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South Jersey Soccer:
US Open Cup Round 2 - Long Island Rough Riders @ Ocean City Barons

Friday, June 24, 2005

By Paul O'Donnell
Ocean City Barons Correspondent

The wake-up call Syracuse got from the stiff challenge from the young Barons in last year's Open Cup set them on a run that took them all the way to the Eastern Conference Final against eventual A League Champion (now USL Div 1) Montreal.

There was another consequence of last year's Open Cup challenge that planted a seed in the minds of the Barons. Neil Holloway said it this way; “we're gonna bring an MLS side to Ocean City” and he recently told me after the win over Atlas “we're one step closer to making that come true.” Step two is next.

On Wednesday, June 29, the Barons will take to the pitch in Ocean City against the professional Long Island Rough Riders (USL Div 2) in this year's edition of the US Open Cup 2nd Round. Kickoff is set for 8pm.

A Barons win in this one will bring a broad smile to the face of Neil Holloway and his mates and now you know part of why. The world over, these Open Cup style knockout competitions offer something special where the “minnows” and amateur teams have an opportunity to challenge the pro sides. And they have to beat you on the pitch. If they don't, they go home. And they only get one chance in the US Open Cup.

The Barons quality and potential means that if their on their game they can offer stiff competition to most teams. The challenge starts for real against the Rough Riders and they'll have to bring their A-game when they face the Barons. And they know it.

Rumors have it that their on a mission to do just that with the re-signing of Giovanni Savarese, a legend in NY area soccer circles and former prolific striker in MLS for the MetroStars. Savarese is among the top for career goals in MLS with 41. He was a two-time Budweiser Scoring Champion for the MetroStars, was also voted the team's Most Valuable Player by members of the NY media in 1997 and ranks first on the MetroStars all-time scoring register with 42 goals and 12 assists in 90 games played. He was an MLS All-Star in 1996.

A graduate of Long Island Univ, Savarese was the leader of the Rough Riders team that won the USISL title in 1995 when he also won the League MVP honor scoring 23 goals and dishing off 10 helpers. Savarese also represented the Venezuelan national team in 30 international matches scoring 10 goals; one of them against Argentina in a World Cup Qualifier in 1996.

The Rough Riders know they'll be facing a quality team in the Barons on June 29 and contributions from Savarese might be what they need to get through. He will also help on their run to make the playoffs in Div 2. He rejoined the Rough Riders last year (on July 2) and his scoring touch (5 goals) helped them recover from a dismal 1-7-1 start. So far this season without Savarese they are 4-4-0 and just outside the playoff places. The Riders have lost two straight since their nice win at home over the Wilmington (NC) Hammerheads (currently 2nd place in Div 2) knocking them out of 1st place.

Can he still get it done for the Riders? Can the Barons prevail in this matchup whether they bring Savarese or not? Note that there has been no official announcement regarding him being added to the LI roster as of June 20 but a trusted source told us while in NY last week that his signing was imminent. Currently, it is expected that a press conference scheduled for Thursday, June 23 will mark the official announcement.

The winner of this 2nd Round match will go on to face the USL Division 1 top team, the Richmond Kickers on July 13 in Round 3 at Richmond. The Kickers currently hold an 8pt lead over Portland at the top of Div 1.

Be there as the Ocean City Barons face the professional Long Island Rough Riders on Wednesday, June 29, in US Open Cup Round 2 action. 8pm kickoff.

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