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West Chester United leading tight conference race after win over Philadelphia Lone Star

West Chester captured the Kildare’s Cup for the third straight year after scoring twice in the second half to win 3-1

Sami Phelps (left) battles for a ball against Bill Walleekendeh in a game on June 23, 2019
Photo by Matt Ralph

A pair of second half goals four minutes apart propelled West Chester United into first place in the NPSL Keystone Conference and gave them a third straight Kildare’s Cup over rival Philadelphia Lone Star on Sunday night.

Philadelphia Lone Star entered the game searching for points to close the gap on the fourth and final playoff spot from the conference while holding onto a 2-1 lead in the Kildare’s Cup derby after a thrilling 90th minute win in West Chester on June 5.

The visitors struck first when Evan Vare — playing at left back — played a short cross into Chris Donovan, who hit it first time to beat Lone Star goalkeeper Vince Tasca in the 39th minute.

Donovan, a rising sophomore at Drexel and former Pennsylvania high school player of the year, was making just his second start for West Chester, which was missing three key players in central midfielders Mike Gonzalez and Andreas Bartosinski and center back Christian Williams. The goal was Donovan’s second of the season.

“He just has been someone that we play through the lines and over the top and every time he gets on the ball, he creates opportunities,” head coach Blaise Santangelo said. “He’s long and he can run and he’s pretty chill on the ball too. He plays like he’s not under pressure.”

Lone Star drew level just before halftime when Bill Walleekendeh was able to pounce on a rebound after a scramble in the box and put it home to make it 1-1.

Both sides created a slew of chances in the second half, but it was West Chester United finding the back of the net twice in the 51st and 55th minute that ended up being the difference. Donovan, who was a danger man all night for the visitors, started the play that led to the first goal when he led Chas Wilson with a pass in the box. Wilson then sent a ball across the face of goal that right back Sam Bollinger was able to gather and shoot home to make it 2-1.

Four minutes later, Wilson was on the ball in a dangerous spot again and back heeled a pass to Bollinger, who sent a cross to Troy Amspacher for a first time finish.

“We came out a bit slow today, both teams did,” Bollinger said. “We kind of got the momentum going at the end of the first half, it hurt a little bit for them to put that one in with seconds left but we got it together at half time and came out flying in the second half.

Photo Gallery: Philadelphia Lone Star vs West Chester United

Stunned from the two quick strikes, Lone Star mounted a valiant comeback that nearly resulted in a second for Walleekendeh on a well hit ball from distance West Chester goalkeeper Pierre Gardan was just able to get a hand to and knock over the bar. Gardan came up with a few more key stops and center backs Sami Phelps and Senan Farrelly did well to cut down a number of attacks set up with direct play to lethal Lone Star forward Anthony Allison, who entered the game fifth in the league in goals with 10.

West Chester had a chance to make it 4-1 after Tasca was whistled for a foul in the box but the D2 All-American last fall at Wilmington University stopped Vare’s penalty kick to keep it 3-1.

With the win, West Chester United is three points clear at the top of the standings but they’ve played an extra game more than the three teams behind them — Atlantic City FC, FC Motown and FC Monmouth — which are all even at 16 points. Lone Star is in fifth place with 14 points with one game left.

West Chester will close the regular season at home Saturday against FC Monmouth while Lone Star hosts Electric City Shock in the season finale. Torch FC and Hershey FC both are on seven points and out of contention for the four playoff spots.

Since their loss to Lone Star at home, West Chester has now outscored opponents 20-4 in their last four games.

“We’re scoring a lot of goals, which is great since it could come down to goal differential,” Santangelo said. “Hands down it’s the best conference in the country. We know that one really good team is not going to make the playoffs, which is a shame. It just shows there’s good soccer in this coastal area.”