Tonight I went with my Dad to watch a great soccer match at Davidson college between the Charlotte Eagles and CD Chivas USA of Major League Soccer. This was for the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open, which pits all U.S. Soccer affiliated teams against each other in a single elimination tournament. These tournaments, such as the FA cup in England, provide a great opportunity to see upsets due to their open nature. And we almost saw one tonight, as the Eagles of the USL second division came just this close to knocking off an MLS squad. In the end, they just didn't have enough to pull it off.
Things got off to a quick start. After Chivas scored in the third minute, Jacob Coggins took a long ball from the keeper and caught the Chivas goalie out of position with a nice touch goal to even the score. From then, the play was evenly matched as Charlotte held their own for the rest of the first half. In the second half, Chivas came out strong but Charlotte weathered the Chivas attack and scored in the 80th minute to go up 2-1 with a great upset seemingly within reach. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Chivas finally got through three minutes later to send the game to OT.
In the two overtime periods, Chivas carried the play throughout, with Charlotte only able to generate a minimal amount of ball control and offense. I guess this was where the differences in the level of play really caught up with Charlotte. Chivas players seemed better conditioned, less winded, and always had an answer for the Eagles' counterattacks. Regardless, Charlotte held on to the tie thanks to the play of their goalie, Chris McClellan, who truly was the star of the match.
McClellan played like a man possessed, making incredible saves time after time and a few of which I truly could not believe my eyes. Undoubtedly his sharp play kept the game closer than it had any right to be. In the end, it was a routine low shot in the last minute of the second overtime which bounced of his chest to lead to an easy Chivas goal and victory. What a crushing way to lose a hard fought and closely contested game.
This game could have been a great resume builder for the Eagles franchise and could have really helped build their profile in Charlotte. What the worst part may be is that had they won, the Los Angeles Galaxy and America's top player Landon Donovan would have come to Charlotte for a high-stakes showdown to be played at UNCC. I suppose it was not meant to be. Still, a great night of soccer.