By Federico Pravettoni
Sunday night madness in Snellville, Georgia as Beaman United defeated Kalonji Pro-Profile in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at penalties after a 4-4 tie.
In a thrilling roller coaster match that saw 8 goals, a red card, a goalkeeper scoring, and the woodwork hit twice, penalties were needed to send Beaman past Kalonji through the next round of the U.S. Open Cup after 120 minutes of playing time.
Within the opening minutes of the match, the Georgia side took a surprising early lead on a counterattack with Anthony Sumo after Beaman’s defense gave away the ball too easily at half field.
Despite the early disadvantage, with great patience, cohesion and perseverance Beaman took control of the match.
In the 17th minute, the Lions got their first real chance when left back Daniel Picken crossed the ball from the left flank for Kwadwo Poku, whose header in the box went just inches wide of the goal.
Beaman continued to push and created two good chances with Austin Morenzoni and Alphonso Gooden, but neither was unable to finish.
In the final minutes of the first half Kalonji Pro-Profile caught Beaman’s defense off-guard. Forward Junior Sandoval exploited the chance sliding it past the Lions’ goalkeeper Alex Rodriguez making it 2-0.
Minutes later Sandoval almost made it 3-0 for the Georgians, but the ball went just wide of Rodriguez’s net.
The Lions did not lose composure or temper and in extra time found the back of the net with a left-footed shot by midfielder Michael Reed, sending Beaman on a one goal difference at half-time.
In the second 45 minutes, Beaman started strong and came close to finding the tie with a right-footed attempt looking for the front post by Gooden, which was saved by a superb Kalonji goalkeeper Henry Pleitez.
Despite total Beaman dominion, Kalonji sat back and waited for its opportunity. In the 64th minute, the Georgian side surprised Beaman’s defense on another counterattack, and almost found the third of the night with the forward on a 1v1 with Rodriguez, who deflected it into a corner.
Minutes later, Sumo made himself dangerous in Beaman’s box with a header through good coordination and positioning, but the ball went wide.
In the 72nd minute, Kwadwo Poku received the ball from the right in the attacking third. He dribbled through two Kalonji defenders and released a missile into the net just below the bar, making it 2-2 for Beaman.
The Lions’ equalizer did not last long though, as a deadly Kalonji Pro-Profile on counterattacks did it again to surprise Beaman’s defense line. With two forwards against the sole Rodriguez, it was an easy tap-in for Sandoval to bring Kalonji back on top.
The drama does not end here.
Beaman hit the crossbar on a Kwadwo Poku header in the 80th minute off a corner.
Ten minutes later, just before extra time, Lion midfielder Brandon Gonzalez delivered a great corner. Pleitez came out of the goal and missed the ball. Seth Poku capitalized on the opportunity, drawing the game for Beaman.
In the first overtime period the intensity slightly decreased, but number 22 for Kalonji Pro-Profile was awarded a red card for what was deemed as dissent forcing the side from Georgia to play a man down.
12 minutes into the second overtime period, Seth Poku received the ball from the right flank, anticipated the defender with a quick touch, set up his left foot and finished, giving Beaman the lead for the first time in the game.
With a few minutes left plus extra time, Kalonji Pro-Profile was now playing against the clock to find a late equalizer.
In the 123rd minute, Kalonji delivered a free kick which hit the post, and on the rebound an unmarked Pleitez was able to tap the ball into the back of the net, making it 4-4!
The ref then blew the whistle sending the game to penalties.
Sandoval and Seth Poku both scored the first two penalties.
Sumo then missed for Kalonji while Matheus Souza Tonon did not to give Beaman a 2-1 lead.
In the third and fourth round Beaman missed a penalty while Kalonji finished both, re-equalizing the score.
Rodriguez with the crucial save denied Carr from the spot on the fifth penalty for Kalonji Pro-Profile.
Kwadwo Poku with the experience did not miss, allowing Beaman United to defeat Kalonji Pro-Profile at penalties and advance to the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup qualifier.
“It means a lot to win against a good team, Kalonji, physical and direct in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup,” said head coach Gift Ndam.
Beaman player Nathaniel Bedai is on the same page.
“This means a lot,” he said. “Not only to the team, to our families and to our fans, it means a lot for those supporting us and those who have been with us all through these times through the summer and through the cold.”
“The key was hard work, and then never give up,” said Bedai. “You fight until the end. It's not over until it's over. We wanted to win, the determination was to win.”
With the win, Beaman United advances to the fourth qualifying round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, to be played Saturday, Dec. 17-Sunday, Dec. 18.
Beaman will play next the Saint Louis U21 MLS team in the UPSL playoffs on Dec. 3rd at 1 p.m. in Nashville, Tennessee.
Ndam said the team will need to work on collective concentration and staying switched on from start to finish to get another 3 points.