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VE advances in U.S. Open Cup qualifying with 2-0 win over Lancaster Elite

Derek Antonini had a goal and an assist to lead VE one step closer to the 2023 U.S. Open Cup

Carl Gulbish

Derek Antonini scored early and added an assist to lead Vereinigung Erzgebirge past Lancaster Elite 2-0 in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup second round of qualifying Sunday afternoon at the VE club in Warminster. The hosts and current leaders in the United Soccer League jumped on the board eleven minutes in when Angelo Dambalas played a diagonal ball to Antonini that beat the Lancaster back line.

Antonini, the Council Rock North grad and former captain at Misericordia, took a few touches before beating reserve keeper Andrea Disomma. VE almost added a second twenty-two minutes in when Victor Souto forced a turnover in Lancaster’s half then played wide to Antonini, who found Alec Neumann at the top of the box. But Disomma made a strong save to deny the VE striker.

VE Goals (video courtesy of Scott Reiber)

The visitors, a young side and upstart program in the United Premier Soccer League, got a handle of the game mid-way through the first half as midfielders Ethan Slater and Alex Neal gained possession and began creating chances. In the 28th minute, Jack Weavers broke down the left side and made a surging run toward the near post, but Lancaster couldn’t convert the cross or the ensuing corner. Five minutes later, center back Danny Ogden played a lovely ball over the top to Daryl-Oscar Dikoum, but VE keeper Tim Washam corralled the Lancaster striker’s header.

“We switched formations,” Lancaster coach Gino Disomma said about the change in his team’s performance in the first half, “went to a 4-1-4-1 after seeing they were playing a 4-2-3-1 and kind of keeping their 7, 11, and 10 a little higher up the pitch. So once we did that, we started to look a little bit better.”

VE responded with a spell of possession of their own, but Chris Baker’s shot on goal was saved by Disomma, and VE failed to knock home several corners late in the first half, heading into the break with a one-goal lead.

Baker doubled the VE lead four minutes into the second half. Dambalas forced a turnover and sprung Antonini free again down the right side. Antonini beat the Lancaster back, and Baker smashed home the cross from inside the six.

Both teams made multiple changes mid-way through the second half, and VE pushed for a third late. In the 78th minute, the connection of Antonini and Neumann almost struck again when Neumann played Antonini in over the top, but the VE forward’s shot hit the crossbar. Minutes from the end, VE’s Greg Shertzer, on for Neumann, jumped on an Evan Vare long ball with only Disomma to beat, but his unselfish layoff to Antonini forced an incredible sprawling save by the Lancaster keeper. Lancaster nearly pulled one back in the 90 th when reserve forward Troy Mead’s shot hit the outside post.

“The boys keep the ball really well,” Antonini said after the game about his team’s success on the counters. “Victor [Souto] and Santi [Castro] in the middle and even Gelo stepping up, and I just hang out wide and look for those holes. Gelo found me twice today and ended up in two goals.”

VE’s Christian Williams was a stable presence in the back all game, sealing out Lancaster’s attack and preserving the shutout. Williams, the former Lafayette captain and Chestnut Hill Academy grad, was happy with his team’s workmanlike performance. “As a whole, we played really well defensively,” he said. “We tried to keep it simple, play one-two out of the back. We countered on them a few times and had a few nice goals.”

Despite the loss, Disomma was pleased with his team’s effort. “We’re on the younger side. I think the inexperience showed a little bit,” he said. “We sometimes tend to play to the speed and style of teams where we’re trying to play a little quicker and then also trying to work the ball a little bit quicker on the transition, and we get stale going back and forth, and then we break a line and rather than have the confidence and experience of turning on a half turn and going forward, we cut right back and recycle again, and lose that numerical advantage.”

Disomma, a former player at powerhouse Manheim Township and with Lancaster Spartans, who spent many years in the USL, was a former coach at Lampeter-Strasburg high school, leading the Pioneers to a 45-25-2 record over his 5 seasons. “Granted to VE, they tried to expose us a bit on the channel, hitting those crosses with their big guys coming in on the back side, and it worked out in that first goal.”

Lancaster won the first round 3-2 over United League side Lancaster City FC in extra time. The UPSL side is currently eighth in the Northeast Division, which includes the Union Academy UDS and Philadelphia Lone Star FC. “We’re happy to have been in the second round,” Disomma said.

“We’re a new team coming together, so just the experience of getting this, and as we grow, I think it’s going to be better for us as well.”

VE will await their opponent for the third round of qualifying, which will take place the weekend of November 18 th -20 th . Last year, VE was knocked out in the third round by Philadelphia Lone Star FC, who VE defeated 2-1 in the first round in September.

Antonini is excited about advancing and preparing for their next opponent. “Just keep guys healthy and get all our guys here,” he said about this month’s task at hand. “We were missing some good players, Mike Reese, Sean Peckham, and Steve Neumann. If we can get those guys and we’re healthy, we can compete with anybody.”

Williams agreed that his team still has plenty of time to gel. “We’ll try to get to a few practices,” he said. “Robbie will probably try to scout a few games, but just keeping what we’re doing. Nothing will change.”