Cedar Stars Academy players and coaches posing for a picture before their semifinal match versus NY Greek American. Cedar Stars Academy Images
By Ralph 'Onz' Chery |@onz_11
May 31st, 2018
The Stars will face the winner of Lansdowne-versus-NY Pancyprians in the final on June 10th. CSA head coach Oliver Papraniku is thrilled his side conquered NY Greeks to reach the final.
“We’re really excited, we showed what we can do,” Papraniku said after the game. “We worked hard obviously, the players played hard all year.”
Cedar Stars missed several goal scoring opportunities in the first half, one of the most notable ones was when NY Greeks keeper Bradley Johnson blocked starlet Walter Calderon’s close range effort early in the game. Johnson, who was in the midst of his best form in the CSL going into the match, finished the game with approximately 10 saves.
“We should've been up 3-0 the first five minutes,” Cedar Stars captain Christopher Katona rued. “We just were lackadaisical in the first half.”
Missed chances often come back to haunt you.
“We gave them an opportunity and they took advantage of it,” Katona continued.
The New Jersey based club went down 1-0 as the Greeks’ prodigy Daniel Massey hit a sublime left footed half volley in the net from a poor CSA clearance. Although Massey joined the club during the winter break, the 21-year-old finished the season as NYGA’s top scorer in the CSL, tallying six goals.
NY Greek American 21-year-old striker Daniel Massey scored the opener.
CSA was down to the Greeks for the second time in a little over three weeks. They managed to bring themselves leveled in the previous encounter, tying the game 1-1 but this time there was more on the line than just regular season points hence it was going to take a little more for Papraniku’s men to break past the CSL reigning champions’ organized defense.
Short speeches from Papraniku and former MLS player Dilly Duka boosted the team’s energy during the break--Duka was playing his first game with the club
“[Papraniku] snapped us back into reality,” Katona recalled. “Having veteran Dilly is a bonus as well. He gave us his input, advice to alter just a little bit of what we did in the first half, remain patient and the goals will come. We were able to execute early and take advantage of their mistakes.”
Just three minutes inside the second half former William Paterson University midfielder Matthew Nigro tied it up, sinking Katona’s quick diagonal throw in the net from about 12 yards out.
Cedar Stars Academy midfielder Matthew Nigro during his time with William Paterson University. William Paterson University Athletics Images
Four minutes later Katona put the Stars on top, leaping amongst two NY Greeks players to side-head Hunter Freeman’s free-kick to the bottom right near corner of the net.
“Being able to get my head on the ball being pulled down in the box and able to capitalize it for the lead was a relief,” Katona said, “but there was a lot of time left in the game. I'm just glad I’m able to contribute to our success and move onto the championship.”
Cedar Stars Academy midfielder Christopher Katona [in a game with the team's sister club F.C Motown] scored the game-winning goal.
It was the midfielder’s 13th consecutive CSL game going on target. Katona led the league in scoring during the regular season, racking 26 goals in 17 games.
Last time Cedar Stars clinched the CSL final they fell to Lansdowne Bhoys 3-0 two years ago. Papraniku is keen to have another chance to hoist the CSL trophy.
“[The final] is going to be great,” he said. “Everyone is really up for it. We’re going to come to play.”
Katona, who’s playing his first season in the CSL, is eager to compete for the league title as well.
“We set the bar high this year and that was to compete and win a championship,” the American said. “We're not done yet and look forward to the finals.”
The final will be played on June 10th at Randall’s Island Icahn Stadium at 8:00 p.m. Last time, and the only time, Cedar Stars were crowned CSL champions was in 1994 when they were playing as Clarkstown SC.