West Chester United SC Falls Short of Cupset in Match vs. Pro Side Maryland Bobcats FC

By Matt Ralph/NPSL.com

Two counter attack goals proved fatal in West Chester United’s bid to upset a professional side in the first round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday night in Pennsylvania.

Playing in front of a packed house at YSC Sports in Wayne, Pa. West Chester United was able to show why they were such a tough out in the NPSL last summer – making it all the way to the national semifinal – in a battle with the Bobcats from the opening whistle.

“I thought we did pretty well, we competed,” West Chester United head coach Blaise Santangelo said after the match. “We worked hard, we played some good ball at times they finished.  We had a lot of stats that we want, but stats for the goals weren’t in our favor.”

Veteran Honduran midfielder Darwin Espinal scored both goals early in each half for the visitors with the first coming in the 8th minute and the second in the 57th minute.  Elijah Amo’s pace down the right flank set up the early goal, and he gave the West Chester defense headaches throughout. 

Trailing 1-0, West Chester was able to grab control of the match in the final 15 minutes of the first half and create a number of promising chances.  John-Austin Ricks, who captained the NPSL side to a region championship last summer, drew a dangerous foul and yellow card just outside the box that led to a near miss by Ken Roby off the pass from the free kick. 

Minutes later, center back Luca Mellor played a line-breaking pass to Roby, who combined with Ridge Robinson to play Mason Miller in on goal.  Bobcats goalkeeper Trevor Jackson made the quick reaction save and came up with a number of other stops in a flurry of chances from open play and off free kicks. 

After weathering the storm, the visitors were able to find a second on another counter clinically finished by Espinal.  Substitute Ryan Jammes was able to inject some energy in West Chester’s attempt to pull a goal back, and Roby was dancing through defenders with an impressive display of skill. 

Maryland bent at times but didn’t break, in the end moving on to the second round with a 2-0 win. 

“We played pretty well the last 15 minutes of the first half, and we tried to come out pretty hard in the second half to do the same thing,” said Robinson, who wore the captain’s armband. “We have a young group minus me and a couple of the older guys so I think it’s good to get an experience playing against a different team.  We’ll be back next year.” 

The match was the first against a pro side in the U.S. Open Cup for West Chester since they lost 4-1 to Birmingham Legion in Alabama in 2019.  They lost 2-0 at home to the Harrisburg City Islanders in 2016 in their other Open Cup clash with a professional side.

Prior to Tuesday night’s match, three former West Chester United players who are playing professionally in the Philadelphia Union organization – Chris Donovan (MLS), Kyle Tucker, and Mike Sheridan (MLS Next Pro) – presented the colors.  Kids from younger Penn Fusion Academy teams – the youth club affiliated with West Chester United – walked the players in. 

Developing players for the next level has been a key component of West Chester United’s program, which began competing in a national league when they joined the NPSL in 2017. 

“We had a lot of younger players and fresh out of college guys tonight,” Santangelo said. “Several are still chasing the dream, going out on pro trials, and we had a few of the older guys sprinkled in.” 

The Sons of Ben, a Philadelphia Union supporters group, was lined across an embankment behind one of the goals with a drum and flags, adding to the atmosphere in the quaint venue. 

“A win would have been great,” Santangelo said. “But it was great to host again and having the Sons of Ben out and all the other fans who showed up was really good to see.” 

 

Photo Credit: Matt Ralph/NPSL.com

 

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