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West Chester United one win away from qualifying for 2023 U.S. Open Cup

West Chester had a convincing 4-0 win over VE on Sunday

Kyle tucker jumps to avoid a challenge from Santi Castro in a U.S. Open Cup qualifier on November 20, 2022.
Matt Ralph

Finn Reese scored a goal and assisted another to lead West Chester to a convincing 4-0 win over rivals Vereinigung Erzgebirge in the Third Round of qualifying in the U.S. Open Cup at the VE Club Sunday afternoon.

With the win, West Chester advances to the Fourth Round of qualifying where they will face Nova FC of Virginia with the chance to enter the Open Cup proper. On a blustery day where game time temperatures barely crept above 30 degrees, the visitors took advantage of a hot start and never looked back, scoring twice in each half.

West Chester were the livelier team from the start, pushing deep into VE’s back four and creating a number of early chances. Reese caused the early damage after being taken down by VE’s Santi Castro ten minutes into the game. Derek Ramiriez took the penalty, which was stopped by Tim Washam, but the West Chester playmaker made no mistake with the rebound.

Reese doubled the lead in the 18th minute when he buried a turnover inside the box, giving West Chester some breathing room. Midway through the half, West Chester almost scored again when a wind-aided Olimpico smacked the crossbar only to be cleared away. VE countered with several good looks off restarts, including a goal line scramble eight minutes from the break that West Chester steered away.

The game opened up in the second half as VE tried to move more players forward, but West Chester continued to counter the VE midfield with Michael Gonzalez and Kyle Tucker sending passes to Ramirez and Levi Maruca in dangerous spaces. Maruca, who was excellent all game, created the next goal fifteen minutes into the second half when his through-ball found Mason Miller, who beat Washam to extend the lead to 3-0. For the final fifteen minutes, VE tried to inject more offense, instead exposing their backline.

West Chester had several chances to put four, five, or six on the board only to be denied by some strong saves by Washam. Jake Gosselin finished off the home side with a fourth eight minutes from time after Reese put him through to goal.

“We came prepared,” Reese said about the result. “We had an earlier game against them in the season that we didn’t look very good, and we learned from that one and we just tried to keep the pressure on them for 90 minutes.” Reese, who played at UGH last season following double-digit goal seasons at Nyack College in New York, gave VE loads of trouble in the first half, pressuring the VE defenders into a number of mistakes and testing Washam early.

“Second half we played with the wind in our back, so it was important that we made a statement in the first half early on.”

West Chester coach Blaise Santangelo named Reese his Man of the Match.

“He came in in August when we were getting ready for the national finals,” he said. “He had really great hold up play, had a goal, had an assist.”

Reese also played over 100 minutes as a center back in a friendly against the Union II Wednesday night. “He was brilliant as a center back, but he’s very good at the 9,” Santangelo added. “We need that up there against their back line because if we can’t set up possession out of the back, those guys are going to bring it into us the entire time.”

West Chester won the Werner Fricker U.S. Open Cup last summer, the amateur division’s Open Cup, with a 3-1 win over FC Porto of Kansas, the club’s second national title in five years. West Chester was last in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2019, advancing to the second round, which they also accomplished in 2016.

“I came to West Chester this season because we have high goals,” Reese said. “We want to win everything we can and playing in the Open Cup with a team this great is going to be a lot of fun.”

VE coach Rob Oldfield spoke about the troubles his team faced in the loss, the second in consecutive weeks after losing in the PA Amateur Cup to UGH. Up until then, VE had been undefeated in the United Soccer League this season, coming on the heels of winning the league unbeaten last season. “The PK early is terrible,” he said. “Put us down. Heads went down. We didn’t respond well, which is a shame because we haven’t lost in a year. We won the league, went to West Chester early in the season and beat them away.”

Oldfield, who was a player-coach when VE reached the 2002 National Open Cup Finals and entered the Lamar Hunt, continues to chase the same experience for his young players. “I tell the guys this is the one competition we’re not going to win. We’re never going to win Lamar. So it’s nice to get in it and go get your butt kicked.”

VE qualified for the 2020 edition before Covid shut down the tournament for two years and were never given their chance. “But we have to beat the West Chesters to get in. They were the better team.”

West Chester’s journey to the Open Cup will continue next month, their ninth-straight Open Cup game away, on December 17 at the Virginia Revolution Sportsplex in Leesburg, Virginia.