The Goal For Unity
The quarterfinals of the 2016 Philadelphia Unity Cup took place on the LaSalle University campus in Northwest Philadelphia. One group of combatants on the pitch were that of a prized fight while the other group could have been a “David vs. Goliath” type of battle.
The first match began with the United States versus Ukraine. Both teams made their way into the quarterfinals with victories over Spain and Italy respectively in the knockout rounds last week. Throughout the game, each team took turns in finding ways to penetrate through the defenses.
Ukraine’s team was led by Aleksandr Gorbachik, Vasyl Tovatskyy, and Igor Mykulynsky, who pushed their way through the United States midfield and gave many opportunities for their team to score. The only person in their way was goalie Daniel St. Poi. Poi neutralized every scoring opportunity the Ukraine unleashed which gave the United States an opportunity to win.
The American attack was commanded by the trio of Elison Pajollori, Jeremy Ortiz, and Tim Lazorko. As these chances to score opened like a door, they were immediately slammed shut by the Ukraine goalie, Pavlo Shelever. His awareness and saving ability during critical situations kept the match from becoming one-sided.
The tension was felt by the crowd. For every one chant of “USA”, there were twenty or more Ukraine fans singing, chanting, and waving the colors of their flag in solidarity.
After 90 minutes, the game was scoreless and went to two 10 minute overtimes. Because of a couple miscues on each team’s part, the game could have ended in favor of either team, but luck was and was not on both their sides.
It all came down to penalty kicks. The United States struck first with a goal by Ortiz. Then Tovatskyy came with a blast to the top right corner to tie. It was back and forth until a block by Shelver and a goal by Ukraines’ Ivan Balyk seals the fate of the United States and gave the Ukraine a ticket to the quarterfinals.
The goals between the powerhouse team of Germany and the Underdog team of Puerto Rico began in the first 14 seconds of the game with a high arcing goal by Germany’s Vincent Miracola.
This left Team Puerto Rico in a slight state of disarray, but they were able to regroup and put together several goal scoring opportunities. The crisp passing and execution gave Germany their second goal at the 20-minute mark and stayed that way by the end of the first half.
The second half was no better for Team Puerto Rico. The team surrendered three more goals because of either an error by goalie Luis Eduardo Espejo or a lucky deflection of the goal post by Germany’s David Cassenelli. The game ended with a 5-0 victory for Germany, but the real winners were Team Puerto Rico.
Through it all, the team kept fighting and did not give up. Although the quest for the Unity Cup was stopped in its tracks, the team showed much class, professionalism and sportsmanship. Next season we hope that players like Darwin Hererra, Jorge Cordova Reyes, and Roger Damian Guiterres will come back and continue to develop their skills and eventually have the opportunity to raise the trophy and become champions.
In other action, Ivory Coast defeats Sierra Leone by the score of 3-0 and Liberia moves on with a 3-0 victory over Jamaica. The semifinals begin next week at Temple University with Liberia versus Germany and Ukraine playing against Ivory Coast. The winners of the semifinal matches will play in the Unity Cup Championship match at Citizens Bank Park on November 5th.