West Chester United defeated Vereinigung Erzgebirge 4-2 on Sunday to win their third straight Eastern Pennsylvania Open Cup title. Four different players scored for the tournament’s top seed, who played without former MLS player Jeremiah White, who missed the game due to injury.
With the win, United becomes the first team to win the state title three years in a row since the United German Hungarians won four straight from 1997-2000. They now move on to next year’s USASA Region I Open Cup tournament, where the winner will earn a spot in the 2015 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
The USASA’s qualifying deadline was moved up to Dec. 31, and since there was no way to fit state and regional tournaments in before the end of the year, the 2014 Region I entries were already decided based on 2013’s results. The 2013 Region I Open Cup champion Icon FC (New Jersey) and Amateur Cup winners, New York Greek American Atlas SC, punched their tickets.
There were a number of key performances that led to the club clinching a spot in the USASA Region I tournament for a third straight year, but West Chester manager Blaise Santangelo was quick to credit the most important performance of the day.
“The MVP award should definitely go to the Jeep Wrangler that plowed the field,” Santangelo joked. It was a selfish award, as Santangelo, a man of many hats, was the one plowing the field in the early morning hours at YCS Sports in Wayne, Pa. Heavy snowfall blanketed the Philadelphia area over the weekend, forcing the match to be moved from West Chester’s home field to the complex where Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union practice.
Luckily for the players involved, the weather was a relative non-factor. The temperature hovered around the mid-30s with little wind, but it was set pieces that made the difference in the game as two of the four West Chester goals came from free kicks.
The first goal of the game didn’t take long, as West Chester earned a free kick on the left wing. From about 25 yards out, Andrew Kummerer took the free kick and bent the ball from left to right and buried it in the back of the net.
A few minutes later, VE equalized from the penalty spot. The referee called a foul just inside the penalty area and Artie Taylor stepped up and tied the game in the 8th minute.
The match remained level heading into halftime, with VE controlling the majority of the possession as West Chester’s midfield play struggled to establish itself.
“VE had the better of the play in the first half,” said Santangelo. “We weren’t connecting our outside backs to our outside mids very well and we turned the ball over a lot.”
WCU found themselves forcing direct balls from the backline to the strikers and VE took advantage of the turnovers, but were unable to take the lead before the break.
The second half was a completely different story, as the two-time defending champs focused on more two-touch passing and erupted for three goals.
Within ten minutes of the restart, a scrum broke out in the penalty box and West Chester’s Peter Pittaoulis found himself at the right place at the right time. Pittaoulis drilled the ball past goalkeeper Tim Washam to put WCU up 2-1.
Shortly after, Billydee Scantlebury entered the game as a substitute and the former Joe Public midfielder made an immediate impact. Roughly five minutes after he entered the game, West Chester won a free kick and Scantlebury struck an unstoppable shot past Washam to give his team a two-goal lead around the 65th minute.
Needing multiple goals to have a chance to win their first state Open Cup title since 2009, VE pushed players forward, but they paid the price for it on the counter-attack. West Chester found themselves on a 3-on-2 break and Joe Scales scored to make it 4-1.
The game seemed out of reach, but VE was given a lifeline around the 78th minute. The referee awarded them a penalty kick and, to make things even better for the underdogs, Kummerer of West Chester was shown a straight red card for dissent after arguing the decision. Anthony Bafiel converted the spot kick to make it 4-2 as VE looked to rally with a man advantage.
Despite playing with 10 men, United managed to hold on in the final 10 minutes to secure the win.
West Chester United lineup
Anthony Noel (GK), Chris Amato, Peter Luzak (Tomasz Fryzel – 81st), Mark Fetrow, Dave King, Joe Sales (Charlie Sales – 78th), Andrew Kummerer, Bill Brown (Billydee Scantlebury – 57th), Mike Lodge, Dom Popolizio, Pete Pittaoulis (Tony Murungi – 87th)
Vereinigung Erzgebirge lineup
Tim Washam (GK), Artie Taylor (Brian Madden – 75th), Alex Shuptar, Mike Reese, John Boswell, John Fazio (Mike McKee – 78th), Brian Devlin, Greg Ermold (Kevin Wolfe – 75th), Anthony Bafiel, Julian Ward (Giuseppe Bua – 75th), Greg Shertzer