For most of last night, the crowd at Broadneck's Lawrence E. Knight Stadium held its breath and dared to believe that their Crystal Palace USA soccer club could hold its own against the New York Red Bulls in their U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal meeting.
Their faith was rewarded and then some, as Crystal Palace, the area's outdoor professional soccer team, pulled off the 2-0 upset.
Andrew Marshall, an Ellicott City native, scored in the 16th minute off a header from a corner kick, beating New York goalkeeper Zack Thornton, who starred at John Carroll and Loyola College.
Thornton was out- dueled by Matt Nelson, who stopped three penalty shots in Crystal's second-round Cup win over Harrisburg. Nelson turned back seven New York shots, including six in the second half, as the Red Bulls played with a man advantage after Crystal captain Ibrahim Kante drew a red card in the 35th minute.
"We got the goal early, which was big," Nelson said. "And the guys in front of me were just able to absorb the pressure really well. I made some saves, but to be honest, they were nothing incredibly difficult. They [the Crystal Palace defenders] made it easy on me."
Six yellow cards were issued in the first 35 minutes of the match. Besides Kante's red-card ejection, New York's Mike McGee drew an ejection during stoppage time in the second half.
The Red Bulls played without former U.S national team captain Claudio Reyna (herniated disk) and fielded a team made up largely of reserves, but Crystal Palace, which advances to the Cup semifinals, will hardly apologize for an impressive effort.
"To be honest, without sounding too confident, it [the win] doesn't surprise me," Crystal co-coach Jim Cherneski said. "We have a very good team. We hit the post twice. We missed two wide-open opportunities in front of the net. To be honest, it should have been 4-nil, and we were playing a man short."