National Premier Soccer League club Lehigh Valley United Sonic made the long 7-hour bus ride to Portland, ME to take on PDL club GPS Portland Phoenix on Tuesday. The first round match in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup took place under clear skies at Deering High School’s Memorial Field. It took extra time after a scoreless 90 minutes of regulation time but LVU were victorious by the score of 1-0.
Sonic started the match well with two great scoring chances in the first 15 minutes of the match through forward Roshane Ellison. Ellison’s second chance required an excellent save from GPS goalkeeper Lee Johnston. In the 26th minute, with Sonic midfielder Shastri Spencer running towards a loose ball, Johnston had to race out of his net for the clearancet. Right before the half, GPS had a free kick from 25 yards out but Jonathan Remond put it over the bar.
After the half, both teams returned to the field with the same lineups. In the 54th minute, a hard sliding tackle on Roshane Ellison caused him to stay down for a couple minutes. No foul was called on the play. Ellison tried to shake off the tackle but in the 62nd minute Sonic head coach Dave Weitzman had to substitute in George Tsirukis.
Immediately after the substitution Sonic had its best chance of the game with two point blank shots stopped by a GPS defender and the keeper, Johnston. GPS had a free kick in the 86th minute but Remond shot right at Sonic keeper Charlie Sales. With the game heading for extra time both teams pushed for a winner but couldn’t find the back of the net.
In the first period of 15 minutes of extra time, Sonic had another chance to go ahead in the 103rd minute when the ball was crossed in from the left to a wide-open player on the back post. He had the whole net open but his shot was blocked by his own teammate and bounced out for a goal kick. GPS followed up in the 108th minute with their best chance of the game off a corner kick that was headed off the underside of the crossbar. The Sonic defense recovered and was able to clear the ball.
In the 115th minute, Sonic was able to break the deadlock after Tsirukis collected the ball near midfield and ran 20 yards before passing the ball to a streaking Shastri Spencer on the left, who lofted the ball over the GPS keeper to hand LVU Sonic the 1-0 lead.
At the death of the game in the 120th minute, Sonic keeper Charlie Sales had to make a desperate save from a GPS shot that deflected off a defender to preserve the shutout and the win for the visitors.
LVU Sonic will now host USL Pro side Harrisburg City Islanders in the second round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup next Wednesday, May 14 at Whitehall High School Soccer Stadium in Whitehall, Pa. Game time is 7:05 p.m.
After Wednesday night’s victory, LVU Sonic head coach Dave Weitzman took a few minutes to answer some questions:
On having the midfielders rotate positions and switch wings:
“They were playing a 4-4-2 against our 4-3-3 and I said to the guys that I really thought we had to try and manage the central midfield… I was really trying to make sure we were solidified and then on the flanks I really wanted to try to get a little bit more speed in there. The game plan was to get George Tsirukis, the left footed player, into the match around the 60th minute because we really though he would tire them out a little bit.”
On the goal:
“The turn George had at midfield and then he took the ball about 30 yards and found Shastri. That is his great individualism and great creative play. Great goal.”
On looking forward to next round:
“Absolutely! Soccer has a real deep strong tradition in the Lehigh Valley… There has been a really strong soccer community in the Lehigh Valley that are really supportive of this team and the teams in the past and to be able to bring a pro game back to the valley for the first time since the early 80’s is great!”
LVU: Shastri Spencer 115 ‘ (George Tsirukis)
LVU: Tom Mustac 107’ (Yellow)
GPS: Jonathan Lupinelli 109’ (Yellow)
Lehigh Valley United Sonic (4-3-3)
Charlie Sales; Paddy Farrell, Ali Famili, Toric Robinson, Brendon Boucard (Richard Guedes 99’); Schuylar Rimmelee, Thomas Ryan, Shastri Spencer; Josh Cirocco (Joe Joe Jappah 73’), Roshane Ellison (George Tsirukis 62’), Tom Mustac
GPS Portland Phoenix (4-4-2)
Lee Johnston; Raiff Gwinnett, Neil Harries, Cameron Omsberg, Jonathan Lupinelli; David Magee (Zach Zurita 59’), Jonathan Remond, Mitch McPike, Eric Anderson; Kyle Shangraw, McKauley Tulloch (Wyatt Omsberg 69’)