A game shot of the Hellenic Derby on May 21st, 2017. Picture by Dinos Avlonitis
June 8th, 2017
The 90th season of the Cosmopolitan Soccer League features an Hellenic Derby in the final as Greek sides NY Pancyprian Freedoms and NY Greek Americans square up Friday at 8:00 p.m. at St. John’s University Belson Stadium for the 2017 CSL title.
“It being the final is enough intensity alone," NY Pancyprian captain Georgi Spanos said, "but with it being two Greek, Cypriot teams makes it a little more special.There's a lot of people in the background who do a lot to help each club and we're in the same cultural community that's pretty close-knit."
NY Greeks is the active team with the most CSL titles, owning eight.
The Freedoms and NY Athletic Club are the active teams with the second most CSL titles, seven.
NY Pancyprian missed on two opportunities to bag an eighth CSL trophy in the past three seasons as they fell to Lansdowne Bhoys in the final in 2013-14 and the following year.
Spanos expressed that the Pancryprians are determined to win the final this time.
“Losing a title never sits well with anyone,” he said, reminiscing on the two losses in the final. “We don't want to have a streak of losses in title games. It has to be erased.”
The Freedoms edged second placed Shamrock SC 12-11 in penalty kicks (3-3 FT) to reach the final.
NY Pancyprian Freedoms celebrating the win over Shamrock in the semifinals.
However the seven-time CSL champions had previously lost all their six matches against teams from the top four in the fall.
Pancyprian turned their performance agaisnt teams from the top four around in the Spring as they blanked Lansdowne Bhoys 1-0 on May 10th and defeated Cedar Stars Academy (who was in fourth place then) 2-1 on March 25th.
Spanos noted that his side’s wins against the other giants in the league instilled assurance in the players going into the final.
“Winning some tough matches in the second part of the year does that [gives a refreshing feeling],” the captain said. “We have been playing the right way and building confidence coming into this last game. It keeps our morale high and positive.”
Spanos and his teammates will be playing the final on their homefield, St. John’s University Belson Stadium.
“There is a bit of comfortability playing at St. John’s as we know it well,” the defender said. “But I think with such a big game like the final, the Greeks will be prepared as we will be.”
NY Greeks captain Elliot Firth shared his thoughts about playing a final at his opponents’ homefield.
“To be honest the field is the best in the league so although they are more used to it than we are, it's the perfect setting for the league final,” Firth said.
NYGA was in eighth place after the first half of the season. After the acquisition of a load of new and returned players, the Greeks went undefeated in the fall, riding a 7-0-1 record—their only draw was against the Freedoms. NYGA clinched the playoff in their last match of the season by goal differentials over Cedar Stars.
The Greeks went on to blanking three-time defending champions Lansdowne 1-0 in the semifinals.
“The result against Lansdowne was fantastic,” Firth said, “especially because we weren't at our best but still managed to grind out the win. We are confident heading into the final but not cocky. We've managed to beat every team this spring apart from the Pancyprians so it's set up nicely.”
NYGA’s roster has eight players who won the CSL title with the club in 2011-12. Firth is fond with the experience the club has but also keeps in mind that the Freedoms also have players who played in the final before, having reached the championship game twice in the last three years.
“It's great having a squad full of experienced players who have been in this situation before,” the 26-year-old said. “But the Pancyprians also have a lot of experienced players so it's just going to be a matter of who holds their nerve on the night.”
NY Pancyprian Freedoms: James Riley (played for seven MLS teams), Chris Megaloudis (New York Red Bulls, Puerto Rico), Jeff Matteo (Columbus Crew, MetroStars), Stefan Dimitrov (Chicago Fire), Michael Palacio (New York Red Bulls, Fort Lauderdale Strikers), Diogo Alves Perreira (Academico de Viseu F.C in Portugal's second division), Panagiotis Halkidis (Greece second division), Panayiotis Onisiforou (Ermis FC in Cyprus first division).
NY Greek Americans: Stephen Roche (UCD in the League of Ireland), Jimmy Nealis (New York Cosmos), Daniel Gwyther (Fulham, Watford), Colin Murphy (Fort Lauderdale Striker), Roberto Pellegrini (AC Sparta Prague).
NY Greek Americans:
Midfielder Colin Murphy: Ex-pro player Murphy scored the winner in the semifinal against Lansdowne, assisted the goal that pushed NY Greeks in the playoffs against NY Pancyprian and netted a game-winning goal against Shamrock on May 7th.
NY Greek Americans midfielder Colin Murphy. Picture by Dinos Avlonitis
NY Pancyprian Freedoms:
Striker Chris Megaloudis: The former New York Red Bulls player scored the game-winning penalty kick against Shamrock in the semifinals.
5-21-17: NY Pancypian Freedoms 1-1 NY Greek Americans at St. John’s University Stadium