Photo: Melissa Rowling
Those who follow top-league soccer, be it MLS in the USA or EPL in the UK, can sometimes forget that the top leagues are only the tip of the iceberg. Most soccer in any country is made up of teams outside of the big cities, full of low-paid players, often part-timers or amateurs, who play more for love than money. Most of these lower-league teams will never play the big pro teams, or have the chance to be recognized outside of their home communities.
In many places, though, there is a cup competition that—in theory, at least—gives every team a chance at glory. In England, that’s the FA Cup. In the US, it’s the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. On Tuesday, this past week, the NPSL’s Lehigh Valley United Sonic took an important first step toward Open Cup fame by defeating the PDL’s GPS Portland Phoenix in dramatic fashion, the game-winner and only goal coming after 115 long minutes. The goal was scored by Shastri Spencer, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, and was his first goal for the club.
As reported by PSP, the goal was created by second-half substitute George Tsirukis, who, picking the ball up at midfield, carried it forward for 20 yards before playing it to a streaking Spencer. Spencer deftly chipped the keeper to earn Sonic the win.
There aren’t any highlights to watch of the game, and LVU’s players don’t get compensated for the 14 hours of bus-riding it took to get to Maine and back. But they did get the win, and that means the dream lives on. There will be many more challenges ahead, beginning with hosting USL PRO side Harrisburg City Islanders on Wednesday, and LVU faces steep odds to win the Cup itself, but because Shastri Spencer was still hustling after 115 minutes, in what amounts to his team’s preseason (LVU’s regular season doesn’t even begin until May 24), Sonic has a chance.
Sonic’s coach, Dave Weitzman, perhaps put it best, after the game:
Soccer has a real deep strong tradition in the Lehigh Valley… There has been a really strong soccer community in the Lehigh Valley that are really supportive of this team and the teams in the past and to be able to bring a pro game back to the valley for the first time since the early 80’s is great!
That’s why Spencer is PSP’s Player of the Week.