Cedar Stars Academy captain Christopher Katona during a coin toss. Picture by Dinos Avlonitis
By Ralph 'Onz' Chery |@onz_11
June 20th, 2018
After a CSL campaign filled with out of the norm individual brilliances, the league's reporter Onz Chery plucks his brain out to pick the top five performers of the season.
1. Player of the Year: Christopher Katona [Cedar Stars Academy, attacking midfielder/forward]
Katona was nominated Player of the Week the most times, in five rounds, and led the league in scoring and in assists during the regular season, tallying 26 goals and 23 goal-passes in 17 matches. The 27-year-old rolled his sensational form during the regular season into the playoffs, netting the game winning goal of CSA’s semifinal match versus last year’s champions NY Greek American and assisting the equalizer of the 2-1 scoreline.
Katona only played 17 minutes on the field in the final versus Lansdowne as he stepped in the goal for the Stars’ starting keeper Bryan Lopez, who suffered a concussion during the match.
The midfielder was pleased to win the award and thanked his loved ones for their support.
“I sincerely appreciate it,” he said. “Day in and out I just try to give my 100 percent effort when I step on the field. Whether it is the first minute of the game or 90th minute, I don't give up until the whistle is blown. I'd like to thank my mom, my family, and my girlfriend Christen for being my number one supporter and always on the sideline.”
Katona also noted that the club’s coaching staff and his teammates played an essential part in him winning the accolade.
“I understand that this is an individual award, but nothing I received this year individually is possible without the continuous support by Coach Oliver [Papraniku] and Coach Bujar [Gjata] and my teammates," the New Jersey native said.
“As I said throughout the season having such talented players with the drive, commitment, passion, and support of one another makes it easier for everyone to play their game and contribute defensively and offensively. I'm humbled for this accolade and I wish that everyone else on Cedar Stars could receive this award because they deserve it.”
Katona was one of the most versatile players of the season, playing forward, midfield, defense when needed due to injuries--and even keeper in the final. The former Richard Stockton University player conceded one goal during the regular 90--a penalty kick.
“I grew up as a backup keeper, but was always used on the field. When Coach Oliver called my name to go in the goal, there was no hesitation there,” Katona recalled.
He previously mentioned: “Being versatile has always been my main goal in developing and continuously trying to improve my game. I always have the mindset that wherever I’m put on the field to be ready and you know I will give my 100 percent effort.”
Midfielder Christopher Katona in goal for the injured Bryan Lopez. Picture by David DuPuy
Previously in his career, Katona won the 2012-13 Richard Stockton University Male Athlete of the Year, made the NSCAA First Team All-American in 2011 as a sophomore amongst various other achievements.
This season’s Player of the Year nomination was the first one in the modern era of the CSL.
2. Ovan Oakley [Lansdowne Bhoys, striker]
Lansdowne Bhoys forward Ovan Oakley on the ball in the CSL final. Picture by David DuPuy
Ovan Oakley won the first Player of the Week award of the season, scoring a brace and providing one assist in Lansdowne Bhoys' 4-1 win versus Central Park Rangers Whites on opening week. However Oakley went on to playing a poor regular season—a poor regular season in his standard—registering the third most goals in the league, 12.
“As I mentioned before I think individually this was one of my most inconsistent season. However I just kept my focus and continued to work hard."
Oakley netted a brace in the semifinal against hte Freedoms to break a month goal drought and lead the Bhoys to a 3-0 win.
Later in the final, the Jamaican’s speed was a major threat for the CSA defenders. He didn’t make it to the scoresheet but drew a 90th minute penalty kick from Daniel Cordeiro’s shoulder to shoulder challenge. Sean Kelly converted the spot kick to send the game to PKs, which the Bhoys won 4-2.
The 27-year-old opened up about the controversial penalty call.
“As for the PK, I think it’s interesting,” he said. “Team captain Sean Kelly has been telling me the entire season to go down in the box when I feel contact and I never did. I like to stay on my feet. But in the final I felt contact and lost my balance.
“I’m just really happy that we were able to win. That’s truly more important to me than individual effort. At the end of the day nobody is going to talk about the great game the number 19 played on the losing team in the final.”
3. Adam Himeno [NY Pancyprian Freedoms, wide midfielder]
NY Pancyprian Freedoms midfielder Adam Himeno. Picture by Dinos Avlonitis
Not many players can say they had a hand in half of their team's goals, Adam Himeno did so with NY Pancyprian Freedoms during the regular season. Himeno netted 14 goals, which was the second best tally in the league, and racked a team best of 11 assists.
The 30-year-old's contribution for NY Pancyprians led him to two CSL Player of the Weeks, which was the second most any players tallied beside the league's MVP Christopher Katona.
Unfortunately, the American was ineligible to play in the playoffs as he was serving a one-game suspension for picking up a red card in the club’s previous game.
4. Bryan Lopez [Cedar Stars Academy, keeper]
Cedar Stars Academy keeper Bryan Lopez in his days with Paraguayan side Club Sportivo San Lorenzo in 2014.
When asked who was his team's player-to-watch in the final in a pre-match interview, the first name Cedar Stars head coach Oliver Papraniku say wasn’t his top scorer and assist leader Christopher Katona, nor one of his illustrious defenders, nor one of his former MLS players but he said the name of his starting keeper: Bryan Lopez.
Lopez set the record for the most consecutive clean sheets in the modern era of the CSL, not conceding a goal in 10 straight games. He allowed 0.66 goals per game during the regular season. Only one keeper conceded fewer goals per game in the modern era, Lansdowne shotstopper Abdoukarim ‘Kabo’ Danso, who let in 0.62 goals a game in the 2015-16 season.
The Queens native was the first keeper to be nominated Player of the Week, doing so in the 15th round after bagging five saves versus powerhouse NY Pancyprian Freedoms.
Lopez held NY Greek American to one goal in the semifinal. Sadly for the veteran keeper, he didn’t get to play in the entire final as he was subbed out in the 17th minute after suffering a concussion.
5. Sean Kelly [Lansdowne Bhoys, center back]
2017-18 CSL Player of the Weeks
Week 1: Lansdowne Bhoys striker Ovan Oakley-- 2 goals, 1 assist vs Central Park Rangers Whites
Week 2: Cedar Stars Academy striker Paul Nittoli-- 2 goals vs NY Pancyprian Freedoms
Week 3: Central Park Rangers Whites midfielder Idy Watt-- 2 goals vs NY Athletic Club
Week 4: Manhattan Kickers striker Mahamadou "Remi" Diaby-- 2 goals, 1 assist vs NY Greek American
Week 5: NY Pancyprian Freedoms midfielder Adam Himeno-- 1 goal, 1 assist vs NY Greek American
Week 6: NY Greek American left back Joseph Ruesgen-- 2 assists and a clean sheet vs Zum Schneider F.C 03
Week 7: Cedar Stars Academy attacking midfielder Christopher Katona-- 3 goals, 3 assists vs Doxa SC
Week 8: Cedar Stars Academy attacking midfielder Christopher Katona-- 2 goals, 2 assists vs Zum Schneider F.C
Week 9: Cedar Stars Academy attacking midfielder Christopher Katona-- 6 goals vs Manhattan Kickers
Week 10: Central Park Rangers Whites midfielder James Greco-- 2 goals vs Doxa SC
Midwinter make-up round: NY Greek American midfielder Colin Murphy-- 2 goals vs NY Athletic Club
Week 11: NY Shamrock SC striker James Whyte-- 3 goals vs Zum Schneider FC
Week 12: NY Pancyprian Freedoms midfielder Daniel Bedoya-- game-winning goal vs NY Shamrock SC
Week 13: NY Pancyprian Freedoms midfielder Adam Himeno-- 3 goals vs NY Greek American
Week 14: Lansdowne Bhoys forward Mamadou Guirassy-- hat trick vs Manhattan Kickers
Week 15: Cedar Stars Academy goalkeeper Bryan Lopez-- 5 saves/clean sheet vs NY Pancyprian Freedoms
Week 16: Cedar Stars Academy midfielder Christopher Katona-- 2 goals, 2 assists vs Zum Schneider F.C
Week 17: NY Greek American midfielder Bradley Johnson-- 12 saves versus Cedar Stars
Week 18: Cedar Stars Academy midfielder Christopher Katona-- hat trick, 2 assists vs NY Athletic Club