The next US Open Cup Cinderella story might come out of Eastern Pennsylvania. The clock has not yet struck midnight for the young, but talented, Junior Lone Star Under-23s, who upset one of the oldest clubs in the United States in the second round of Open Cup qualifying.
Two-time US Open Cup runners-up, United German Hungarians (UGH), were favorites to win, hosting the developmental U23s. While the Junior Lone Star parent club made the Open Cup last year, the U-23s were entered into qualifying this year to just earn some valuable experience. The young team from Philadelphia showed that they are playing for more than just practice, beating UGH 3-2 at the home of the team that has been around since the 1920s.
The game was wide open from the start. Junior Lone Star was not afraid to attack, and UGH was more than happy to try to catch the U-23s on the counter attack. Ten minutes in, UGH threatened to open the scoring, but the Junior Lone Star keeper was up to the task, making two point blank saves in a row.
Just as the U-23s seemed to have control of the contest, UGH nabbed the opening goal. Jacob Mulinge crossed from the right, the ball was flicked on and John Gravelle, who played college soccer at La Salle, knocked it easily into the net.
Junior Lone Star got the equalizer right after halftime. In the 50th minute, a long ball over the top found Elijah Ema, who calmly slotted the ball past the keeper into the net. Six minutes later, Junior Lone Star’s Opeyemi Amao made it 2-1 when he made a darting run from the left side into the box, then curled the ball around the keeper.
The U-23s got yet another goal in the 73rd minute on a free kick. The cross found the head of John Quaye, who made it 3-1.
It was a tense final few minutes for the young side from Philadelphia. The U-23s goalie made multiple saves to preserve the lead. UGH did get a second goal from Gravelle in second half stoppage time, but Junior Lone Star held on for the victory.
Junior Lone Star U-23s have a chance at a Cinderella story in the 2018 Open Cup. Now, they are just one win away from making that tournament. To get into the competition, they will have to overcome the reigning Amateur Cup champions on the road when they travel to New York City to face the Lansdowne Bhoys FC. A win, which would be considered an upset, would certainly solidify their Cinderellla status.