Doxa SC skipper Patrick Alvarez. Photo by Dinos Avlonitis
Relegation threatened side Manhattan Kickers FC is traveling to New Rochelle on Sunday to take on fellow relegation team Doxa SC in what promises to be a heated tug-of-war between the two clubs at Sidelskyfield at 11:00 a.m.
Both sides tallied five points in the CSL table and own the same record, [1-7-2].
Doxa is going into the game with a major limp as their captain and top scorer Patrick Alvarez is serving a one-game suspension because of yellow card accumulation.
“It's tough to just sit by all week and know you don't have a role to play in an important match that might be a deciding game to keep us alive,” Alvarez said.
"It's frustrating for any player to watch their team battle when you want to be a part of the battle yourself. I live for games like this obviously. Prefer them to be finals, or a championship game. Every game every week is a championship game when you’re fighting to stay out of regulation."
Doxa SC top scorer Patrick Alvarez will miss his side's crucial relegation clash against Manhattan Kickers. Central Park Rangers Images/ Andrew Faherty
The former Segunda Division B player (2011-2015) will watch his teammates square off with the Kickers on Sunday with “total faith” they’ll win without him.
Alvarez helped Doxa remain in the top flight last season. The 26-year-old skipper expressed how hectic a game between two clubs fighting relegation can get.
“Let me start off to say that there is a lot of emotions out on the pitch during those games,” he said. “When both teams fought to get into D1, last thing they want is to go back down. Let's just say the refs earn their money those games.”
The Greek club is entering Sunday’s game fresh off their first league-win of the season, a 1-0 victory over sixth placed NY Athletic Club last Sunday. Alvarez noted how vital Doxa’s win against NYAC was in their fight to stay away from the dropzone.
“Winning last week was huge to start off the spring on the right foot,” the New York native said. “It's obvious that we are a contender in this league. Three points is a perfect jump start to our games going forward.”
Unlike Doxa, Manhattan lost their first game of the second half of the season, falling to champions NY Greek American 4-0.
The club’s top scorer Brian Morris explained how crucial a victory is in both teams’ aim to stay in D1.
“Obviously a win is very important. We need to get points any way we can in order to stay in the first division,” Morris said.
He later added: “This game will not be easy. Doxa is looking at this game the same way we are and we know they will come out ready to play. The winner of this game will definitely have the leg up to stay in the first division, but it is still a long season.”
Manhattan Kickers FC star striker Brian Morris in a game against Central Park Rangers Whites.
The 35-year-old later touched on the Kickers’ history with Doxa, reminiscing on the team’s fight against them to hop to D1 two years ago, which the Greek club won as they blanked MKFC 3-0 and 2-0 consecutively toward the end of the season.
“Doxa is a good club and we have a lot of respect for them,” Morris said.
“We know [them] well. They were promoted the year before us so we played against them a lot in the second division. We were actually battling with them for promotion to the first division two years ago and they won. Now it is the reverse and we are battling with them to stay in the first division. We are hoping the result reverses also.”
Three key stats
1. The Kickers are on a on a seven-game winless run in the league.
2. Doxa rallied back from a 3-0 deficit to tie with Manhattan 3-3 the last time they versed each other on Sept. 10th, 2017.
3. Paul Grafas’ men are undefeated in their last five matches against the Kickers in the league, winning two games and drawing three.
Players to watch
Manhattan Kickers—Brian Morris [FWD]: Morris is the fourth top scorer in the CSL with five goals. The striker netted a goal and racked an assist in his side’s last match against Doxa.
Doxa SC—Kosta Pappa: Pappa ushered Doxa to their first league-win of the season last week with a header against NY Athletic Club.
Doxa SC: W L T L L
Manhattan Kickers FC: L L L L L