Forward Madison FC rode a dominant midfield and offensive performance, including goals from Justin Sukow, Cesar Murillo and Nazeem Bartman, to a 3-0 win over visiting Cleveland SC of the fourth-tier National Premier Soccer League in the second round of the US Open Cup.
Cleveland’s staunch defense frustrated Madison’s attack for the first 20 minutes, though Bartman and winger Rojay Smith both had dangerous chances early. Bartman had two close-range efforts parried away by Cleveland keeper Connor Cable, and Smith put a promising left-footed effort just over the bar.
Sukow broke through in the 37th minute, as Alann Torres looped a ball from midfield over the backline. Sukow cleanly gathered off his chest and put a left-footed shot on Cable, who got a hand to it but was unable to keep it out.
The Mingos doubled the lead in first half stoppage on a set piece. Audi Jepson’s cross in found the head of Cyrus Rad, who directed a nicely-weighted header back across the box. Murillo caught it on the volley and hammered it past Cable with his left foot.
Madison were content to hold possession and choose their moments to begin the second half, but added one more in the 68th. Wingback Mikey Maldonado, subbed on for Smith in the second half, gained posession near the center line and pushed a pass to Torres in the middle of the park where he made one defender miss and found himself with acres of space ahead of him. He dribbled forward to the top of the penalty box, where he unleashed a blistering shot that Cable was able to deflect, but couldn’t gather and Bartman took one touch to tuck it behind the keeper at a steep angle.
“I thought we created a good amount of chances in the first half probably should have put a few more away to be honest,” head coach Matt Glaeser said after the match. ” (Cleveland) were difficult to break down but I think we once we got a little bit more comfortable in possession we were able to create some chances and then eventually score a couple.”
With three matches in the first seven games of the season — Madison drew 1-1 at Chattanooga Red Wolves and host Union Omaha in USL League One competition Saturday — Glaeser used reserves like Heath Martin, Alann Torres and Carl Schneider in the midweek fixture.
“I was really pleased with the full depth of the squad coming in and putting on a good shift,” he said.
“This team has got depth,” said goalkeeper Phil Breno, in his second year as the team’s starter in net. “Everybody is solid, from the first guy to the last guy. There’s not even a last guy … every day everybody comes out here and they make it tough for Coach Matt to put a lineup out.”
Following the first game back at Breese Stevens Field in 2022, Breno said he sees big things for the season.
“Right from the beginning, Coach Matt has made it clear we are we are a few things. We are team first and community first,” Breno said. “I think we’re gonna give everybody in Madison, the fans around the world wherever that might be, we’re gonna give you guys something awesome to watch on the field. I promise you it’s gonna be something sweet this year.”
The Flamingos now await Friday’s draw to find out who they’ll face in the third round of the US Open Cup. Wednesday’s match was the first for the club since 2019, when they made it as far as the fourth round by beating USL Championship side El Paso Locomotive before ultimately falling to St. Louis FC. It was the first US Open Cup match hosted by Forward Madison and the first in Madison since the 56ers hosted Chicago Fire’s PDL reserves in 2011.