West Chester United celebrates their first goal against the Ukrainian Nationals in the quarterfinals of the Eastern Pennsylvania Open Cup qualifying tournament. Photo: Kari Haffelfinger
Note: Due to a change in the qualifying deadline, USASA Region I has already determined their two entries for the 2014 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup (2013 Region I Open Cup champion Icon FC and 2013 Region I Amateur Cup champion New York Greek American Atlas). Therefore, this fall’s Eastern Pennsylvania champion will advance to the 2014 Region I tournament, which will then determine the region’s entry into the 2015 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Eastern Pennsylvania’s qualifying tournament for the 2015 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup continued on Sunday. The tournament’s top seed progressed to the next round, but three road teams pulled off upsets in the quarterfinals.
West Chester United 2:0 Ukrainian Nationals
On a cold and windy Sunday afternoon, West Chester United scored a goal in each half to earn a victory over the four-time US Open Cup champion Ukrainian Nationals in the quarterfinals of the Eastern Pennsylvania qualifying tournament.
The Ukrainian Nationals' defense clears an attempt on goal by West Chester United. Photo: Kari Haffelfinger
As top seed and two-time reigning champion, West Chester came into the match as the favorite, but the Ukrainians looked more likely to score in the game’s opening stages. That all changed when United’s Dominic Popolizio found the back of the net in the 31st minute.
West Chester’s Jeremiah White, who you might recognize from his pro days in MLS and Europe, made progress down the right side of the field and sent in a cross to Michael Lodge, who laid the ball off to Popolizio. He took advantage of time and space in the middle of the penalty area to slot ball to the left of the goalie for a 1-0 lead.
Ukrainian Nationals manager Pete Chareczko said, “The first half was tough. We were trying to hold the ball while playing against the wind. We didn’t take advantage of the chances we had, and we got caught on the counter.”
The goal seemed to wake up United, who took control the rest of the half. The home side kept the momentum going in the second half when White scored in the 50th minute. After dribbling into the left side of the box, White took a shot that hit the post. The ball rebounded straight back to him, and he was able to find the net on his second attempt.
Besides giving his team a two-goal lead, White was constantly giving the Ukrainian backline trouble and was one of the most effective players on the field. White joins West Chester after an extensive international career that included stints with Panserraikos in Greece, FC Gueugnon in France, AGF Aarhus in Denmark, and Al Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia. Last year, White made two appearances for the New England Revolution before being waived. He also has one US National Team appearance in 2008 in a friendly against Sweden.
“He’s a talent,” West Chester coach Blaise Santangelo said. “He’s going to be someone that really helps us in this cup run.”
Behind 2-0, things got even worse for the away side in the 78th minute when one of its players earned two consecutive yellow cards for dissent. Down a man, the Nationals continued to press forward, hitting the crossbar and forcing multiple saves. West Chester also had chances, but could not convert on multiple one-on-one opportunities against the Nationals keeper.
With the 2-0 victory, West Chester now moves on to the Eastern Pennsylvania semifinals. As top seed, United will host Salone FC in the next round of the tournament.
Phoenix SC 0:1 Salone FC
The biggest upset of the day came when Salone FC edged Phoenix SC 1-0. Phoenix, which qualified for the US Open Cup in 2011, went down a man in the 50th minute when Precious Lloka was red carded. Salone scored the game-winner in the 80th minute.
Phoenix manager Blair Thomson said, “It was a very even game and both teams had chances. I think we’re the best team in the area, but we’re not getting breaks right now.”
Salone, which is the only team in the competition from Philadelphia proper, will match up with top seed West Chester United in the semifinals.
Colonial Ultra 1:1 Upper Moreland Celtic
Upper Moreland advances 9-8 in penalty kicks
In a battle of Inter-County Soccer League teams, Upper Moreland Celtic eked out a 9-8 penalty kick victory over hosts Colonial Ultra after a 1-1 tie. Celtic player/manager Fran Pitonyak scored the game-winning penalty.
“It was a hard-fought and scrappy match,” he said. “We’ve got a good bunch of guys and we keep plugging away.”
Colonial Ultra scored first off the foot of Kastriot Fazliu 10 minutes into the match. Celtic responded midway through the first half when Matt Gamble scored on a rebound after a 35-yard shot hit the crossbar.
Neither team could find the net in the second half or in overtime, so the game went to penalty kicks. After Pitonyak scored Celtic’s ninth penalty, Colonial pushed its attempt wide of the left post. Upper Moreland moves on to the semifinals to take on Vereinigung Erzgebirge.
United German Hungarians 0:1 Vereinigung Erzgebirge
In a classic game between two teams with rich histories, Vereinigung Erzgebirge took out the No. 2 seed United German Hungarians 1-0. Greg Ermold of VE scored in the 55th minute from 30 yards out, turning his defender at midfield and hitting a rocket past the UGH goalie into the corner of the net.
VE manager Rob Oldfield said, “It’s a rivalry game, and those can be tricky. We were real solid in the back, so once we got the goal, we were able to sit on it. For the most part, we were happy to get a 1-0 away win.”
UGH, which has been playing soccer since 1922 and are twice Open Cup runners-up, was one of three home teams to lose in the quarterfinals. VE, founded in 1931, last qualified for the Open Cup in 2002. To win its first state title since 2009, VE will have to get past Upper Moreland Celtic in the semifinals.
“It was a good, classic game between us and VE,” UGH manager Werner Fricker III said. “We hit two posts and a crossbar, but VE were able to capitalize on their chances.”