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West Chester United one win away from lifting Werner Fricker Cup

The Predators booked a spot in the Werner Fricker Cup final with a 6-0 win over host Nashville United on Friday night in Murfreesboro, Tennessee

West Chester United celebrates Levi Maruca’s first half goal in the Werner Fricker Cup semifinal on August 19, 2022
Matt Ralph

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — West Chester United is one win away from adding another star to their badge after upending Nashville United 6-0 in the semifinal of the Werner Fricker Cup here on Friday night.

Levi Maruca put The Predators up in the 33rd minute when he was able to run down a through ball from Clay Moyer, get around the keeper off his line and finish from a tight angle. The goal was deserved after some bright attacking moments from the Region 1 representatives and put them on the front foot after missing some good chances off set pieces and a volley from Conor Bradley that was tipped off the crossbar and out by the Nashville keeper.

“We were struggling a little bit at the beginning just trying to find our play but it started to open up and Clay played a great ball through and I was able to beat the keeper and then score off the tight angle,” Maruca said of the goal. “We were starting to control the game but I think that put it over the edge a little bit.”

Just before the end of the half, West Chester was on a counter started by former Philadelphia Union homegrown and FC Cincinnati star Jimmy McLaughlin when a Nashville player saw a straight red for a dangerous slide tackle on Ken Roby. Moments later Thomas King nearly made it 2-0 when he got on the end of a cross from Moyer but his first time hit went wide of the post.

Up a man and a goal, West Chester looked to put the game away early in the second half but they came up short on chances that fell for Derek Ramirez and McLaughlin before Maruca was able to get into the box with a strong run and was knocked down by a Nashville defender to draw the penalty. Jake Gosselin stepped up to the penalty spot and doubled the lead in the 55th minute with the first of his two goals on the night.

With the two goal lead and an extra man, West Chester continued to take advantage of the space moving the ball to create frequent chances. Gosselin scored his second from the run of play when Ramirez played him into the box and he shook a defender and shot the ball into the top left corner of the net.

Six minutes later Ramirez stretched the advantage to four when he ran onto a ball near the edge of the box and finished it clean. The goal illustrated how dominate The Predators were on the night both in possession and on the counter with Conor Bradley started the play with a great ball to McLaughlin on the left wing and after Moyer held it up squared the ball across the field to set up a long cross from Ryan Fincher that Moyer got a head to but knocked back into the path of Ramirez for the first time finish.

With the win all but secured, head coach Blaise Santangelo was able to rest some of his starters for the final but it was the starter King who took over in the closing minutes of the match with a goal assisted by Sama Tima off a curling shot from the left flank in the 85th. King then drove down the left flank with the ball and crossed it to Danny Gonzalez in front of goal for a tap-in in 89th minute to round out the scoring.

“From a tournament situation, it’s great to have multiple people scoring goals and knowing that we’re here and we can score,” Santangelo said. “Having an opportunity to get guys a lot of rest for day two is really awesome.”

West Chester will play for their second Werner Fricker Cup tonight at 9 p.m. (streaming live on Eleven Sports). They’ll take on FC Porto of Kansas, which beat Goldsboro Strike Eagles 3-0 in the later game Friday. Lightning delayed the kickoff the first game to an hour, pushing back the second semifinal to an even later finish.

“It’s absolutely amazing to be playing in a final,” Maruca said. “We got a little unlucky with the U.S. Open Cup (losing to FC Motown on a replay after their win was thrown out over an illegal substitution) and then second place and not making the playoffs for USL 2. We’ve been playing together for the past three, four years now and haven’t got a national trophy so we really want this.”

West Chester won the competition with a 2-1 win over RWB Adria in Virginia Beach back when all four regions of United States Adult Soccer Association participated. Though the competition in the years since has only featured three of the four regions, Santangelo isn’t taking it any less seriously.

“It’s a huge honor to be playing in the final again, especially coming from Region 1 in Philadelphia where Werner established himself in soccer,” Santangelo said.

Fricker was a star player and executive at United German Hungarians and was a founder of the United Soccer League of Pennsylvania before going on to serve as and executive with the U.S. Soccer Federation. He was the president of the federation when the 1994 World Cup was awarded to the U.S.

“This team deserves to win a national title,” Santangelo said. “They’ve done the work over the years and through Covid. This is a culmination of really four years of efforts and you never know when you’ll get back so to win the cup this year would be huge for our club.”