For the second time this summer, West Chester United is one win away from winning a regional championship in a national competition.
The Predators came up short in their bid to capture the Region 1 National Amateur Cup championship against Landsdowne Yonkers FC last month but they’re back tonight in a game kicking off at 5:30 p.m. in southern Georgia with another chance to make a national semifinal.
The USL League Two Mid Atlantic champions have already had an incredible inaugural season in the league, but a win over Western Mass Pioneers tonight would put them one win away from their first national final since they lost to Bavarian SC in the 2018 National Amateur Cup.
The pathway to national prominence in USL League Two followed a similar path to how West Chester United has fashioned themselves into one of the top teams in other local, regional and national competitions: consistency in lineups, familiarity within the team and experience.
West Chester United’s back line center back pairing of Luca Mellor and Shane Bradley in front of Penn goalkeeper Dane Jacomen has rightfully gotten a lot of the credit for their incredible run — 11 clean sheets in 16 matches for the season — but consistency has been a theme up and down the roster.
The aforementioned Mellor and Bradley have played countless matches together since they were pairing at Villanova, where they also played with Predators teammates Conor Bradley, Yusuf Cueceoglu and Kent Dickey, a goalkeeper who has been an effective late sub at forward. Dickey is still at Nova along with stalwart flank player Anthony Dragisics and defensive midfielder Josh Belluz, another weapon Predators head coach Blaise Santangelo has deployed off the bench to close games.
Offensively it’s been consistent performers like Troy Amspacher (8 goals, 2 assists), Chris Donovan (6 goals, 3 assists) and Spencer Burkhardt (1 goal, 3 assists) — all familiar names on this team — who have paced the attack.
The core of West Chester United’s team has been playing together for a year straight in a number of competitions that in terms of the number of games resembles that of a professional team. There’s been rotation within the team with current college players coming in and out around the shortened spring college season but the familiarity the players have is perhaps unrivaled in a league where rosters are typically fluid by design.
Win or lose tonight, what Santangelo and his staff at West Chester United have accomplished is worth applauding: division titles in the USL2 and NPSL and a trip to the regional final of two national competitions, all in one summer.
How to Watch
What: West Chester United vs Western Mass Pioneers
When: Friday, July 23, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Erk Russell Park, Statesboro, Georgia