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 Rhode Island FC

Rhode Island FC Falls 5-4 in Penalties in First-Ever U.S. Open Cup Match

April 17, 2024 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)
Rhode Island FC News Release

Rhode Island FC's Collin Smith battles Charlotte Independence's Fabrice Ngah
Rhode Island FC's Collin Smith battles Charlotte Independence's Fabrice Ngah
(Rhode Island FC)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A dramatic back-and-forth affair would ultimately end in defeat for Rhode Island FC on Tuesday when the club lost its first-ever Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match to USL League One side Charlotte Independence at America Memorial Legion Stadium. Despite four debut goals and two leads from Head Coach Khano Smith's side through 120 minutes, the club was unable to go the distance as it fell 5-4 in a penalty shootout.

After an active opening 10 minutes of the match, Rhode Island FC was the first to strike when a scramble at the top of the box saw the ball fall to the feet of Collin Smith on the right wing. Recycling the ball into the danger zone with a low cross, his ball found the feet of Conor McGlynn in the middle. Taking the cross onto his right foot with a first-touch finish through traffic, the midfielder powered the ball home at the near post to give RIFC an early 1-0 advantage.

The lead for the visitors would not last long, however, as Charlotte responded 15 minutes later as Gabriel Alves took down Juan Carlos Obregón Jr. in the box to concede a penalty. Stepping up to take the kick from the spot, Obregón Jr. slammed the ball down the middle and sent a diving Jackson Lee the wrong way to level the match at 1-1.

The hosts would continue to take advantage of the newfound momentum in the 35th minute when midfielder Luis Álvarez found the feet of Tresor Mbuyu behind the RIFC back line with a long ball over the top. Streaking towards the box with the ball ahead of him, Mbuyu beat an onrushing Lee outside the box, calmly touching the ball around the keeper before tapping it into the open net to give Charlotte a 2-1 advantage.

Moments before the halftime whistle, RIFC would level the contest. After receiving Prince Saydee's pass at the top of the box, Mark Doyle recorded his first club assist when he played a short pass down the left side of the box towards Nathan Messer. Closing in on a tight angle towards the goal, the midfielder sent the ball to the roof of the net with a strong, left-footed strike from close range to tie the match 2-2 before heading into the break.

RIFC thought it scored the go-ahead goal just three minutes after halftime when Messer's corner was headed into the back of the net, but the referee waved off what would have been a first professional assist for Messer following a foul in the box. The disappointment would not last long for the Ocean State club, needing just three more minutes to find the back of the net and retake the lead. After replacing McGlynn at halftime, Clay Holstad became the third player of the match to record his first RIFC goal with a brilliant, right-footed curling effort in the 51st minute to beat a diving Austin Pack from distance.

What quickly became a back-and-forth affair continued when the hosts once again equalized in the 71st minute. Stripping the ball off of Holstad in the attacking third, Álvarez caught RIFC's defense out of shape in transition and slotted a low shot past the outstretched hands of Lee and inside the far post.

The Ocean State club nearly snatched a winner at the death when Mark Doyle got on the end of a cross with a close-range shot and Joe Brito nailed a follow-up effort that looked destined for the back of the net in the 88th minute, but a sharp double-save from Charlotte goalkeeper Austin Pack denied both players and sent the match into extra time.

The hosts would punish RIFC for the missed opportunity early in the first half of extra time, scoring its second go-ahead goal of the night in the 96th minute. After Lee initially made a quick reflex save off Obregón Jr.'s close-range shot in the box, the rebound fell back to the forward, who recovered quickly to poke the second chance opportunity into the back of the net for his second goal of the night.

Not to be outdone, RIFC once again leveled things late in the 115th minute. Taking the ball down off his chest from inside the box, Stephen Turnbull added his name to the list of RIFC Open Cup scorers with a left-footed finish to make it 4-4 with just minutes to play. Sending the match to penalties, Turnbull became RIFC's fourth debut goal scorer of the match, and first-ever finisher in extra time.

In a shootout that went two additional rounds into sudden death, the hosts would ultimately come out on top when Pack denied Alves' penalty kick to send Charlotte through to the Round of 32, ending RIFC's inaugural Open Cup campaign.

RIFC will return to USL Championship play on Saturday, April 20 at 8 p.m. ET when the team travels out west to take on Las Vegas Lights FC. Fans can come together to cheer on the club at the Official Rhode Island FC Watch Party at 78 Pub at This Guy's Pizza in Johnston. After a quick turnaround, RIFC is back at Beirne Stadium on Friday, April 26 to take on Phoenix Rising FC at 7:30 p.m. Tickets to the next home match are available now at


RI - Conor McGlynn (Collin Smith), 11th minute: McGlynn collects a pass from near the corner to boot it in at the near post. CLT 0, RI 1

CLT - Juan Carlos Obregón Jr., 26th minute: Obregón powers a penalty kick over Jackson Lee following a penalty in the box by Gabriel Alves. CLT 1, RI 1

CLT - Tresor Mbuyu (Luis Álvarez), 35th minute: Mbuyu avoided an onrushing Jackson Lee to gain an open opportunity to tap the ball in for the goal. CLT 2, RI 1

RI - Nathan Messer (Mark Doyle), 45+2 minute: Messer used the tight angle he was given off of a Doyle pass to convert a left-footed strike for the goal. CLT 2, RI 2

RI - Clay Holstad, 51st minute: Holstad made a right-footed curling shot that found its way by Austin Pack to the top-right corner from far out. CLT 2, RI 3

CLT - Luis Álvarez, 71st minute: Álvarez took advantage of a mistimed RIFC defensive effort to intercept the ball and launched it past a diving Jackson Lee for the goal. CLT 3, RI 3

CLT - Juan Carlos Obregón Jr., 95th minute: Obregón collected his own rebound following a Jackson Lee save and booted it in the second time around for the goal. CLT 4, RI 3

RI - Stephen Turnbell, 115th minute: Turnbull launched a left-footed shot through Austin Pack to tie things up. CLT 4, RI 4


CLT: Belmar (Scored), Mbuyu (Scored), Álvarez (Missed), Spielman (Scored), Dimick (Missed), Djedje (Scored), Sorenson (Scored)

RI: Dikwa (Missed), Fuson (Scored), Kwizera (Scored), Doyle (Scored), Brito (Saved), Holstad (Scored), Alves (Saved)


* RIFC's four-goal effort marked the highest-scoring match in club history.

* Conor McGlynn opened the scoring with his first career RIFC goal to give the club the lead early in the first half. The goal was his second-ever in the Open Cup competition.

* McGlynn, Clay Holstad, Stephen Turnbull and Nathan Messer all recorded their first career RIFC goals in the loss. Collin Smith and Mark Doyle also picked up their first RIFC assists.

* Messer's equalizer just before halftime was the first goal of his professional career in his first professional start, after making his debut late in the club's 0-0 draw against Pittsburgh Riverhound SC on April 13.

* The match was the first time RIFC has gone to extra time, scored in extra time and participated in a penalty shootout.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Stephen Turnbull

Images from this story

Rhode Island FC's Collin Smith battles Charlotte Independence's Fabrice Ngah
Rhode Island FC's Collin Smith battles Charlotte Independence's Fabrice Ngah


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