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West Chester United comes up short in USL League Two conference final

The Predators went up a man in the 63rd minute but were unable to overcome an early deficit against Western Mass Pioneers

Morgan Tencza / USL

West Chester United’s stellar inaugural season in USL League Two came to a disappointing end Friday night in south Georgia with a 1-0 loss to Western Mass Pioneers in the Eastern Conference final.

For just the second time this season, the Predators fell behind when Ignacio Lerech got one past Dane Jacomen off the counter in the 13th minute. From there, West Chester spent the rest of the evening battling for an equalizer that never materialized.

The Mid Atlantic Conference regular season and postseason champions appeared to be on their way to tying things up in the 64th minute when Justin Jaime was in on goal off a long sliding clearance from Levi Maruca but the striker was first slowed by a shirt pull and then taken out by Nicholas Oberrauch a couple yards out from the 18.

Oberrauch was shown a straight red for the denial of a goal-scoring chance but continued to protest the referee decision. A few minutes later tempers continued to flair after a Western Mass player went down with a head injury and there was a heated discussion between Western Mass players, coaches and the referees that eventually resulted in two police officers entering the field of play to calm things down.

The incident led to nine minutes of stoppage time being added to the second half but the goal never came and West Chester United was sent home with just their second loss of the season.

Western Mass Pioneers were defeated in the national semifinal on Sunday by North Carolina Fusion U23s, in another game in which police officers intervened after a skirmish on the field following a red card for a harsh challenge. North Carolina will face Des Moines Menace in the USL League Two final in Des Moines, Iowa on Saturday.

It will mark the first time since 2017 that a team from Pennsylvania isn’t in the final. Reading United lost the final in 2018 and 2019 and the 2020 season was canceled due to Covid-19.