By Matt Ralph/NPSL.com
A key showdown between two unbeaten National Premier Soccer League teams will highlight a busy day of soccer and a celebration of Ukrainian heritage at the Ukrainian American Sport Center on Sunday.
The Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals are hosting a Father’s Day Ukrainian Fest on Sunday along with an NPSL game and a number of USASA Region 1 cup finals.
“It should be a great day,” said Steve Krysko, the club’s executive director. “There’s going to be dancing, music, events of other ethnicities, and a whole lot of soccer.”
Games will start with the U-23 semifinals kicking off at 9 a.m., followed by the Over-30 Gerhard Mengel Cup Final at 11 a.m., the U-23 championship at noon, the women’s final at 12:30 and the Werner Fricker Cup at 12:30 p.m. West Chester United and Jackson Lions – both Keystone Conference rivals of the Ukies in NPSL – will play in the Werner Fricker Amateur Open Cup final.
The Ukrainian heritage activities begin at 1 p.m. with music, dancing, and special guest performances from the likes of Ihor Sypen, Dzirksteele Latvian Dance Ensemble, Nachh Manch School of Dance, and more.
The Ukies incredible perfect 6-0-0 start to their inaugural season in the NPSL has come at a difficult time for Ukraine. Weeks after the club was officially announced as an NPSL expansion team, Russia invaded Ukraine and has done untold damage to the country with its ongoing unjust war.
The club – originally founded in 1950 by displaced Ukrainians after World War II – has responded with fundraising efforts to support humanitarian efforts in the war-ravaged nation and has seen an outpouring of support from its membership, families of youth players, and even opponents on the soccer pitch.
“It’s really brought a greater awareness that they are Ukies and that the badge means they are part of something really special,” Krysko said of the club’s youth players and teams. “We have teams we are playing donating checks before games.”
A newer feature at the club has been Ukrainian flags lining the long driveway onto the grounds while a Ukrainian flag with the words “Stand with Ukraine” is displayed prominently in between the two benches on the club’s main field. Both the Ukrainian and U.S. national anthems have been sung before NPSL games, which have drawn consistently well.
One recent fundraiser featured a visit from the Philadelphia Union’s reserve team two Sundays ago. The Ukies won that game too so their record is 7-0-0 in all competitions so far.
“This NPSL team has just brought a whole new level to the club,” Krysko said. “It’s really what we always hoped it could be.”
Sunday’s opponent – Electric City Shock FC (5-0-1) – will present possibly the team’s biggest test yet in NPSL play. The confidence level is high though for a team that despite being new has many connections of players who have played with and against each other for the Ukies and other area clubs and high school programs. A deep roster of 36 mostly college-aged players has been one important component to that success.
“What I love about this league so far is it’s competitive and you can’t sleep on any game,” co-head coach Dan Harmon said. “Sunday’s going to be another tough one. It’s for first place.”
The NPSL match is slated to kick off at 4:30 pm. (changed from 3:30 pm.).
The Ukrainian American Sport Center is located at 1 Lower State Rd in North Wales. For more information on the festivities, please visit www.tryzub.org.
Photo Credit: Matt Ralph/NPSL.com