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VE tops Heritage SC to advance in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup qualifying



Photo by Don Robson

Vereinigung Erzgebirge scored twice in the first twenty minutes and added a third goal in the second half to cruise to a 3-0 victory over Philadelphia Heritage SC Saturday afternoon. The win was VE’s fourth-straight to open Lamar Hunt qualifying. Last season, VE (USLPA/USASA) lost to West Chester in the Third Round, missing a chance to return to the competition for the first since 2002.

Philadelphia Heritage SC (EPSL/USASA) made their Lamar Hunt debut last round, defeating Kensington SC in penalties after 3-3 in regulation. Chris Baker opened the scoring three minutes into the game when he finished off a pass from Connor Fife. The visitors responded soon after with a chance of their own that forced a strong save by keeper Steve Paul. Kevin Smolyn added a second for VE at the 17 minute mark. Smolyn started the play through midfield, finding striker Jalen Weatherspoon near the top of the box.

Heritage keeper Carlos Meinhard Lopez got down to save Weatherspoon’s powerful shot, and Smolyn finished off the rebound from a tight angle.

“That’s just something we work on all the time,”Smolyn said after the game. “Rob’s [Oldfield-VE coach] always telling us we just got to get in the box, especially from the midfield because a lot of teams at this level, they’re not tracking the runners going through the midfield all the time.”

VE controlled much of the first half and managed a number of quality chances from free kicks. Baker had two great looks that were saved by Meinhard Lopez, but VE was unable to find the rebounds.

In the second half, Heritage came out firing and took control of the game. They had a few good chances from corners but couldn’t penetrate the back line, which was led by captain Chris Williams and Johnny Ciarlante. The VE pairing was busy containing Heritage’s Chad Catalana, who had a Man of the Match performance in Round 1’s win.

“The first 25 they definitely had a majority of the possession,” Williams said, “but I think just keeping our shape as a total team we kept them in front of us, and they didn’t have many good opportunities.”

Heritage’s center back Matthew Bergmaier was excellent in stopping the VE counter attack in the second half, and substitute’s Salvatore Ficarotta and Miguel Ikomo gave Heritage a jump in the game late. In the 75 th minute, VE added a third from substitute Alex Hajj. Sean Peckham dribbled around the outside corner and slid a ball across to Hajj, who smashed it home from close range to put the game out of reach.

“We went into the game trying to keep it simple,” Williams said. “We said let’s get one or two early goals and just keep the shutout in the back. And that’s what happened. So we feel good. We’re excited for the next round, and we’ll see who we match up with.”

VE will await the draw to see their third round opponent, which will likely be a familiar one. USL rivals Ukranian Nationals beat Colonial while the United German Hungarians bested Real Central NJ in second round qualifying on Sunday.

Greg Oldfield is a teacher, coach, and writer from the Philadelphia area. His fiction and nonfiction have been published in Barrelhouse, Maudlin House, Carve, and the Under Review, among others. He also writes for the Florida Cup and Florida Citrus Sports. In 2023, he received an award for Best Column from the United Soccer Coaches for his story "A Philadelphia Soccer Hollywood Story." His work can also be found at

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