West Chester United continued their impressive run through their first season in USL League Two with a 1-0 win over Mid Atlantic rivals Ocean City Nor’easters on Sunday evening to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
Spencer Burkhardt scored off a long throw-in in the 39th minute and the Predators back line in front of goalkeeper Dane Jacomen withstood wave after wave of Nor’easters attack to secure the 1-0 win and advance to face Western Mass Pioneers next weekend.
It was the fourth meeting between the two teams that finished first and second place in their division and went 1-1-1 against each other. Division winners West Chester United beat the New York Red Bulls U23s and Ocean City topped Boston Bolts less than 24 hours earlier at the Evergreen Sportsplex in Leesburg, Va. to set up the rubber match.
The deciding goal came just before halftime when Troy Amspacher threw the ball in from the left flank and found the head of Conor Bradley, who beat his defender to the ball and flicked it backwards to Burkhardt, who knocked the ball down, turned and fired the ball through traffic and past Jahmali Waite.
Burkhardt celebrated with a somersault over to his teammates near the end line but it took a gritty defensive performance for it to hold up as the deciding goal.
As they have all season, the back line anchored by center backs Shane Bradley and Luca Mellor held firm and West Chester recorded their 11th clean sheet of the campaign, which is now 16 games and counting.
The loss for Ocean City head coach Alan McCann was his first in a conference semifinal. He led Reading United to back-to-back appearances in the league final in 2018 and 2019.