US Open Cup First Round Recap: Duluth FC @ Forward Madison FC

Forward Madison defeated Duluth FC 2-0 on Tuesday, March 19th (Photo Courtesy of Forward Madison FC, Facebook)

On Tuesday night in Madison, WI one of the perennial powers of the NPSL North in Duluth FC made their return to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.

The last time the BlueGreens had played in the tournament was 2019 where they fell in the opening round to USL2 side Des Moines Menace on penalties. This match was different for Duluth and the handful fans who made the trip down with the team, the BlueGreens would be facing off against a professional club, rather than another amateur side. Duluth FC and head coach Sean Morgan have been in that situation previously as well. In 2018, Duluth hosted the now defunct St. Louis FC club ultimately falling 2–0 in their second round encounter.

Their opponents in Forward Madison FC were also no strangers to the Open Cup, having participated in all three seasons possible since the club formed. With a 3-3 tournament record, the ‘Mingos looked to improve on their outing in 2023 where they fell 3–2 to MWPL side Chicago House AC in their only match of the competition.

Forward Madison made a near wholesale change with their Starting XI from the previous weekend. Michael Chilaka and Stephen Payne were the only returning starters from USL1 season opener. Madison’s 2023 top scorer Christian Chaney made his return to the Starting XI, his first start since coming back from injury.

“Predominantly we’re recruiting NCAA players and it becomes a little bit challenging because they changed the rules. We can’t have a lot of those guys eligible after May 1st,” Duluth FC manager Sean Morgan said about constructing the roster for the match. “So I think we did quite well to get a fair amount of returners who have previously played for us in the last year maybe two in some cases three and have that continuity. And then try and introduce quality into the squad in areas that are key in helping us for the game.”

Madison came out of the gate hard and fast controlling the pace without question during the opening minutes. That constant offensive pressure paid off for Forward Madison when Christian Chaney snatched the opening goal less than 10 minutes into play.

“We want to play forward first. We do want to get into the opponents half and create better chances in them. I think we did that in our first two games.”Forward Madison coach Matt Glaeser said post match.

Following the early goal Madison was content to relax offensively while defensively heavily pressuring Duluth. The result was Duluth FC not getting a shot off during the opening 45 minutes of play.

The second half started in very similar fashion to the first. Madison pressing hard offensively, pushing for that second goal. A second goal, once again a one touch effort coming from Christian Chaney just eight minutes into the second half.

“I was just trying to focus on hitting the target and it ended up going in. Really good goal I’m really happy I got to score,” Madison forward Christian Chaney said to media post match.

From there on Madison, with a 2–0 lead once again slipped back into slowing down pace when in possession and heavily pressuring Duluth when out of possession. The BlueGreens managed two shots in that second half of play, the first being a header by Joe Pickering that missed just wide left of goal. The second being a blast from Tyler Limmer that went over the crossbar and out of play.

“I think one of the biggest aspects in terms of key takeaways, as you go up the levels the speed of play increases. I think that was obvious at times tonight,” Duluth FC manager Sean Morgan told the media.

The loss ends Duluth FC’s third venture into the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and turns their attention towards finishing roster construction for the upcoming NPSL season. Duluth FC begins their sixth season in the NPSL on Wednesday, May 15th against Joy Athletic Club at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth. The BlueGreens are also set to participate in the second edition of the Minnesota Super Cup.

Forward Madison meanwhile continues their journey in the 2024 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The ‘Mingos second round match will pit them up against MLS Next Pro side Chicago Fire II. That match will be played at 7pm on Wednesday, April 3rd at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, IL.