By: Michael Berton (theCup.us)
West Chester United took a first step toward qualifying for its first Lamar Hunt US Open Cup by going on the road and defeating Junior Lone Star 2-1 on a frigid October night.
From 2011-2013, West Chester won the Eastern Pennsylvania qualifying tournament, but fell short of the US Open Cup with losses in the USASA Region I tournament. In 2014-15, United won their third straight Eastern Pennsylvania title, won the Region I championship for the first time, and even moved on to win the USASA national tournament, but a change in the qualifying format denied the team a spot in the 2015 US Open Cup.
This year, West Chester, who competes in the United Soccer League of Philadelphia, is determined not to let anything get in its way, including a fiery Junior Lone Star team that took the lead in the 47th minute. After a cagey first 45, Lone Star came out strong in the second half. Jerome Pour, a native of Liberia (as are many of Junior Lone Star’s players), hit a beautiful shot from 25 yards out into the bottom left corner of the West Chester goal.
But the road team equalized seven minutes later with a nearly identical effort. Eric Giovagnoli, an Eastern University graduate and 2015 NCAA Division III All-American hit a laser from distance that gave the Lone Star keeper no chance.
Buoyed by strong home support, Junior Lone Star continued to press forward, but West Chester had the best chances as regular time came to a close.
In overtime, the game opened up and both teams had some incredible chances, but the focus at the end of the match would be on a referee decision. In the 115th minute, West Chester was on the attack, and the ball was played into the Junior Lone Star penalty area. After a Lone Star player made what seemed to be a normal clearance, the referee called him for a penalty, presumably for a dangerous play.
Arguments ensued, but that did not faze Giovagnoli, who stepped up and scored his second to give United the lead. Junior Lone Star pushed everything forward to no avail, not able to convert on two opportunities as the game came to a close.
“We are familiar with the Junior Lone Stars squad,” said head coach Blaise Santangelo. “We came in expecting a very physical battle. They took advantage of a mistake and scored on a ball from distance but once we started linking up on the carpet and running at the backline, we created scoring chances. Our quick ball play paid off.”
With the victory, West Chester United moves on to the second round against Salone, a team that plays in the same league as Junior Lone Star, the Philadelphia Premier Soccer League. Salone defeated Eastern Penn. heavyweight Vereinigung Erzgebirge 1-0 earlier in the day. Salone will host West Chester on Nov. 15, scheduled for 4 p.m. at Marcus Foster in Philadelphia.