By David Rogers. BOONE, N.C. —Another chapter in Appalachian FC’s storied beginning was written on March 22. Call them the Sasquatch Armada, if you will, or even call them a motley crew, but the Boone-based, semi-pro soccer team is for real after a stirring, double overtime win against the North Carolina Fusion at Ted Mackorell Soccer Stadium.
After 90 minutes of regulation and two 15-minute overtime periods that ended in a 2-2 deadlock, the match was decided on penalty kicks. When two Fusion kicks sailed over the goal and a third hit the crossbar while Appalachian FC’s first two attempts by Max Landau and Kevin Arguello found gold in the back of the net, the outcome was already a foregone conclusion. Kevin De Lange’s third successful penalty kick for FC was just icing on the proverbial cake.
During the early penalty kicks, emotions among fans in the field side seats were already bubbling. When De Lange’s boot put an exclamation point on the outcome, those VIP seat holders stormed the field, surrounded the players and celebrated exuberantly in the southwest corner.
This wasn’t just another early season soccer win for the Sasquatchers. This victory meant they would advance to the second round of the 108th Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, keeping alive prospects for potentially playing against a Major League Soccer franchise in a later round if they keep winning.
The night before, Appalachian FC head coach Dale Parker was sketching out tactics and strategy for the attacking style he prefers on what might as well have been bar napkins at Rivers Street Ale House in Boone for his thrown together, but carefully chosen roster of players. Some were regular members of the team, others newcomers coming together just for this U.S. Open Cup series. Regular season play for the National Premier Soccer League franchise doesn’t begin for another couple of months, so many of the normally rostered players were unavailable for a pre-season tilt due to school or occupational commitments.
So Parker and his assistants, with club management, may have done their best work in assembling a pre-season roster capable of carrying out the coach’s game plan even without being able to practice much as a team.
It worked. Appalachian FC made short work of imprinting the team’s attacking style of play on the game when the all-black clad unit worked upfield in the opening seconds and Camden Holbrook found the back of the net after an assist credited to Carson Dinger, all before the first minute had ticked off the clock.
Then, just 32 minutes into the first half, Holbrook gave the home crowd even more to cheer about when he ripped in a second goal, the assist this time credited to De Lange.
The NC Fusion made things interesting just before halftime when in the 38th minute Juancho Fernandez knocked in a goal, assisted by Sam Bethell, making the score 2-1 going into intermission.
That is the way the game stayed in the see-saw battle for possession and defense until a free kick was awarded to the Fusion in the 78th minute, just outside the penalty box and just to the left of the net’s middle (see photo below). Appalachian FC goalkeeper Jacob Agnew set up his “wall” so that it would take an almost perfect kick for the Fusion’s Federico Ferreira to make good on his attempt.
And he did, the ball arching and curving just inside the upper right corner of the net, tying the game at 2-2.
The two 15-minute overtime periods went scoreless, setting up the penalty kick drama.
Estimated attendance for the match on an almost perfect night, weather-wise, after the rain cleared earlier in the afternoon, was 1,500 sitting in the packed grandstands, the field side seats, and lining the grassy berms on the west side.
Appalachian FC advances to Round 2 on April 5, 7:00 p.m. against Charlotte Independence. Location was not yet available as of press time but this story will be updated as soon as the venue is identified.