West Chester United claimed their first-ever Eastern Pennsylvania Open Cup championship with a narrow 1-0 win over fellow first-time finalist Salone FC. Dom Popolizio scored the lone goal in the 69th minute to send the Predators to their first USASA Region I tournament, where they will be two wins away from a berth in the 2012 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
West Chester will now travel to the D.C. area to face the Dulles Sportsplex Aegean Hawks, the champions of Metro D.C. / Virginia Soccer Association, on April 1, with the winner playing the Maryland Bays with an Open Cup berth on the line. If the Preds are able to qualify for the Open Cup, they will be just the fourth Eastern PA team from the USASA to advance in the last 15 years.
It was an evenly played first half, as United came out in a defensive 4-5-1 formation, hoping to slow down the Salone offense, led by Samson Oluwole. Most of the chances in the opening 45 minutes came from distance, as the teams went into the halftime break deadlocked.
Halftime adjustments made all the difference as the Predators shifted their focus away from Oluwole and switched to a 4-4-2 formation to clog up Salone’s runs down the middle of the field. Each team added to their attack in the 56th minute with Omar Salmon for the Preds and Isaac Jardiah for Salone. Both created chances for their respective teams, with Jardiah misfiring on two clear shots minutes after entering the match.
After Jardiah entered, Salone nearly took advantage of a West Chester gaffe, but missed out on their best chance of the game. United defender Chas Chupein delivered a slow back pass to goalkeeper Travis Chulick that was picked off by a Salone player who ran in alone but rattled the cross bar with his shot.
West Chester’s Bill Brown, who had a strong day in the air, had his best chance midway through the second half when he headed a cross from 12 yards out just over the cross bar. Minutes later, Mike Lodge broke into the box on the byline and forced a tremendous save from Salone GK Ralph Jacob.
Finally, the game-winner would come in the 69th minute when Andrew Kummerer’s cross off a free kick found the head of Popolizio, who nodded it past the goalkeeper for the game’s sole goal. This prompted an Aaron Rodgers-inspired goal celebration in front of the fans in attendance at Immaculata University’s Draper Walsh Stadium.
Salone put pressure on West Chester in the final 20 minutes, but United’s defense held strong to give the club their first state Open Cup championship.
“The team was solid all game long,” said manager Vince D’Ambrosio. “The boys played with energy and purpose, but most of all, played for each other. The few mistakes that were made will need to be ironed out going forward.”
The Predators’ win in the final was sort of revenge, as Salone defeated West Chester United’s Over-30 side 2-1 in the Quarterfinals on Nov. 6, while the eventual victors dispatched Plymouth Ultra 3-1. In the final four on Dec. 4, Salone FC eliminated powerhouse and two-time national runner-up (1977, 1993) United German Hungarians, 3-2, while the Predators needed extra time to eliminate last year’s champion, Phoenix SC by the same scoreline.
The championship game was originally scheduled for December 11, but an ultimately failed protest by United German Hungarians over their Semifinal loss to Salone FC held the game off until spring.
2012 Eastern Pennsylvania Open Cup Final
Sunday, Mar. 4, 2012 – Draper Walsh Stadium (Immaculata University)
West Chester United Predators 1:0 Salone FC
WCU: Dom Popolizio (Andrew Kummerer) – 69th minute
WCU: Ryan Puppolo (Yellow) – 35th minute
WCU: Neema Mohajery (Yellow) – 94th+ minute
West Chester United (4-5-1): Travis Chulick (GK), Ryan Smallwood, Chas Chupein, Kevin Bartruff, Chris King, Andrew Kummerer (Capt. – 85th), Bill Brown (85th), Josh Labik (56th), Ryan Puppolo (89th), Mike Lodge, Dom Popolizio
Subs: Omarie Salmon (56th), Pete Pittaoulis (85th for Brown), Justin McCall (85th for Kummerer), Neema Mohajery (89th)
Not Used: Amir Zakikhani, Chris Amato, Matt Dorsey
Salone FC: Ralph Jacob (GK), Samson Oluwole, Swen Bartuah, Sulaiman Kanneh (Capt), Dero Mujtabah, Foday Kamara, Amadou Berthe, Mohammed Kabbia, Fatoma Turay, Saydee Gerald, Junisa Sandi
Subs: Isaac Jr. Jardiah (60th), Mustapha Kanneh (70th), Peter Jr. Jarbo (70th)
Not Used: Alimamy Kamara, David Doe, Mohamed Sarr
2012 Eastern Pennsylvania Open Cup results
First Round (Oct. 23, 2011)
Ukrainian Nationals 2:0 Quakertown Nationals
West Chester United Over-30 1:0 Junior Lone Star
United German Hungarians 3:1 Vereinigung Erzgebirge
Quarterfinals (Nov. 6, 2011)
Phoenix SC 4:2 Ukrainian Nationals
West Chester United 3:1 Plymouth Ultra
Salone FC 2:1 West Chester United Over-30
United German Hungarians 4:1 Mayfair Celtics
Semifinals (Dec. 4, 2011)
West Chester United 3:2 (AET) Phoenix SC
Salone FC 3:2 United German Hungarians
Final (Mar. 4, 2012)
West Chester United 1:0 Salone FC
Past Eastern PA Open Cup champions:
1998: United German Hungarians
1999: United German Hungarians*
2000: United German Hungarians
2002: Vereinigung Erzgebirge*
2003: Ukrainian Nationals
2004: Lighthouse SC
2005: Ukrainian Nationals
2006: Ukrainian Nationals
2007: Vereinigung Erzgebirge (Runner-up Ukrainian Nationals also qualified for Region I Finals)
2008: United German Hungarians
2009: Vereinigung Erzgebirge
2010: Phoenix SC
2011: Phoenix SC*
2012: West Chester United Predators
* Qualified for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup