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Oaklyn United wins 2023 EPSL Delaware River Conference playoff championship



Malvi Shah

Oaklyn United FC were crowned champions of the Eastern Premier Soccer League’s Delaware River Conference playoff tournament after defeating defending champions Salone FC by a score of 4-1 on Sunday night.

The South Jersey side found goals from Andrew Kitch, Nico Rubio, Colin Veltri and Leo D’Ambrosio while Salone’s was scored by Kabine Conde. Oaklyn’s victory will see them travel to represent the conference against the EPSL’s other divisional winners in the league wide championship finals in Virginia later this month.

Both clubs arrived at the championship final at Temple University on the backs of identical 5-0 wins in the semifinal round. Salone made short work of regular season table toppers Philadelphia Heritage SC while Oaklyn dispatched Philadelphia Soccer Club.

The opening goal arrived in the 11th minute and somewhat against the run of play as Salone had enjoyed more chances and shots up until that point. Conde had tested Oaklyn netminder Brady Hochman just minutes into the match and Oaklyn were struggling to keep the ball against the Salone press. But midfielder Nico Rubio eventually created the breakthrough when he won the ball off a Salone defender in the six yard box and pulled it back for striker Andrew Kitch to score from close range.

Salone nearly equalized just minutes later through Amadou Kamagate, but his effort could only find Hochman’s arms. At the other end, Parker Solowey flashed a shot just wide of the far post. Rubio himself extended Oaklyn’s lead in the 40th minute when he capitalized on a giveaway and placed a low shot into the corner of the goal.

Oaklyn started to turn the screws early in the second half when a hopeful clearance found the head of Kitch who flicked it into the path of the onrushing Veltri. Oaklyn’s number 7 slalomed past the backline and fired into the goal. Kitch and Veltri, both local South Jerseyans, are products of the Real Jersey FC youth system along with fellow Oaklyn players Rubio, winger Dan Goodson, and midfielder Kane Feudtner.

Rubio cemented his man of the match performance – and Oaklyn’s ticket to the final four – when he played in Leo D’Ambrosio down the right flank to score the team’s fourth.

The goal seemed to spark Salone into renewed life as they regained momentum to force two big saves from Hochman – the first a low driven strike in the 52nd minute, and the second an acrobatic save from a free kick in the 65th.

Salone spoiled the clean sheet in the 82nd minute when Conde won the ball in the center circle and sprinted past two Oaklyn defenders before sliding it beyond Hochman.

After the match, Oaklyn captain Solowey praised his team’s increased focus in the game’s second half.  “We won the game by a comfortable margin, but to our standards, we didn’t play the way we really wanted to play [in the first half]. We spoke about it half time and said, ‘let’s play a little better in the second so we can feel confident on the bus ride down [to the final four tournament].”

Oaklyn United will now face the winners of the EPSL’s other divisions, including NY Pancyprian Freedoms from the Metropolitan Conference, Fall River FC from the Northeast Conference, and one of either Nova FC, N-Lite FC, or Estudiantes from the Mid-Atlantic Conference. The victor of that bracket, to be held at the Revolution Sportsplex in Leesburg, VA on June 24 and 25, will be crowned league champions. Fans can stream the matches for free on the New Logical Sports YouTube channel.

Tim is a fan of the Philly soccer scene, from grassroots to professional. He is a supporter of the Philadelphia Union, as well as our Union brethren from across the pond, FC Union Berlin. Tim has written for The Philly Soccer Page and Protagonist Soccer.

Copyright © 2024 Philadelphia Soccer Now and Brotherly Game

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