While Philadelphia’s professional soccer team was off winning in Western Canada and the United States men’s national team continued to make history, another pair of important soccer accomplishments hit closer to Delco this weekend.
Out in Overland Park, Kan., Saturday night, the Lehigh Valley United 93 team claimed a national championship, defeating Chicago Fire Academy, 1-0, in the McGuire Cup final. The game was televised nationally on Fox Soccer Channel.
The game’s only goal was scored in the 34th minute by Shane Campbell, a Penn State sophomore from Dallastown High School who is a former member of FC Delco and Philadelphia Union academy member (Image No. 16 on this link is a great picture of Campbell after his goal). On that Lehigh team was the Strath Haven duo of All-Delco Alex Murphy (University of Pennsylvania) and 2011 Daily Times player of the year Thomas Shiiba (Navy).
The game was saved by former FC Delco player Logan Keys, as the goalkeeper from LIU-Brooklyn via Whitehall High School denied Chicago’s Joseph Calistri on a penalty kick in the 80th minute that could’ve tied the score.
The Lehigh Valley squad had earlier tied Chicago Fire Academy in group play, both teams advancing on goal differential to the final after finishing in a three-way tie at 1-0-2 in the group.
While Murphy and Shiiba are the only players to play scholastically in Delco, the local connections to the team run deeper. In addition to Keys and Campbell, the team includes former FC Delco players Joe Farrell (La Salle/Wissahickon), Melvin Snoh (Georgetown/Malvern Prep) and Darius Madison (Virginia/La Salle H.S.). Also representing the Big 5 are Temple’s Jared Martinelli and Saint Joseph’s Tim Lazorko.
Meanwhile, in the United Soccer League’s Premier Developmental League, the Ocean City Nor’easters advanced to the national final four by winning the Eastern Conference title Saturday. They toppled the Carolina Dynamo in penalty kicks in the semifinals Saturday before getting the best of the Ottawa Fury, 3-1, in Sunday’s final.
The club, which features two-time All-Delcos Zoncher Dennis (Strath Haven) and Peter Jannelli (Springfield), will take on the Austin Aztex Friday at Austin’s House Park. The winners will meet in Saturday’s final. It’s the first time the Nor’easters have advanced this far since joining the league, which allows college players to participate during summers without compromising their amateur status, in 2003.
Dennis played the full 120 minutes in the semifinal win over Carolina, while Jannelli came on in the 84th. Dennis, who led the team in scoring last season before struggling with injuries and finding his form this season, buried the fourth of five penalty kicks for the Nor’easters, just after a miss by Carolina’s Holden Fender gave Ocean City an opening. The Nor’easters went on to win that shootout, 5-3, after a scoreless game in regulation.
In the final, three first-half goals paced the Nor’easters to the win. Dennis contributed directly to the second goal, being felled 20 yards from goal in the 30th minute. Teammate Frank Tweneboa then curled the ensuing free kick into the net for a lead the Nor’easters wouldn’t relinquish.