U.S. Open Cup: Jesters suffer heartbreaking first round penalty kick loss

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BY AARON S. LEE
Special to WGNO

NEW ORLEANS — After more than 120 minutes of extended match play following a 1-1 end to regulation, the New Orleans Jesters fell 3-2 in a penalty kick shootout to former rival Mississippi Brilla in front of more than 700 fans attending the first round of the 2018 US Open Cup at Pan American Stadium Wednesday night.

Although last year’s unbeaten NPSL Southeast Conference Jesters (8-0-1) showed flashes of brilliance with aggressive attacks and stellar footwork at the start of both halves of regulation, the 2017 conference finalist looked tentative at times without last year’s leading scorer Jon Evans, who has initially opted to remain in Wales with family.

The standout of the game was Tom Peers (ENG), who joined the Jesters following the team’s preseason come-from-behind-win over AFC Mobile last weekend.

However a critical off sides penalty called on Peers negated his score at the 48-minute mark just three minutes in the second half.

“I thought we got the goal in and we were going to carry on and get another one, but it came off sides and I thought I better get another,” he explained to WGNO. “I carried on going and got a goal.”

The English defender’s first goal with the Jesters came at the 72-minute mark to equalize the gam. Peers followed with a penalty kick contribution, but it was not enough to put the home team over it’s former Premier Development League nemesis from Clinton.

“We found out a little bit about ourselves in the first half,” head coach Kenneth Farrell told WGNO after the game. “I told them at halftime it wasn’t a good game for either them or us, but they had more possessions. It was like an early season game where people were feeling it out and I didn’t feel the passion. But I knew if we made one or two changes to get players I felt into the positions I felt we could upset them and the game would change.

“To be fair we dominated the second half and we should have own it … I never felt threatened by them. It was a good shot [in the second half], it was not pressed, the guy shoots from 30 yards and struck it well. But up until that they weren’t in it in the second half, and I felt we were very much in control of the game.

“It was never going to be a pretty game as the game went on because it was early season and people were getting tired.”

Coach Farrell, who has never been one to mince his words since taking the helm of the Jesters since the team was founded in 2003 under the name Shell Shockers, did not hold back his thoughts on Mississippi’s good fortune.

“I don’t really believe we deserved to lose that game on the play,” he claimed. “I think they are a little bit lucky getting out with a penalty shoot out, and I’m saying that because I really believe it.”

The team, which claims it’s hungrier than ever, now regroups to host the 2018 conference opener against Emerald Force SC from Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday.

“I told them afterwards I couldn’t thank them enough for their performance,” admitted Farrell. “I know at halftime we were saying we are not performing, but we asked them to make a couple of changes, I asked them to press them around the back, dig a little deeper, force them to make some mistakes — they did everything we asked of them and it will get crisper as the season goes on.”

Midfielder Mason Morise, who never left the pitch, backed up Coach Farrell’s closing statement.

“Right after the match Kenny sat us down, and all the boys were saying ‘alright, it happened, let’s move on, time to go again Saturday,’” said the 22-year-old Mandeville native and University of Memphis senior. “So everyone is now looking forward to getting that win.”

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