Conshohocken, PA. (June 4)—The 2017 Eastern Pennsylvania State Cup Finals concluded Sunday at The Proving Grounds in Conshohocken with the U18 and U19/20 boys and girls championship matches.
The day was highlighted by a thrilling final between Patriot FC Red and Penn Fusion in the U18 Boys matchup, which Patriot FC eventually won in penalty kicks. The game ended 0-0 after 120 minutes of play with both teams narrowly missing chances at the lead. Patriot FC discussed this exact scenario at a recent practice and made a move, subbing in backup goalkeeper Kyle Earley late in second period of extra time.
"It was definitely nerve-wracking," said Earley. "But I tried to keep as calm as possible."
Earley could do little as Penn Fusion continued to find the corners of his goal on the first several PK's.
"I was leaving a little early from my line," he admitted. "They caught on to that."
Luckily for Earley, his teammates matched Penn Fusion penalty for penalty. Neither team missed a shot. Pretty soon, it was Earley's turn. He made no mistake, sending a low strike into the side-netting.
"I told all the guys I didn't know where I was shooting it until I actually hit the ball," he said. "I'm not real good at that."
The new goal-scorer returned to his regular position to clinch the win with a smart stop, diving to his left. Patriot FC Red celebrated its fourth State Cup title in five years.
"It was unbelievable," said Nick Hazel, a Patriot FC captain and center midfielder. "Easily our best State Cup win, I feel like."
What was the secret to his team's success from the spot?
"Practice, practice and practice," said Hazel.
In other results, FC Pennsylvania Strikers used a second-half goal to defeat Patriot FC Revolution, 1-0 in the U18 Girls final. In the U19/20 Girls final, defending national champion YMS Premier Xplosion beat 1776 United, 9-0. Finally, Penn Fusion Elite '98 scored twice in the second half to rally past Lehigh Valley United, 2-1.
The Eastern Pennsylvania State Cup is part of US Youth Soccer's National Championship Series. Sunday's winners advance to the Region I Championships in Spotsylvania, Virginia, June 30-July 4. Region champs will then play for the National Championship in Frisco, Texas against the best club teams the nation has to offer.
The U12-U17 champions were crowned May 20.
Pennsylvania State Cup (NCS)| Sunday Results | U18-U19/20 Finals
FC Pennsylvania Strikers 1, Patriot FC Revolution 0
Patriot FC Red 1, Penn Fusion Elite 0*
Patriot FC wins on penalty kicks
YMS Premier Xplosion 9, 1776 United 0
Penn Fusion Elite 2, Lehigh Valley United 1