U.S. Open Cup Match Recap: Maryland Bobcats FC 3 - 2 Ocean City Nor'Easters

Maryland Bobcats FC Advance to the Third Round in Overtime Thriller.
Published Apr 7, 2023

Maryland Bobcats FC capped off their first Lamar Hunt US Open Cup home match in dramatic fashion with a 3 - 2 victory and the winning goal from 18 year old defender, Phillip Brown in the second half of extra time against New Jersey Club, Ocean City Nor’Easters. 


The Bobcats went into the Wednesday night matchup having never hosted an Open Cup game nor having never advanced past the third round. Under the leadership of newly appointed Head Coach Alex Kao and a revamped squad, the team went through its paces throughout the 2 hours of gameplay. 


Ocean City are a familiar name in the Open Cup having made nine appearances and defeating 6 professional clubs before wednesdays night’s game. Their squad would consist of a majority of the familiar faces from their winning game against West Chester United in March. New additions of Kaleb Jackson, Kyle Nuel, and Shaun Russell Jr. formerly of Syracuse Pulse would join OCNE for the third round cup tie.


The game started off very chippy as Ocean City had a number of dangerous chances to start the game. MBFC would answer with shots of their own as the wind favored them in the first half. 


However, Ocean City struck first in the 33rd minute. Kaleb Jackson got on the end of a João Oliveira cross to put the New Jersey team ahead. 


After the goal, Kaleb Jackson would receive his second yellow for a rough tackle on Darwin Espinal. In the aftermath, Richard Forka would receive a straight red card for allegedly shoving an Ocean City player. Both teams played the remainder of the game with 10 men each.  


When the dust settled, the first half ended with the Nor’Easters up 1-0. 


Going into the second, Youness Madad replaced Ryan Machado Jones at fullback. The game continued to be chippy as the officiating crew continued to hand out yellow cards and warnings throughout the half. 


MBFC continued to bring on fresh legs with Sam Solomon and Michael Akinkoye coming on for Caleb Pritchett and Jimmy Filerman in the 62nd minute. 


In the 67th minute, OCNE committed a handball foul in their own box to give MBFC a penalty. Darwin Espinal converted the penalty to get his first goal of the night.


The Bobcats leading scorer from 2022 would not be done. Espinal found himself on the end of a through ball from Michael Akinkoye to get his brace and put the Bobcats ahead in the 82nd minute. 


However, the lead wouldn't make it to the final whistle as OCNE equalized by way of Vilius Labutis off an unfortunate rebound from MBFC Keeper Alex Sutton’s initial save. 


The game went to extra time at the Soccerplex and fans sat in suspense. Defender Phillip Brown came on for Drew Wivell in the 97th to add some defensive prowess to the back line. 


As the minutes ran down in the second half of extra time, the game looked to be headed for penalties as both sides had been deadlocked since the end of regulation time. 


The fourth official signaled for one minute of extra time and the Bobcats had been granted what would be the final kick of extra time, a corner kick with the threat of a penalty shootout looming overhead. Darwin Espinal stepped back to take the kick and sent the ball soaring into the air. 


In the Box, Phillip Brown rushed in from the edge of the box and hammered the ball into the back of the net to seal the fate of the game and move Maryland Bobcats FC into the third round for the first time in club history.


MBFC were able to weather the storm from going down early and were able to get a much needed win. Thanks to Darwin Espinal’s brace and Phillip Brown’s winner, MBFC advanced to the Third Round of the U.S. Open Cup.


The drawing occurred on Thursday, April 6th and MBFC will face Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, a rematch of last year’s second round matchup where MBFC lost 2-0 to the Pennsylvania side on a rainy Tuesday evening in steel city. 


With new players in the squad and a new Head Coach in charge, Maryland Bobcats FC will look to continue their run against a familiar opponent.