Evan Vare buried the final penalty to lead Vereinigung Erzgebirge (USLPA/USASA) to a 4-3 shootout victory (1-1) over rivals United German Hungarians (USLPA/USASA) in the Third Round of Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Qualifying at the VE Club Saturday afternoon.
VE, now on the verge of the U.S. Open Cup proper, seeks to return to the competition for the first time since
2002. The club qualified for the cancelled 2020 edition, but never had the opportunity to play. In an even game that featured outstanding defenses and exceptional goalkeeping, VE’s Tim Washam played the role of hero after coming on for Steve Paul minutes before penalties.
Washam saved the opening kick from UGH’s Dakota Taylor to put the home side on the front foot. After an ensuing goal from VE’s Chris Baker, UGH’s Daniel Grindrod smacked the post to give VE a cushion. Well-taken kicks from VE’s Chris Gomez and UGH’s Joshua Yurasits closed the gap to 2-1 before UGH keeper James Brett denied Kevin Smolyn to keep it interesting. Finishes from UGH’s Adam Nork and Patrick Raykovitz in between a Connor Fife strike set up Vare for the spotlight moment.
The hosts got on the board in the 7 th minute when Baker played a ball between the UGH center backs to a surging Brett Miller, who took a touch to settle then beat James. From then on, UGH grew into the game with some outstanding play from striker Mohamed Jawara and Grindrod filling in behind. The pair set up several strong attacks to push the hosts back on their heels, and UGH’s best chance of the half came from a 13 th minute strike by Nicholas Jachwak off a restart that deflected going in and forced a fine reaction save from Paul.
UGH climbed back into the game in the 56 th minute following a Vare free kick that smacked the post. Belal Mohamed, who battled all day with Gomez, broke through the VE defense and received a ball from Jawara to tuck it past Paul to knot the game at 1-1. Despite carrying a bulk of the play late in the second half, UGH couldn’t convert their chances to see out the game.
“It took us a while to bounce back and then once we finally got into our flow, we played fairly well,” UGH coach Jason Karasow said after the game. “We just couldn’t find that second goal. I thought we were getting opportunities in the final third and maybe that last pass was off a little bit.”
VE jumped all over UGH at the start of extra time with several chances from close range by Fife, Miller, and Jalen Weatherspoon, all of them denied James, who stood on his head the first fifteen minutes of extra time and kept his team in it until the end.
“It feels great,” Washam said after the game regarding his penalty save. “I’ve been trying to retire for a while, and this is the role I’m looking for.”
After commending Paul’s performance, he shared his secret to a successful PK track record. “If they’re right footed, 9 times out of 10 they go to my right side. A couple of those guys in between switched it up, but that first one I
had it right on the money.”
Washam, who’s been with VE now for almost a decade, was the starting keeper for the team that reached the Open Cup in 2020.
“It’s huge,” he said about the potential to return. “We got it kind of pulled out from under us.” VE knocked off West Chester to advance that year but was unable to play in the 2020 competition or the 2021, even after it came back in 2022 and all the previously qualified teams never had their chance. “It’s a great experience for these guys. It
doesn’t come around all that often.”
Miller, who scored the opener, will have the opportunity to reach his first Open Cup in the next round of qualifying.
“It means everything,” he said. “It’s a good stepping stone for us. We’re really excited as a team, and the further into November we play the better it is.”
Karsow was proud of his team’s performance despite the tough loss. “There’s not much between the two teams,” he said. “I think the last six games there’s been a two-goal differential. So it really comes down to who shows up, who performs, but I said to the guys give me 90, 120 of your best effort and then what happens happens.”
UGH, which knocked off VE on the same field at Oktoberfest to open the season, will still look to continue its strong form in USL play as well as another deep cup run. They reached the finals in both the USASA PA amateur and open cups last year.
VE will await the draw for the Fourth Round of Qualifying to be held the weekend of November 18 and 19. They are the last local team left after Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals lost 6-0 on Sunday to New Jersey Alliance.