A second-half comeback and extra time goal from Jacob Gosselin lifted West Chester United SC over regional rival FC Motown, 3-2, at Montclair State University. The eastern Pennsylvania powerhouse came back from two goals down and will now play AC Syracuse Pulse in the Second Round next month.
This was the first US Open Cup tournament proper game since Atlanta United FC won the 2019 championship.
The two teams that kicked off the 107th tournament are no strangers to each other. Motown and West Chester compete in multiple leagues together (USL League Two, National Premier Soccer League, Northeast Elite Soccer League). Even the organization’s state league squads face off constantly in USASA Region I competitions.
West Chester head coach Blaise Santangelo said after the game that he and the Motown staff text each other nearly every day.
“We have mad respect for each other. I can actually say we actually love each other,” Santangelo said. “You know, you have friends in the game and you all go through the same shit with your teams. It’s nice to be able to talk to people that go through the same shit, especially us as volunteers.”
When two sides know each other that well, the edge is going to come down to the smallest thing. For West Chester the game came down to two things; fitness and a Motown injury.
In the first half, the game revolved around one player. Former Haiti Under-23 Nerlin Saint-Vil tore apart the Predators with devastating speed. The visiting midfielders couldn’t contain him on the wide open field. Officially on ESPN, the former Caribbean professional was listed as a midfielder. But at times he’d play so far back he almost resembled a defender on the backline.
Then one second later on the ball, he’d be 20 yards down field making space for a shot attempt. Of his team’s seven shots in the first half, Saint-Vil took three. Just looking at the ones on target; he took three of his team’s four.
What makes this all even more impressive is that the young star did this all while injured. In the seventh minute, a collision with a West Chester player sent Saint-Vil to the ground where he needed help off the field. Despite coming back in for the rest of the half he showed signs of distress. He’d go down two more times and was seen consistently hunching over until he was subbed off in the 57th minute.
Motown co-owner Dan Karosen said that his player suffered a nondescript ankle injury.
“Obviously he was our huge matchup advantage,” Karosen said. “He is possibly one of the best players in amateur soccer who really shouldn’t be with us right now… Losing him allowed them to press higher because they had to put two men back with him.”
Saint-Vil opened the scoring in the 10th minute. After breaking through United’s lines, an unassisted half volley from outside the box sipped past a stunned Cameron Sanders to give Motown the early lead. With him on the field, the Predators played in a style that isn’t typical of them; on the backfoot. In stoppage time, Saint-Vil made space again and fed former New York Red Bulls’ II player Joseph Fala on a break.
Sanders came out to challenge the Cape May, New Jersey native on the left side, but the forward slipped the ball past him to double his team’s lead.
“I think we were a little nervy in the first half,” Santangelo admitted. “We weren’t connecting passes even when we were not being pressured. We still were turning balls over in the midfield. So once we got that done and dealt with that in the locker room, the guys came out and they performed right off jump.”
After the break, West Chester’s second advantage also came to light. Motown’s offense mostly went through Saint-Vil, former Major League Soccer star Dilly Duka, and Ryan Peterson. All three men were subbed out in the final 45 minutes. The replacements, especially Marcus Hackett for the Haitian, did not have the pace to keep up with West Chester.
One major advantage United had was its fitness. Both Santangelo and Karosen both admitted much ahead of the game. As the senior team in a large soccer program, the game never stops in West Chester. The PA side’s head coach explained after the game that outside of one weekend for New Years, his team had trained all winter. Not only with one another, but against other teams including friendly wins against Lansdowne Yonkers and professional New York Red Bulls II.
Levi Maruca scored possibly the goal of the tournament to start the comeback. Coming into center from the left side of the field, his right footed blast from the outside of the box sailed past a diving David Greczek.
— Matt Ralph (@MattRalph_tBG) March 23, 2022
From this point, West Chester controlled the pace of play. In the first half the offense rolled through Troy Amspacher on the right. While the forward continued to lead the team in shots his set-up passes were coming from all around. Motown’s defense tried to withstand the attacks with Ghanaian international and former RBNY player Gideon Baah showing why his addition to the team made waves. Towards the end of the game and into extra time, Baah was still able to beat multiple WCU attackers in one on one duels and served almost as a moving brick wall.
With the game winding down, Maruca used his long ranged ability one more time. In the 78th minute the Goldey-Beacom College product once again found himself on the left side with the ball. Knowing United was having success man-to-man up top, Maruca launched a kick into the box towards the net. Blaise Milanek jumped up and headed the ball towards the opposite net to tie the game. The second performance earned Maruca MVP honors from his coach following the match.
Blaise Milanek ‘21 puts his body on the line 🤯
— Lehigh Men's Soccer (@LehighMSoccer) March 23, 2022
A confusing moment took place after the goal. Milanek looked unable to continue playing, needing help to reach the sidelines with concussion-like symptoms. Ryan Fincher entered the game for him in the 79th. However, in the 84th minute Milanek was back on the field.
This situation is currently being looked into.
With neither team able to break the deadlock, regulation ended with the score tied 2-2. There, West Chester only needed five minutes to score the game winner. In an outstanding play, second-half substitute Derek Ramirez sent a pass to the left and found Carter Burris. His first touch on the ball was a pass into the middle for a charging Gosselin to slam it into the top netting.
GAME WINNER…3-2. JAKE GOSSELIN 🔥🔥🔥in OT from Burris & Ramirez! All 3 of these players came off the bench as they ALL do to make an impact! It takes a TEEAAMM! @BrotherlyGame @USLLeagueTwo @ussoccer @usopencup @USLPA @PennFusion_SA @MattRalph_tBG @NPSLSoccer pic.twitter.com/NjtOxq66aj
— West Chester United SC (@WCUSCPredators) March 23, 2022
A 101st minute attempt nearly saw Motown tie the game back up. A long kick into the box found Fala’s head, who redirected the ball into the net before seeing the official’s flag up. Just before the first ET ended Fala was involved in another call at the other end of the field and responded by kicking the ball into the back wall. Already on a yellow card, the referee told him that this was his last warning. In the second half with his team struggling to get convincing looks, Fala took a WCU player from behind and was shown a second yellow and red card.
“Pretty devastating loss given (that the New York) Red Bulls were on a clear path (from here),” Karosen said. “We’ll just have to regroup.”
The loss mirrors Motown’s last US Open Cup game. The team fell in a penalty kick shootout on the same MSU field against New York Red Bulls U-23 in the 2019 First Round,
For West Chester, a Second Round match against a professional team isn’t anything new. In 2019 the team played USLC’s Birmingham Legion FC to a 4-1 loss. Looking ahead to Syracuse, Santangelo thinks training will just continue as normal.
“It’s probably gonna be more the same. We might decide how we’re gonna play a little differently, but we’ll continue to train and play leading up to it,” he said.
10’ – FC Motown – Nerlin Saint-Vil
45+1’ – FC Motown – Joseph Fala (Nerlin Saint-Vil)
56’ – West Chester United SC – Levi Maruca (Shane Bradley)
107’ – West Chester United SC – Blaise Milanek (Levi Maruca)
107’ – West Chester United SC – Jacob Gosselin (Carter Burris)
FC Motown: David Greczek (GK), Gideon Baah, Mike Da Fonte, Zach Perez (Jean Voltaire 57′), Mardochée Samuel Pompée, Dilly Duka (Orlando Neto 45′, Armel Sainclair Tueno 100′), John Casey, Daniel Cordeiro, Joseph Fala, Ryan Peterson, Hayden Criollo 77′), Nerlin Saint-Vil (Marcus Hackett 57′, Johannes Pieles 115′)
Manager: Šaćir Hot
West Chester United SC: Andres Vasquez (GK), Kervin Fadel, Jacob Graiber, Andy Lomeli (Max Todd 115’), Pau Mateo (Alan Rubio 103’), Giann Magno, Jesus Perez, Peder Olsen, Amine Airaki (Ezau Millan 46’), Mounir Alami (Isiah Nieves 82’) , Ricardo Avalos (Bukola Abdulwahab-Omotose 66’)
Cameron Sanders (GK), Shane Bradle, Luca Mellor, Levi Maruca, Blaise Milanek (Clay Moyer 90′), Spencer Burkhardt (Derek Ramirez 90+2′), Thomas King (Carter Burris 27′), Conor Bradley, Michael Gonzalez, Charles Wilson (Jacob Gosselin 74′), Troy Amspacher
Manager: Blaise Santangelo
Daniel Cordeiro, Motown 54’
Joseph Fala, Motown 59’
Jean Voltaire, Motown 83’
John Casey, Motown 90’
Orlando Neto, Motown 93′
Luca Mellor, West Chester 101′
Conor Bradley, West Chester 109′
Armel Sainclair Tueno, Motown 111′
Hayden Criollo, Motown 117′
Joseph Fala, Motown 114’