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Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals beat Jackson Lions FC 2-0 in NPSL debut

Nevin Baer and Josh Jones scored first half goals and Alex Geczy made three tremendous saves to preserve the clean sheet

Carl Gulbish

HORSHAM TWP. — The Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals’ kicked off their inaugural season in the National Premier Soccer League with a thrilling 2-0 win over Jackson Lions in front of more than 100 fans at the Ukrainian American Sports Center on Wednesday night.

Nevin Baer scored the club’s first goal in NPSL play in the first half when he collected a pass from Ben Liscum and hit a right-footed low liner that found the lower right corner of the net. Josh Jones, who had a standout performance in the middle of the park, made it 2-0 before halftime when he fired home a cross from Jimi Leder.

Goalkeeper Alex Geczy and a back line led by Zach Barrett did the rest of the work to make the two goals stand up as they rose to the challenge against a talented attacking team in the Lions, which despite being a more seasoned team playing together also made their debut in NPSL.

Geczy had three big second half saves to preserve the shutout. The UMass goalkeeper only trained once with the team prior to the season opener Wednesday and several other players had only limited time together as players on the squad who attend college out of the area return home.

“I think mostly everyone has a background with this club so I there’s a strong identity of how to play,” said Geczy, an Episcopal Academy grad from Newtown Square. “I think everyone is very professional as well. We did our job and we did it well.”

Baer, an Abington grad who plays at American, hadn’t yet practiced with the team but was already familiar with many of his teammates either playing with or against them in high school and club.

“We weren’t really doing too much in the beginning, mostly just playing it safe but once we got into the game it started to click and our combinations were working,” said Baer, who played for head coach Mike Gorni in his youth club days at Lehigh Valley United. “I think it showed through the game that we’re comfortable with each other and the way we want to play.”

Gorni and Dan Harmon are co-head coaches for the Ukies’ NPSL squad and throughout the night you could see the two coaches working the sidelines, making adjustments and keeping their players on task.

“We haven’t had one practice yet where we’ve had everybody but under the circumstances I thought we were composed and played really well,” Gorni said. “And we very quietly beat a very good team tonight.”

A strong crowd both at the field during the game and the clubhouse afterward — Harmon jokingly estimated there were 32,000 in attendance — added to the festive nature of the night. The pre-game included a heartfelt tribute to war-torn Ukraine, which the club is directly supporting through ongoing efforts to raise money for humanitarian aid.

“I couldn’t be happier with how everything went,” Harmon said. “We were really happy to see the turnout, to get a win and to see the support for Ukraine with everything that’s going on right now.”

The Ukies return home to face another NPSL newcomer in PA Classics on Sunday at 4 p.m. PA Classics dropped their inaugural NPSL match 2-0 to Electric City Shock last weekend.