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Vereinigung Erzgebirge tops West Chester United on penalties to win Region 1 U23 championship

VE goalkeeper Luke Shank made two saves in the shootout to lead VE to the tournament title

Matt Ralph

HORSHAM TWP., Pa. — The future is bright for Vereinigung Erzgebirge. Coming off a USL of PA league title, VE ran the table with a U23 squad to win the Region 1 U-23 Tournament title on Sunday at Ukrainian American Sport Center.

VE opened the scoring in the final with an early goal from Connor Fife but Dom Bachstein was able to level the score in the second half at 1-1 and VE goalkeeper Luke Shank came up with some big stops to prevent a winner late in the 90 minutes.

The game went straight to penalties after the 90, where Shank made a pair of saves and VE won the shootout 4-3. The game ended on a missed penalty from West Chester United SC Blue, which was looking to win back the trophy after teams from the club won it three times in four years from 2016-2019.

VE also beat West Chester United SC White on penalties in the semifinal on Sunday after a scoreless draw.

Head coach Rob Oldfield said the play from both his goalkeepers was a big reason they won the trophy. While Shank was the hero in both shootouts, Connor Ford pitched a shutout when he was in, Oldfield said.

“It was definitely a two-headed monster,” Oldfield said.

VE beat Olympiacos NY and Jackson Lions in group play on Saturday and then knocked out both West Chester teams on Sunday. West Chester United took down 2021 champions LISFL United 4-3 to make the final after beating FC Motown 4-0 and Jersey Shore BOCA 5-0.

West Chester had multiple chances to score in the final, but Oldfield said the approach was to make things difficult for their attack, limit chances and try to steal one going the other way.

“We just tried to make it difficult for them,” Oldfield said. “And when they equalized we were just like we got this, we know what we did in the last shootout, let’s just give ourselves a chance.”

In the end, they gave themselves that chance and now have another trophy — the Gus Xisis Trophy — to add to the case.