Players dream of being their team’s US Open Cup hero, and on Wednesday night an unlikely source seized that role for the San Jose Earthquakes.
Matt Bersano was immense in booking a Round of 16 ticket over Seattle Sounders FC after a 2-2 draw persisted through extra time.
Come the 11th round of penalty kicks, the goalkeeper denied his Sounders counterpart Stefan Cleveland from the spot and then deposited his own finish, sealing the road upset at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash.
It was a goalie wars moment from the training ground come to life, one that sealed a 10-9 PK victory.
“I’ve been shooting the ball my whole life,” Bersano said. "I’ve been shooting it as much as I’ve been playing in goal. Making the save I think was more difficult, especially with the way he hit it and the fact that it hit my hands and hit part of my face too. But when you’re lining up to shoot that, I’ve done that kick a thousand times. I’ve gone both ways. I’ve hit it wherever it needed to be to score.
“So at that point, especially playing in Seattle after starting my career in Seattle in 2016, it was a crazy moment, a surreal moment to be able to go up and strike that in and then be able to celebrate with the guys because that’s a moment I’ll remember forever.”
PKs: Matt Bersano makes the save and then the winning penalty!
Bersano, 29, first turned pro in 2016 with what’s now MLS NEXT Pro side Tacoma Defiance. He then signed for San Jose in 2017 and has been a backup, serving as second fiddle to former US youth international JT Marcinkowski this year.
In fact, Bersano’s yet to appear for San Jose at the MLS level. Most of his professional experience had come with now-defunct USL Championship side Reno 1868 FC, before debuting for the Quakes in late April during their previous Open Cup win over NISA side Bay Cities FC.
But the goalkeeper’s patience paid off, rewarding San Jose during an epic shootout.
“I have talked with Matt since we came in,” interim manager Alex Covelo said. “Matt Bersano has a lot of history inside the club. He’s an important player. I think today he had a solid performance. He deserves it. He deserves to play. And we saw the result. He played great. He saved the team in the moments that he had to, and I think also he was very confident with the ball at his feet. I’m so happy for Matt.”
Bersano made five saves before the shootout, with Seattle’s other PK miss coming in the third round when Leo Chu launched his attempt over the crossbar.
Now, San Jose have four wins in their last five games across all competitions. And they bounced the 2022 Concacaf Champions League winners in the process, hanging on after goals from Jack Skahan (penalty kick) and Cade Cowell (dribble/finish) had given them an early 2-0 lead.
“You can imagine the emotions in the locker room,” Covelo said. “To win another game in the US Open Cup, in Seattle, in this unique atmosphere that they have, and play against Seattle – it doesn’t matter what team they put on the field, it’s always difficult. The guys are very, very happy. This victory is very important.”
HIGHLIGHTS: Seattle Sounders vs. San Jose Earthquakes | May 11, 2022