Ben Castor cleaned up a rebound after a defensive miscue and put Phoenix Sport Club through to the third round of local qualifying for the 2018 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup with a second half stoppage time winner to beat rival West Chester United 1-0 on Saturday night.
“The whole time you’re thinking extra time, getting ready for that extra 30 minutes but the way we were playing, we played really well, organized defensively we knew all we needed was two or three chances,” Castor said. “We put ourselves in a good situation and we thought stay organized defensively we could give ourselves a really good opportunity in the second half and you know things just kind of fell the right way.”
Playing on their home turf in front of a small but lively crowd, West Chester United controlled possession from the opening whistle and had a number of set piece opportunities to take the lead before Troy Amspacher drew a penalty in the box in the 41st minute.
Phoenix goalkeeper Tony Pratico saved Amspacher’s penalty and was also able to get enough of the rebound attempt in a scurry in front of the net to send the ball out for a corner. The former Temple goalkeeper made another fine save on a one-v-one play against Kai Kasiguran in the second half and a number of other saves and interventions to shut down wave after wave of attacks from West Chester, which also saw a shot hit off the post in the second half.
“They did have a lot of opportunities but besides the PK and maybe one other they didn’t have too many quality opportunities,” Pratico said. “Our defenders kept everyone in front of them and the offensive players didn’t really take too mistakes. We obviously only scored one goal but you take what you can get.”
Phoenix had their best opportunity to open the scoring in the 33rd minute when Jarryd Goldberg got into the box on a counter attack but it resulted in a penalty shout the referee wasn’t interested in calling. Instead, it was West Chester United that got the benefit of the referee’s whistle on the other end eight minutes later.
“They won the game at halftime, keeping it zero, zero,” West Chester United head coach Blaise Santangelo said. “We didn’t put balls away, they saved a PK. Those guys have had a lot of success together, they won a national title together (the 2016 Gerhard Menghel Over-30 Cup). They know how to compete in big games.”
The game-winning goal came against the run of play when midfielder Jack Pocorobba put pressure on the back line when he found Castor and the clearance attempt ended up deflecting to goalkeeper Clarke Fox who was only able to parry it away to Castor for the tap in.
“That’s what the game gives you you know, sometimes you get the opportunities you don’t convert, sometimes it takes a little mistake, a little miscommunication and you come out on top,” Phoenix SC manager Mike Pio said.
For one of the country’s oldest active clubs (est. 1926), Saturday’s victory puts Phoenix SC one win away from qualifying for the US Open Cup proper for the first time since 2011, where they lost to the Rochester Rhinos 2-1 in the first round.
“That’s why a bunch of us kept playing to get back there and maybe win a first round game this time,” Pratico said.