Despite the 2013 US Open Cup concluding not even one month ago, qualification has already started in Eastern Pennsylvania…for 2015. Four-time Open Cup winners Ukrainian Nationals matched up against Cavalla FC in the opening round of qualifying on Sunday afternoon, with the Ukrainians prevailing 2-0.
The USASA is in the midst of a transition where each of the four regions will be moving their qualifying deadline to Dec. 31. This format will begin next year, and until then, different regions are choosing different methods of selecting their entries for 2014. Region I already decided that their 2013 Open Cup champion, Icon FC and Amateur Cup winner New York Greek American Atlas SC will be their 2014 entries, so the current state tournaments will feed into the 2014 regional tournament, which will feed into the 2015 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. (Get all that?)
Ethan Armstrong and Brendan Burgdorf were the goalscorers for the Ukrainian Nationals, who had lost to Cavalla in the 2013 Open Cup qualifying tournament. Both goals came in the first half, which was the game plan, according to Ukrainian Nationals head coach Pete Chareczko.
“In the first half, we were stressing to have some pressure and to go on offense. The first half plan was to come out and score goals. In the second half, we just wanted to contain,” he said.
The Ukrainian’s early pressure paid off in the 12th minute, when Armstrong opened the scoring. A cross from wide right skipped past the Cavalla goalkeeper. Armstrong was in the right place at the right time, easily tapping the ball into the net.
The home side continued to control play and almost doubled its lead in the 24th minute when the Cavalla keeper was caught well outside of the area. He was bailed out by his defender, however, who headed away a shot bound for the back of the net.
That play seemed to spur Cavalla on, leading to more possession and chances for the away side. Cavalla had several close chances, but the next goal came from the Ukrainians, who scored again in the 42nd minute. Burgdorf received the ball at the top of the box, where he faked out two defenders. With an open lane, he slotted the ball to the left of the diving keeper to give his team a two-goal lead.
The Ukrainian Nationals contained a steady stream of Cavalla pressure in the second half, seeing out the game somewhat comfortably. Other than an errant Cavalla cross that hit the crossbar, the Ukrainian’s goalkeeper was seldom troubled.
With the win, the Nationals move on to Round 2 of the nine-team Eastern Pennsylvania qualifying tournament, which is set for Nov. 10. They will take on reigning state champions West Chester United.
The Nationals, who won the US Open Cup in 1960, 1961, 1963 and 1966, are looking to return to the tournament for the first time in the Modern Professional Era (1995-present). The club hopes to end a state tournament drought as well as they haven’t won an Eastern Pennsylvania title since 2006.
“We’re looking to carry on the tradition of this club. We’ve won the Open Cup and the Amateur Cup. This team’s good enough to do it again,” Chareczko said. “We’re a big club, and we’ve got big ambitions.”