In a stunning statement, Forward Madison FC used disciplined midfield play and quick counterattacks to upset El Paso Locomotive in a shockingly lopsided 3-0 result at El Paso in the second round of the US Open Cup on Wednesday.
Jiro Toyama took a cross from Paulo Júnior off his chest and into the goal in the 19th minute, and Christian Díaz added another 10 minutes later, tapping in a cross from Toyama.
Midfielder Jeff Michaud sealed it in the 76th minute with a finish from the left side of the box after a run set up by some impressive short passing in the offensive third by Josiel Nuñez and Paulo Júnior left the El Paso defense flat-footed.
Forward Madison coach Daryl Shore told the Let Me Be Forward podcast earlier in the week that his strategy would be to concede the bulk of the possession to the higher-level Locomotive, which compete in the second-tier USL Championship division, and look to defend well and seek opportunities to counterattack.
The strategy seemed to work to perfection, as El Paso held the ball for over 70 percent of the 90 minutes, but were unable to put together any real threat.
Locomotive Head Coach Mark Lowry said after the match that he had made seven changes from his regular lineup, which disrupted his team’s rhythm.
“It was never going to be an easy game,” he said.
In addition to keeping Madison alive in the tournament, the win is good for the club’s bank account — all five other USL League One entrants have lost, meaning Forward Madison will take home the $25,000 prize for being the club to advance the farthest from its division.
Forward Madison isn’t the only Cinderalla left, though, as amateur clubs Orange County SC and Florida Soccer Soldiers both remain alive.
Forward Madison will next face St. Louis FC, which needed penalties to defeat Des Moines Menace, on May 29. St. Louis defeated Madison 1-0 in a preseason friendly. A win in St. Louis would put Madison through to the fourth round and, possibly, a matchup with an MLS team.
Meanwhile, USL League One play resumes Saturday as Forward hosts second-place South Georgia Tormenta at Breese Stevens Field on Saturday night.