Players from West Chester United (right) and Safira FC battle for the ball during their Fourth Round match in the 2019 US Open Cup Open Division Local qualifying tournament. Photo: Chris Aduama
West Chester United won a fourth straight 2019 US Open Cup qualifying match away from home to qualify for the First Round of the competition with a 3-0 win over Boston-based Safira FC at Dilboy Stadium in Somerville, Mass.
Having stolen the lead during first half stoppage time through Chad Poarch, United put the contest away in the second half thanks to two Peter Nolan strikes, with all three goals coming from set pieces.
“It means the world to us,” said West Chester head coach Blaise Santangelo of his team qualifying for the second time in club history. “Four road wins and it’s been a lot of work for the guys. We’ve been focused to win and get into the tournament since we lost the automatic bid in the National Amateur Cup Final against Bavarian SC.”
A patchy first half failed to present many clear scoring chances, with Safira misfiring after West Chester had dictated the opening quarter of an hour. From one of five corners won before the break, Matthew Vidal delivered a left-footed in-swinger, but Thiago Teixeira failed to fully connect with his header at the near post and the ball was cleared, summing up the hosts’ frustrating half.
With 41 minutes played, Charles Wilson broke free on a promising West Chester counter attack, but with a teammate to either side, played a harmless ball through the middle and the outnumbered hosts were relieved to clear the danger.
The deadlock was broken by the only chance of the first half a minute into stoppage time. Troy Amspacher’s long throw into a crowded penalty area was flicked on by Enda O’Neill and Poarch fired home having broken free at the far post to give Unite the edge.
“I told the guys when we came out here that when we played this team in June [in the 2018 USASA Amateur Cup], we missed an opportunity just before halftime, so when the ball went out of bounds, because the field is tight, we now have a throw in that’s like a corner kick,” explained Santangelo. “So, I told the defenders to go up and play it like a corner kick and we knew it was less than a minute to the half. Enda got a great head on the ball and Chad had a fantastic finish from about ten yards out.”
West Chester carried that momentum into the second half and nine minutes after the break, Matthew Greer produced a spectacular 25-yard effort on the turn that left Safira keeper Patrick Vilela rooted to the spot but flashed just wide of the right-hand post.
West Chester continued to press and it was no surprise when the visitors doubled their lead after 57 minutes. Greer’s vicious in-swinging corner was met with a power-header from close range by Nolan who was unmarked with the goal at his mercy. Two minutes later, the same combination almost paid off again, but this time Nolan was crowded out.
On the hour mark, with United pressing for a third goal, Greer delivered a free kick from 35 yards out and Nolan claimed the decisive touch with a defender’s body also making contact to beat Vilela from within a crowded goalmouth for a 3-0 advantage.
“We are really disappointed because we didn’t play a good game and while they didn’t control the game, we made mistakes and they caught us when we didn’t pay attention,” said Safira coach Andre Ferreira. “We made mistakes on all three goals and the goal in the first half really frustrated our players going into halftime.”
For Nolan, the two-goal performance was a bit of redemption. When these two clubs met in the Amateur Cup last summer, he was shown a red card in the 9th minute, leaving his team shorthanded.
West Chester now returns to the US Open Cup for the first time since they made their tournament debut in 2016. That year, they eliminated the NPSL’s FC Fredericksburg in penalty kicks before hosting the USL’s Harrisburg City Islanders where they fell 2-0.