2010 US Open Cup qualifying: Phoenix SC win USASA Eastern PA Open Cup title, advance to Region I Finals
PLYMOUTH MEETING, PA – Despite playing in a torrential downpour throughout the match, Phoenix SC captured their first Eastern Pennsylvania Open Cup championship, defeating the United German Hungarians (UGH) 2-1 in overtime. The Final went ahead despite nature’s best attempts to dampen the participants’ spirits. Played in a high school football stadium, the field was narrow, but the artificial turf ensured the game would go on despite the heavy rain.
UGH came out of the blocks quickly, as they tried to win their second Open Cup inside of three years. Using the narrow field, they deployed a high-pressure strategy and controlled the opening 25 minutes, with Tommy DeGeorge fashioning the best opportunities for UGH. Phoenix was not without creativity of its own, as both Ben Castor and Steve Mellor missed out on opportunities to get on the scoresheet in the opening moments of the game.
Phoenix eventually found their footing and started to hold possession, matching UGH for the remainder of the half as both teams created several more chances in the final 20 minutes, but were unable to break the scoreless tie before halftime.
With the wind at their backs, Phoenix came out and gained the upper hand in the second half, although, it would be UGH that would make the first breakthrough. In the 67th minute, a clearance by a UGH defender slipped away from the control of a Phoenix player, allowing Tim O’Neill to be released down the left side. He surprised everyone in attendance when he toe poked the ball from 22 yards into the far upper corner to give UGH a 1-0 lead.
Phoenix responded by changing tactics and pushing players forward, which nearly brought immediate dividends as they created several chances by Ben Castor, Pat Dillon and Roman Escobar. UGH continued to be dangerous on the counter and from set plays, with Blair Carson nearly putting the game out of reach on a free kick that missed the target.
However, in the 81st minute, Phoenix would find the equalizer. A flowing pass culminated in substitute Brian McKinney, playing in his first Open Cup Final after 10 years with the club, releasing Kamara Freebolle to round the keeper and slot home the tying goal. Phoenix, however, were not content to go to extra time as Freebolle and Danny Murtagh both came close to winning the game in the final, frantic moments.
The first overtime session was evenly played, with Phoenix controlling possession and UGH looking to hit them on the counter. In the second session, Phoenix finally made a breakthrough. With nine minutes remaining, a Matt Lapish freekick found the head of McKinney, whose flick traveled 25 feet into the air. Jack Pocorobba was the first to react, getting under the ball and heading across goal and into the far corner, sparking jubilant scenes in the stadium. UGH pressed forward to find a goal to send the match into penalty kicks, but they fell short, losing to Phoenix 2-1.
For Phoenix SC, it was their first state Open Cup title, giving coach Blair Thomson the only trophy which has eluded him in his 28-year association with the club. Thomson’s team, with the victory, have qualified for the 2010 USASA Region I Finals, which will take place in the Spring.
Phoenix SC Lineup
GK – Tony Pratico
LB – Greg Mangels (captain)
CB – Matt Lapish
CB – Mark Scaccia (Brian McKinney, 72nd)
RB – Jack Pocorobba
LM – Danny Murtagh
CM – Ben Castor
CM – Steve Mellor (Pat Dillon, 70th)
CM – Roman Escobar
RM – Ryan Soroka
ST – Kamara Freebolle
Unused Sub – Matt Rominger