CSL First Division 2016-17 Top 11 Stories

By Ralph Chery

The 2016-17 Cosmopolitan Soccer League season was by no doubt one of the fieriest season we’ve had in recent years. It displayed exhilarating stories such as seven-time champions NY Athletic Club fighting to stay in Division I against the other relegation threatened team, Manhattan Celtic, in their last league-game of the season, NY Greek Americans winning the league after being in eighth place after the first half of the season and a player going pro.

We broke down all the stories to the 11 most notable ones. Check out which ones made the cut list:

 

11. Promoted sides are not getting bullied down back to the second division anymore

Promoted side Zum Schneider FC 03 defending against Shamrock SC. Photo by Dennis  Schneider/ NY Shamrock SC

 

From 2011 to 2015, five out of the seven teams that were promoted to the CSL's first division were relegated in their first season in the top flight. But in the 2015-16 campaign, promoted sides Shamrock and Polonia NY managed to escape relegation, finishing in sixth and in ninth place respetively.

Last season, newcomers Zum Schneider FC 03 and Doxa SC performed even better than Shamrock and Polonia as they ended the season further above the dropzone, Zum Schneider in seventh place and Doxa in sixth. 

Doxa head coach Paul Grafas was eager to keep his side in the elite division since early October. 

"We [Doxa SC] are putting up a statement that we are not a team that was promoted from Division 2 to come here and let these teams get away with whatever they want to do to us and push us back down into the second division," he said. "We are a team to be taken seriously."

 

10. Eight players transfer back to NY Greeks

NY Greek Americans players in a huddle. Photo by Dinos Avlonitis

 

It’s nothing out of the norm when a player goes back to his former team but when eight players transfer back together to their old club that’s a CSL top ten story. And it wasn’t just any players or any team, it was a team that had won the league eight times and the National Amateur Cup in 2014 with some of the returned players, NY Greek Americans.

Here’s a list of the returnees: Stephen Roche, Shaun Foster, Jimmy Nealis, Daniel Gwyther, Joe Ruesgen, Tyler Botte, Harri Hawkins and Andrea-Roberto Pellegrini.

“I think it’s just a combination of the friendly atmosphere and the commitment here,” NYGA head coach Richard Nitall said when asked about the reason why the players mentioned returned to the club. “We’re very hospitable, we have a great atmosphere in the training room, we’re wonderful people, it’s just an enjoyable group to be with.”

 

9. NYAC stays in Division I

A game shot of NY Athletic's game versus NY Greek Americans on April 30th. Photo by Dinos Avlonitis

 

Seven-time champions NY Athletic Club fighting to stay in the first division was one of the hottest topics during the regular season. Against all odds, NYAC faced the other relegation threatened team in their last league-game of the season, Manhattan Celtic, a match in which NY Athletic needed a win or a draw to say in the top flight when they were missing ten players.

NYAC tied with Celtic 0-0. Not the prettiest scoreline, but NY Athletic will be competing in the elite division again next season.

 

8. Diaby transfers from Shamrock to their Irish rivals Lansdowne

 

The Irish rivalry certainly grew last season as Lansdowne and Shamrock finished the regular season side by side in first and second place respectively. But shockingly a player went from one rival to the other during the midseason as Ibrahim Diaby transferred from Shamrock to Lansdowne. To spice things even more, Diaby netted the winner against the Rocks in his first game against them.

The midfielder is grateful of the opportunity he had to play for both Irish giants.

“I’m fortunate enough [I got] to play for both the Shamrocks and [now play for] Lansdowne Bhoys,” he said.

He later added: “My time with Shamrocks has been a good experience and they have helped me to improve some aspects of my game.

“Now I’m on a new path, to better my game, work harder and push my limits because after all I’m striving for success.”

 

7. Roche scores four goals against Cedar Stars

NY Greek Americans midfielder Stephen Roche. Photo by Dinos Avlonitis

 

There’s no question that Stephen Roche had his favorite meal before taking on Cedar Stars Academy on April 2nd. The midfielder put up one of the best individual performance of the season, netting four times against Cedar Stars in a 5-1 win. Mind you, CSA were the CSL finalists the season before.

Roche was happier of the three points than his four goals.

“Firstly I'm very happy obviously but more importantly for the team, it was a big game for us because we knew we had to beat them to try to chase them for the playoff spot, so I'm very happy of the team's win," the former League of Ireland player said after the game.

 

6. Lansdowne breaks a 46-game unbeaten run

 

Betting on Lansdowne to lose a game last season wasn’t the wisest thing to do. They didn’t lose a game in three years. No streak in sports lasts forever. Cedar Stars Academy snapped Lansdowne’s 46-game unbeaten run, defeating them 2-1 on April 29th.

“Their 46-game unbeaten streak in the CSL was very impressive,” CSA captain Andreas Chronis, who scored the winner said. “But it just goes to show you how competitive the CSL is now becoming.”

The Bhoys lost their following league-game 1-0 to NY Pancyprian Freedoms and didn’t win the CSL for a fourth consecutive time as they were knocked out by NY Greek Americans 1-0 in the semifinal. But the Irish-based club covered up their slump in the league by winning the Manning State Cup, the Region I Werner Fricker Open Cup and the Region I Amateur Cup. Still not the wisest thing to bet on them to lose a CSL game.

 

5. An Hellenic final filled with ex-pro players

A gameshot of the Hellenic Derby on May 21st. Photo by Dinos Avlonitis

 

Last season’s final was special for two reasons. One: it was an Hellenic derby between NY Pancyprian Freedoms and NY Greek Americans. The Freedoms captain Georgi Spanos noted how “special” the final was because of the Hellenic derby.

“It being the final is enough intensity alone," 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.

Two: both clubs combined had 13 former professional players on their rosters.

 

4. Shamrock at the summit of the league at mid-season

Shamrock SC players celebrating a goal. NY Shamrocks Images

 

Shamrock shocked the CSL by topping the league after the first half of the season in only their second year back in the top flight, when they ended the previous season in sixth place.

The Rocks' administrator John Riordan praised the players and the coaches' hardwork during the winter break.

"We're only halfway through the season so the current position of the first team in the standings is nothing more than a fair reflection of all the work put in by the coaches and the players," Riordan said.

They ended up finishing the regular season in second place and were knocked out of the playoffs in the semifinal by the Freedoms in PKs. But top of the league going into the winter break in your second season back in Division I has to make cut the here.

 

3. Ex-MLS player Riley joins the CSL

NY Pancyprian Freedoms defender James Riley in his days with Seattle Sounders.

 

The current most decorated ex-professional player joined the CSL last season. James Riley. Riley won the MLS once and the Lamar Hunt U.S Open Cup five times. The defender joined NY Pancyprian Freedoms before the beginning of last season.

"I just love it,” Riley said on playing in the MLS. “Obviously I know the history of this league and this team, it was a great opportunity for me to continue to play at a high level and get some games that means something, so it's fun."

 

2. Former Cedar Stars player da Fonte goes pro

 

Former Cedar Stars Academy center back Mike da Fonte joined MLS side Colorado Rapids on March 14th, 2017. Da Fonte joined the Stars in 2014 and spent three years with them.

CSA head coach Oliver Papraniku was delighted by the move.

“It's a great feeling to have even a small part in handling a great player like Mike, who we all knew would make it to the top pro level because of his commitment and natural ability,” Papraniku said.

He later added: “It will further prove to the MLS clubs that great talent can be found in the CSL and we can be a great source for players outside of the conventional Draft and Pro Agent systems.”

 

1. NY Greek Americans win the league after being in eighth place in the Fall

NY Greek Americans players and staff posing with the CSL trophy.

 

You don’t often hear a team that was fighting not to drop to a relegation spot in the first half of the season wins the league in the second half of the season. Well, NY Greeks were in eighth place after the first half of the season. After the acquisition of a load of players in the second half of the season, the Greeks went unbeaten in their eight league-games in the Spring and made the playoffs by goal differentials.

They went on to blanking three-time defending champions Lansdowne 1-0 in the semis and overpowered the Freedoms 2-0 in the final to do the unthinkable.

“To win the CSL is a special achievement for any team in this league,” Harri Hawkins, who scored the opener in the final said, “but for us to come from being in eighth at Christmas shows what a fantastic group of players we have at the club as well as the amazing team we have off the field, who supports us incredibly well.”

You think you’ve heard it all. Wait for next season.

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