Player of the Week

Player of the Week: Shastri Spencer

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.

3 Comments

  1. How do the PDL and NPSL fit into the ‘soccer pyramid’? Are the two leagues comparable, or is one above the other?

    • Ed Farnsworth says:

      Most observers would probably say NPSL and PDL are roughly equivalent, with PDL being a developmental league with players looking to gain playing time in the college offseason while still maintaining collegiate eligibility, while NPSL has access to older post-collegiate players, some of whom may have played in the professional ranks. I think US Soccer officially sanctions three tiers in the US soccer pyramid: MLS (1), NASL (2), and USL PRO (3). The outline of the structure on Wikipedia has NPSL and PDL both occupying the fourth tier, noting, “The tiers or levels here are approximate and not specifically so designated by USSF.”

      • Ed,

        Thanks.I also don’t understand all of the pro tiers and their relationships. I would love an overview of the current structure that is more in depth.

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