The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup could have used VAR on Wednesday at Alvernia University after a controversial offside flag erased what Philadelphia Lone Star and their lively traveling supporters thought was an 82nd minute equalizer.
Anthony Allison got to a bouncing ball in the box off a corner kick and set off a celebration on the field and in the stands that soon turned to shock as it was waved off by the offside flag.
“I don’t know if it was offside or not I couldn’t see but if it wasn’t that’s unlucky for them,” Reading United head coach Alan McCann said. “That’s not a good way to go out. I said to their coach they deserve better.”
Playing in their second ever Open Cup match and first since 2017, Lone Star came close to digging themselves too deep of a whole to come back from after conceding a pair of goals two minutes apart inside 20 minutes.
Philadelphia Union Academy grad Jeremy Rafanello rocketed a shot inside the far post in the 18th minute and after Filipe Hideki was taken down in the box made it 2-0 with a spot kick.
“I pretty much had the ball at midfield and I passed it off to Felipe (Hideki), he dribbled through and got a little touch and the Lone Star guy got a little touch and it came off to me and I decided to hit it one time,” said Rafanello of the first goal in his Open Cup debut. “It felt good.”
Reading had a number of other chances to increase their lead, including a one v one chance for Rafanello to finish off a hat trick but Lone Star goalkeeper Vinny Tasca stepped up with several key stops to lift his team’s spirits.
After regrouping at halftime, Lone Star started to press higher in the second half and find their way back into the game. As the second half wore on, they started to push and with their fans behind them pulled a goal back when Shawn Genus was able to tap home a rebound off a shot from Deron Joe.
While the teams had never met in a competitive game before, there were plenty of familiar faces between the two squads. YSC Academy senior Marco Bla was an impact sub in the second half for Lone Star when he came on and it was his curling effort that set up the corner kick that led to the disallowed goal.
Former Lone Star players Lamine Conte (also a YSC Academy/Union Academy alum) and Alvin Dahn both played for Reading. YSC Academy and Union Academy grads Kalil ElMedkhar, Rafanello, Mo Conde, Seth Kuhn and Olu Ogunwale also for Reading. ElMedkhar was forced to leave after a half hour with an injured shoulder, which was a blow to the attacking prospects the rest of the way.
“For me it means a lot because that is the team I came from,” Conte said of playing against his former team. “That’s the team that put me where I am today. Obviously I wanted to win, but I was really grateful to play against them.”
The loss for Lone Star was their second in the first round of the competition after falling to Ocean City Nor’easters in the first round in 2017. Reading, meanwhile, advanced to the second round for the eighth straight time with the win.
“This is beautiful,” Lone Star head coach Fatoma Toray said of being part of the Open Cup. “That’s what we’re shooting for every season to get to this level and try to go as far as we can go in the NPSL and various competitions and tournaments.”
After opening their 2019 USL League Two campaign on Saturday, Reading United will travel to Louisville to play Louisville City FC next Wednesday for the second round of the Open Cup. Lone Star kicks off their NPSL season at FC Motown on Saturday.