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Open Cup is still ‘surreal’ for Detroit City FC hero Carlos Saldaña

Detroit City FC goalkeeper Carlos Saldaña ended the night of his life with a celebration made for just another game.

Turns out that’s because that’s how it was in his mind. Never mind that he had just given DCFC one of the biggest victories in club history, sending DCFC to the Open Cup Round of 16 for the first time ever and giving the club its second win over a Major League Soccer side in the delivered the last three. years.

In just his second career appearance for Detroit City, Saldaña helped his team through 120 minutes of a US Open Cup match at MLS’ Houston Dynamo on Tuesday night. He made a save that kept them alive during the fifth round of the penalty shootout.

And then, as the kicks rained down on the goalkeepers, Saldaña converted the winner to eliminate the defending tournament champions. He occasionally clenched his fist, turned around and stayed in that jogging position until he was thrown to the ground by a cavalry of teammates.

“My biggest saying is, ‘No pasa nada,’” Saldaña told The Detroit News.

The Spanish phrase translates directly to “nothing happens,” which is just another way of saying, “don’t worry.”

“It’s the round of 32, you know?” Saldaña said. “I feel like this group is destined for great things, and honestly, I’m just happy to get through it. It’s another lap closer to our goal.”

While that may be true, he couldn’t have imagined it would turn out this way.

Saldaña spent the past three seasons as a backup at USL Championship’s Sacramento Republic. He still fills a backup role in Detroit, but was given the opportunity to start one of the biggest games of the year on Tuesday night, apparently taking on an indefinite role as Cup goalkeeper. In recent seasons, DCFC has rested starting goalkeeper Nate Steinwascher during early Open Cup matches but started him against USL Championship and MLS opponents.

“More than anything, just very grateful. I’m really grateful that it turned out the way it did,” Saldaña said. “Honestly the whole team fought, everyone did the full 120 and even in the PKs, so it was obviously a huge team effort and I’m just really happy that we got through it and could win another cup match.”

The final score was 3-3, with Detroit winning 10-9 on penalties. But for much of the first half, it looked like Saldaña and Le Rouge were in for grandes problemas – big problems. Houston easily took a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute after a corner kick that made it look like the DCFC defenders were asleep.

About ten minutes later, Houston’s Latif Blessing appeared to break through and take a 2-0 lead, but his goal was disallowed for offside. It didn’t take long for the Dynamo to actually take a two-goal lead, however, as Blessing took advantage of a Maxi Rodriguez turnover in the 31st minute to make it look like Houston would run away with it.

“I never really thought we were out of the game,” he said. “I just tried to stay focused and worry about the next play and turning the page. … I knew there would be opportunities to get some back and just fight through it, and that’s exactly what happened.

That belief came in handy because DCFC still relied on him. After Detroit and Houston traded goals again to make it 3-3 towards the end of the second half, Saldaña and Le Rouge’s defense held on for dear life as the Dynamo prepared one attack after another, but a blocked and saved many shots. , including a straight try in the 93rd minute that he got his hands on.

All this paved the way for his penalty winner. Saldaña tries not to get caught up in the moment, but that’s hard. He barely slept Tuesday night (a symptom of most game nights) and constantly receives notifications with videos of his goal.

“Everyone reposts it, everyone retweets it,” Saldaña said. “It’s good to think about it and see it… (I’m) happy to get the last one and close, I definitely got a lot of rewatches.

“It’s just great. It’s still a little surreal to me, you know?

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@nolanbianchi