West Chester United hosting Salone FC in the opening round of the 2017 US Open Cup qualifying tournament. Photo: Michael Berton
West Chester United held off a late rally to advance past Salone FC 2-1 on Saturday night, keeping its chances alive of making it to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup for a second year in a row.
United, which plays in the United Soccer League of Pennsylvania (USLPA), and Salone, which plays in the Philadelphia Premier Soccer League, met last year in the second round of qualifying. West Chester won that match 3-0 and advanced to the Open Cup proper for the first time. This year’s meeting was a much tighter affair.
Salone was the more dangerous team for the first 20 minutes. A series of probing long balls more often than not found Salone forwards, but the team did not get any dangerous shots on net.
It was a physical battle between West Chester United and Salone FC in the 2017 US Open Cup qualifying tournament. Photo: Kari Berton
A combination of West Chester settling into the game and some bad luck for Salone contributed to the first goal of the match. United had gotten control of the game when a Salone player went out with a dislocated elbow. As a substitute was warming up, Salone was forced to play with 10 men. It was during this shorthanded period that United got its first goal.
A well-weighted pass was played to Emmanuel Kollie in the Salone box in the 35th minute. His ensuing cross found the head of former University of Virginia star Matthew Poole, who sent the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal.
Four minutes later, and after Salone made its substitution, West Chester got a second goal. Kollie and Poole again connected with some nice passes in the box, eventually leading to a Peter Jannelli shot that was saved. The rebound fell right to Julien Aoyama, who tapped it in from eight yards out.
“The first 20 minutes they were giving us trouble,” West Chester coach Blaise Santangelo said. “After that, we hit a spell of 15-20 minutes of tremendous soccer where we played great balls and connected on all our passes.”
The reigning USLPA champions felt good going into the second half, but Salone FC would not quit. The lack of quit led to some harsh fouls, however. In the 68th minute, Salone’s Mohammed Sesay was sent off for a crunching tackle at the top of his box.
Despite being down to 10 men, Salone was able to keep pressing forward. That pressure was rewarded with a goal in the 79th minute. After a West Chester save, Nykh Kamara put the ball back into a crowded penalty area. With United goalie Anthony Noel still recovering from his save, Murphy Barlee was able to score into an empty net to cut the lead to one.
The last ten minutes was a frantic affair. Salone goalie Ralph Jacobs was forced to play almost as more of a defender than a keeper. Down a man and with so many of his teammates pushing forward, he had to come up big multiple times, often far from his net.
Kamara, whose speed gave the West Chester defense fits the entire match, got off one more shot in the 87th minute, but Salone could not muster another goal. In the end, the hosts held on for a 2-1 victory.
United, which made it to the second round of last year’s Open Cup — a 2-0 loss to the City Islanders SC of the USL — advances to take on the defending USASA Amateur Cup champions, Christos FC of Maryland in the second round of qualifying.
“Christos is a really good team,” Santangelo said. “We can’t wait to play them.”