Vermont Green Victorious On Tournament Debut In Classic US Open Cup Tie Vs Lexington

March 20, 2024
4 mins read
US Open Cup trophy 2023 24
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 27: The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup trophy is on display during player introduction before the match between Inter Miami and the Houston Dynamo during the 2023 U.S. Open Cup Final at DRV PNK Stadium on September 27, 2023 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

By James Nalton.

Vermont Green 4, Lexington SC 3 – 2024 US Open Cup First Round.

USL League Two amateur side Vermont Green triumphed in its first-ever US Open Cup match, winning a First Round tie against professional, Kentucky-based League One side, Lexington Sporting Club.

Amid the off-field issues and threats to the existence of the cup due to the actions of Major League Soccer, this game, which will go down as a classic of the early rounds, was a reminder of what this tournament, open soccer, and the sport itself, is all about.

The bleachers were full as 4,500 fans packed into the ground. It was standing room only, making for a great atmosphere.

Vermont Green is relatively high profile as far as lower division, semi-pro and amateur soccer clubs go.

It has received worldwide coverage on the back of its green initiatives and environmentally friendly stance.

“Climate justice is social justice” read a large sign in the backdrop to this game, which was being broadcast throughout the United States across the websites of US Soccer, USL, and MLS.

All Open Cup games are available to broadcast in this manner in the first two rounds, and those who chose to watch this tie between Vermont Green and Lexington SC will have been glad they did.

The game produced four shots in the opening 25 minutes, and all four led to goals.

Vermont had not had as much time to prepare as their professional counterparts. Some players returned from spring break just to play in this game.

But they had obviously had time to work on a couple of set pieces, opening the scoring when Nick Lockermann delivered an inswinging corner left-footed for Zach Barrett to head home at the far post.

Barrett was completely unmarked, so the next time Vermont won a corner, this time on the other side of the field, Lexington were more switched on.

It still wasn’t enough as Lockermann went from provider to scorer, rising above his markers to head home Yaniv Bazini’s right-footed cross as they persisted with the inswingers.

A feature of the game was a fan with a megaphone broadcasting in a format somewhere between commentary on the game and encouragement to the Vermont Green players.

There was also a more official stadium announcer who informed fans of the goings-on at key moments.

The supporter obviously didn’t need much encouragement, but with two goals for their side in ten minutes, they were even more excitable.

Cleveland pulled a goal back after 20 minutes. Some good work from Nico Brown down the right led to a cross and, via Jayden Onen, the ball eventually found its way to Isaac Cano who scored at the far post.

It looked like the start of a comeback. The professional team beginning to live up to their favorites tag. But Vermont had other ideas.

Gerardo Castillo burst forward on the left and crossed into the area where Jacob Labovitz was on hand to score.

Twenty-five minutes, four shots, and four goals. Most pertinently, three of them were for the home side.

And they were good value for the lead. The goal from open play complemented the set pieces, with Castillo and Bazini looking lively in attack.

Castillo pulled a hamstring on one such forward burst just before halftime. He was forced to leave the field but had already made a vital contribution to the result with that assist.

Vermont’s third goal appeared to knock the wind out of Lexington on this cold night in Burlington.

Cameron Lancaster sent a header over and a free-kick wide for the visitors just before halftime.

Vermont started the second half in a lively manner. Labovitz did brilliantly to beat two Lexington defenders and fashion a chance on goal.

Nico Campuzano saved the shot, but that meant a Vermont corner, and there were big expectations.

Surely they couldn’t do it again? Well, they did. Lockermann’s inswinging delivery caused now predictable problems for the Lexington defence and the commotion the cross led to produced a chance for Jake Ashford who added Vermont’s fourth.

Three inswinging corners, three goals, and now four goals in total for the League Two side. Unbelievable stuff.

It’s no surprise the next corner was greeted as if Vermont had won a penalty, and they almost scored a fifth goal, this time a near post-cross caused problems but didn’t quite find the net.

Vermont’s entire collective performance to this point was something to behold, but Lexington dangerman Lancaster produced one of the game’s outstanding moments when he fired a free kick into the top corner from 30 yards out.

If any player was going to rescue this for Lexington it was Lancaster, and he added another with an improvised finish to make it 4-3 with ten minutes to go.

It made for a nervy, testing last ten minutes for Vermont.

Vermont goalie Nathan Schnur made an important save late on from Azaad Liadi, while Pearse O’Brien had a couple of chances to make sure of the win late on but couldn’t finish.

Despite not finding the net, O’Brien’s running in attack and energy left in the tank was still an important outlet at this moment in the game.

As the fourth official wasn’t in possession of an LED display, it was left to the man with the megaphone to announce five minutes of added time.

Some desperate defending from Vermont closed out an Open Cup classic.

When the referee blew for a foul throw against Lexington the Vermont contingent mistook it for the final whistle. Maybe the cold weather was affecting whistle blowing too.

There was a similar moment shortly after, but a few seconds later the full-time whistle was blown clearly, for real, and the celebrations proper could begin.

Green smoke billowed into the air to signal the end of a memorable tie. The celebrations will last for some time, and the stories told of this game will last even longer.

James Nalton

Freelance world soccer writer for Forbes, Guardian US, World Soccer magazine, FotMob, the BBC, and the Morning Star newspaper.

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