals from Chris Cummings and Johnny Bravo for the Southern California club countered an own-goal in the well-played match in the heart of San Francisco. Cal FC will advance to the tournament proper while SFCFC will lament a lost opportunity to advance in the nation's longest running soccer competition.
The weather was ideal for the match, as a light breeze off the Pacific combined with bright California sunshine allowed both teams to play their game. For host SFCFC, the approach was to defend and counter, using a speed balls to access the attacking third. Visiting Cal FC employed a more possession-based approach, content to one-touch the ball among its midfielders.
Though the two tactical set-ups complemented each other, the first half was bereft of scoring opportunities for both sides, as San Francisco came close on a pair of free kick and corner kicks and Cal FC poked and prodded its way into the area a handful of times. The most dangerous opportunity of the first half came right before intermission, as SF goalkeeper Austin Harms had to deflect a shot around his post to keep the match scoreless.
Scoreless the match was not just minutes into the second half, when Cal FC was awarded a penalty kick for a tough challenge by the City goalkeeper. Chris Cummings calmly stepped up to the spot and slotted the ball just out of Harms' way and inside the right post. Harms was given a yellow card on the play.
Down a goal, but with plenty of time left on the clock, San Francisco picked up the pace of the match and looked much more dangerous on offense. A shot attempt in the 57th minute went just wide of the target, and a minute later Mauricio Diaz De Leon scorched a shot that Cal FC goalkeeper Brian Hill parried away. Hill was the center of attention five minutes later when he won a challenge against forward Reed Williams in his own area, but the 'keeper escaped a booking.
SFCFC continued to be the more aggressive side, as Cal FC settled into a good defensive shape. Space was hard to come by for the City forwards, but Eric Anderson found a sliver of valuable San Francisco real estate from which to send a header on target in the 67th minute. Hill was little troubled by the attempt and easily scooped up the ball in front of goal.
City made the first sub of the game, sending in Tyson Crim for David Taylor. He immediately made his presence felt with a brilliant give and go with winger Diaz De Leon that allowed Taylor a shot in the area. The attempt was off, but it signaled a renewed push by the hosts to find an equalizer.
And an equalizer they found, when in the 76th minute, winger George Plakorus rifled a cross into the area that appeared to deflect off a Cal FC defender and into the net for an own goal. Tied at 1-1 and with only 10 minutes remaining in the game, both teams played a more cagey style than before. The match looked destined to reach extra time.
But Cal FC was awarded its second penalty kick of the game in the 88th minute, this time for a handball in the book by second half substitute Taylor Amman. Midfielder Johnny Bravo stepped up to the spot and emphatically scored to give the visitors a late 2-1 lead.
A spirited SFCFC comeback was quashed at every opportunity by the now defensive minded Cal FC crew, and after a few minutes of stoppage time, the referee blew his whistle with the final score 2-1 for Cal FC.