CLINTON, Miss. - Some label the 2nd Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as David vs Goliath. The 2nd Round is the entry level for professional teams, and the surviving amateur squads from the 1st Round get to take their best shot at the next level teams. The OK City Energy FC certainly got all it could handle from Mississippi Brilla FC in Clinton, MS on Wednesday night.
On a perfect night for soccer in the PDL (Premier Development League) side’s backyard, the visiting professional team from Oklahoma City found itself controlling much of the match, but never able to find the back of the net. The first half was scoreless as Brilla held tight on defense despite facing seven first half shots
The USL (United Soccer League) side from OK City continued pressing for the winning goal in the second half, launching fifteen shots in the second half alone. Meanwhile, Brilla stayed in the game through brilliant goalkeeping from Brendan Ledgeway. Ledgeway easily earned Man of the Match honors, in large part due to nine saves on the night.
Brilla had a few dangerous counters throughout the match, not in the least of which took place in the last seconds of regulation. Defender Jake McCain broke through the OK City defense and forced the Energy’s goalkeeper, CJ Cochran, to make a save that would extend the match into overtime.
Getting the match into extra time seemed to energize the underdogs, and they continued fighting to the end. The Energy only outshot the home team 3-2 in OT, and one of those two shots almost sent Brilla through to the third round. In the final minute of the overtime period, Brilla’s Eduardo Cruz saw his free kick from just outside the box narrowly miss the top left corner of the goal. The David vs Goliath match was not to be decided through 120 minutes of play, so the teams went to kicks from the spot.
Then it became truly epic.
Player after player stepped up to the penalty spot, and goal after goal was scored. Nine shooters for each team, and not one mistake. Brilla’s 10th shot was brilliantly saved by Energy’s Cochran, giving the visitors a chance to win with their 10th shooter. However, Michael Harris was denied by Brilla’s Ledgeway sending the match to the 11th round of shooters.
Cochran came up big a second time by getting a hand on Jake McCain’s shot to the right corner. The miss by Brilla sent Cochran to the spot to take the Energy’s 11th shot, a shot that he was able to bury and send the USL side into the third round with a 10-9 shootout victory.
“I cannot say enough about what our squad put their bodies through tonight,” said Brilla Head Coach Mark McKeever. “The team created a great spirit tonight. We are upset to lose, but when the sun comes up tomorrow our focus will be on winning our next PDL game. I am so proud of them, but we are ready to get back to work tomorrow."
The OK City Energy will face Rayo OKC of the NASL in the 3rd Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on June 1. Mississippi Brilla FC will continue its quest for a PDL championship as it faces the Midland/Odessa Sockers on the road for two contests beginning May 26.