West Chester United pose for a team photo before their 2019 US Open Cup qualifying match against New York Pancyprian Freedoms. Photo: West Chester United
The New York Pancyprian Freedoms hosted the West Chester Predators in Round 3 of the Open Division Local qualifying tournament for the 2019 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. West Chester were victorious 3-0 after a spirited but mismatched affair that resulted in a fitter, faster and more skilled display. All three of the Predators’ goals came from attacking runs that went either through or beside an ever tiring Freedoms backline. A late surge of energy by the Freedoms in the second half was not enough to create the scoring opportunities they desperately needed.
It’s been over 30 years since the Pancyprian Freedoms won the club’s third US Open Cup title, but a few pre-MLS bastions such as these continue to keep the tradition alive and continue to compete in the 106-year-old tournament. For clubs like the Freedoms, it’s a chance to revive the days where soccer was as much a game as it was an expression of expatriate pride. In this case, the Cypriot variety.
West Chester, on the other hand, could not be any different. Based at the outer suburb of West Chester, 25 miles west of Philadelphia, they started as a youth organisation that sprouted an amateur senior team in its more recent history. Just like all like programs across the country, it becomes a somewhat intermediate stop in an aspiring football professional’s career. And in 10 short years, the Predators have become one of the top amateur teams in the country and are trying to qualify for the US Open Cup for the second time (2016).
It was a battle between the old and the relatively new, and it was the Predators who came out on top.
“We knew that they were very good on possession, they go East to West,” said West Chester head coach Blaise Santangelo. “We thought if we could get them on some counters with our pace, we thought we had a little more pace than they did, we were a little bit younger and if we could get them on the counter, we actually got three goals off of that. We thought we could really stretch them.”
In the game, West Chester was faster, fitter, more determined.
“We lost to a team that was in better shape, more organised,” said Andreas Chronis of the Freedoms. “They had a great team in the summer and they had a great team today too. We weren’t able to get that one goal that we needed to get us back in the game. We got a little tired, it was a tough loss.”
The Predators’ attacking midfielder Matthew Greer echoed Ronaldo in the way that he would run in, around and through the Freedoms’ backline from beginning to end. He was found in almost every part of the attacking third. Sometimes passing, sometimes receiving, sometimes even fetching balls being contested by other players.
Greer opened the Predators’ account, weaving through two close defenders on the left flank, flicking the ball into the center of the field, 25 yards from goal, and delivering a one touch blow into the back of the net in the 36th minute.
Not to be outdone, Chad Poarch also executed a one-man attack on goal twice. First, netting a goal for himself just before the half time whistle and in the second half finding Andreas Bartosinski to his right to make it a 3-0 game in the 74th minute.
The Freedoms were outpaced and outrun by the time the second half rolled around and could not dominate the center of the field. They found themselves playing long balls down the wings and then into the center, most of which found an opposing center back who would trouble the Freedoms by starting a string of promising attacks directly up the line.
The Predators’ defense was just as determined, staving off multiple 50/50 balls in the closing minutes of the game to preserve the shutout.
With the win, West Chester United advances to the Fourth Round of the qualifying tournament but it is unclear, as of now, whether a Fourth Round, which is tentatively scheduled for March of 2019, will take place. Every professional team in the United States is automatically entered into the US Open Cup, and with the addition of an entirely new professional league with USL League One (Div. 3), and a number of expansion teams in the USL Championship (Div. 2), the format of next year’s tournament has yet to be finalized. Without a finalized format, it’s unclear how many Open Division teams (National Premier Soccer League, USL League Two — formerly Premier Development League — , and all of the Open Division Local teams) will be granted entry into the competition. It’s possible that the WCP will have to play a Fourth Round qualifying match, but they won’t find out until January.
will advance to the final qualifying week and the Freedoms will return to the New York Cosmopolitan League after the Thanksgiving holiday. Undefeated and three points behind the competition leaders with two games in hand their prospects for local success and another opportunity at Open Cup glory should not be too far off.
WCU: Matthew Greer – 36th min.
WCU: Chad Poarch – 42nd min.
WCU: Andreas Bartosinski (Chad Poarch) – 74th min.
NYP: Andreas Chronis – 70th min.
NYP: Benjamin Maurey – 79th min.
Referee: Ernie Constantine
Assistants: Anthony Espino, Sean Lyons
Fourth Official: Joshua Pagan