First half of the season review

By Ralph 'Onz' Chery

NY Greek Americans players celebrating their penalty kick win over NY Pancyprian Freedoms in the Eastern NY Amateur Cup final. Photo by Dinos Avlonitis

 

Dec. 30th, 2017

 

The first half of the season of the CSL's top division was a bit short in games as snowstorms prematurely sent the players on winter break but wasn’t short in entertainment.

One of the most noteworthy story of the Fall season is that NY Greek Americans won the Eastern NY Amateur Cup and the ENY Fricker Cup. The Greeks' rivals Lansdowne Bhoys, on the other end, went undefeated in all competitions, qualified for the U.S Open Cup and are on top of the league.

On an individual note, first-time Cosmopolitan players Christopher Katona [Cedar Stars Academy], Daniel Bedoya [NY Pancyprian Freedoms] and James Whyte [NY Shamrock SC] were the top performers alongside three-year CSL player Ovan Oakley [Lansdowne Bhoys].

Here’s a full recap of the first half of the season:

 

Top performers

First-year CSL player Katona leads the league in scoring, tallying 13 goals in nine games. The converted attacking midfielder also won the most Player of the Weeks, bagging the accolade three consecutive times.

 

Cedar Stars Academy midfielder Christopher Katona (player standing). Picture by Dinos Avlonitis

 

Lansdowne striker Oakley finished second in goal behind Katona, finding the net 10 times in his side’s nine league-games. The Jamaican has one Fall season Player of the Week to his name.

Newcomers Bedoya (an ex-NY Red Bulls II player) and Whyte (a former Dubai Irish player) also put up dazzling numbers in the first half of the season. Bedoya leads CSL giants NY Pancyprian Freedoms in goals and assists, tallying five in each comportment in eight league appearances. 

Meanwhile Whyte scored the third most goals of the Fall season, seven in the Rocks’ eight CSL games. The Scottish had a breathtaking start of his CSL career as he netted in each of his first five league games—seven goals in his first five CSL appearances.

 

Top teams

Unbeaten Lansdowne topped the league in the Fall season, winning eight matches and tying one with NY Pancyprian 1-1. The Bhoys also went undefeated outside of domestic play, which amounts up to 19 unbeaten games in total. The Yonkers based club scored 53 goals and conceded 13 in those 19 outings.

 

Lansdowne Bhoys starting XI versus NY Shamrock SC. Lansdowne Bhoys Images

 

The Bhoys’ most significant Fall 2017 achievement is qualifying for the U.S Open Cup. However, the Irish juggernaut lost the ENY Fricker Cup final to NY Greek Americans in penalties and were eliminated in the ENY Amateur Cup’s semifinals by NYGA in PKs as well.

The Freedoms were the second best team. NY Pancyprian finished the Fall season in second place, seven points shy of Lansdowne with a game in hand. Their defense was key in their success as they allowed the least goals, eight, while racking the most clean sheets, four.

Outside of the CSL, the Queens based club reached the second round of the Open Cup qualifiers, lost in the final of the Amateur Cup in penalties to NY Greeks and clinched the semifinals of the Fricker Cup, which they also lost to the Greeks, 3-1.

Cedar Stars Academy also had a strong Fall season. The Stars finished the first half of the season in third place, scoring the most goals, 29 in nine outings while conceding the second least, 11. They closed the Fall season with four consecutive clean sheets while tallying 21 goals in those four matches.

CSA’s only loss was against Lansdowne, 2-1, in the league and they were knocked out of the Manning Cup in the round of 16 by PDB Irish Rovers in penalties.

NY Greeks was arguably the fourth best team of the first half of the season. NYGA only won half of their games in all competitions—eight wins, two losses and six draws—but impressively won the ENY Amateur Cup and the Fricker Cup by edging NY Pancyprian and Lansdowne in penalties respectively.

NY Greeks’ major slip up in the Fall season was their league form as the club sits fifth in the CSL. Their key players weren’t available for some of the league games due personal reasons.

 

Cup action

Without including the Rapaglia Cup, CSL’s first division teams went undefeated in 17 games against foreign teams in all the cup fixtures and Open Cup qualifiers, outscoring their opponents, 70-19. On a bad note, the three games the Cosmopolitan teams tied with non-CSL clubs they lost in penalties.

NY Greeks striker Tyler Botte, a player who played defense in college, is the knockout games top scorer, tallying eight goals in eight matches.

 

NY Greek Americans forward Tyler Botte. Photo by Dinos Avlonitis

 

Open Cup qualifiers

The two teams that represented the CSL in the Open Cup qualifications were Lansdowne and NY Pancyprian Freedoms. Lansdowne qualified for the Open Cup by defeating Jackson Lions 2-1 in the first round, NY Pancyprian 4-3 in penalties in the next round after a scoreless draw and Junior Lone Star F.C U-23, 3-1, in the third round.

JACKSON LIONS VS LANSDOWNE BHOYS HIGHLIGHTS

 

And for the Freedoms, they downed Connecticut giants Newtown Pride 2-1 in the opening qualifying round before losing to Lansdowne in the next round.

 

Fritz Marth National Amateur Cup

NY Greeks won the Eastern NY Amateur Cup. The Queens based club started their campaign by eliminating the Amateur Cup holder Lansdowne Bhoys 7-6 in penalty kicks after a 0-0 draw. New signing Peter Gadze netted the winning PK.

The Greeks edged their Cypriot rivals NY Pancyprian 6-5 in penalties in the final after rallying back to a 2-2 draw in the regular 90. Joseph Ruesgen converted the winning PK.

VIDEO OF THE PENALTY SHOOTOUT

 

Werner Fricker Open Cup

NYGA also took home the ENY Fricker Cup. They got the best out of the Freedoms 3-1 in the semis and beat Lansdowne again in the final in penalties after a scoreless draw. John Sabal netted the winning spot kick. Keeper Roberto Pellegrini had two crucial saves in the shootout.

VIDEO OF THE PENALTY SHOOTOUT

 

Manning State Cup

The Fall season led the tournament all the way to the semifinals. Lansdowne will welcome promoted side Central Park Rangers in the first semifinal while NY Greeks will host NY Pancyprian for another Greek-Cypriot derby in the Spring.

The most anticipated game of the competition so far was the matchup between powerhouses Shamrocks and NYGA. NY Greeks blanked the Rocks 2-0 through Daniel Elliot’s double.

The upset of the Manning Cup in the Fall, or perhaps of all the cups, was Cedar Stars’ 4-3 penalty kick loss to Long Island Football Soccer League’s fifth placed team PDB Irish Rovers. The Rovers rallied back for a 3-3 draw before slimming past CSA in penalties. Cedar’s board members called this loss “The greatest upset in NY State Cup history.”

 

Top performances

Katona notched the two best performance of the Fall season, netting six goals against the Kickers in a 6-0 win and tallying three goals and three assists against Doxa in a 7-0 victory.

Botte also had a couple of outstanding performances but outside of the league. The ex-Hofstra player scored a hat trick against one of the teams with the best defense in New York in the ENY Fricker Cup semifinal, NY Pancyprian. The Greeks won that game 3-1. Botte also netted four goals against NY Serbia (LIFSL) in the Manning Cup.

Lansdowne keeper Abdoukarim “Kabo” Danso also shined in cup actions as he tallied three saves against the Freedoms in PKs to lead his side to a 4-3 penalty win in the second qualifying round of the Open Cup.

VIDEO OF THE PENALTY SHOOTOUT

 

Lansdowne Bhoys keeper Abdoukarim "Kabo" Danso. Hess Boys Photography

 

Most entertaining matches

Two of the most thrilling matches were Zum Schneider 3-3 NY Greek Americans and Manhattan Kickers 3-3 NY Greeks.

Second-year D1 team Zum netted the opener over reigning champions NYGA. NY Greeks tied it up 1-1. Zum Schneider put themselves back on top 2-1. NY Greeks equalized again 2-2. Zum made it 3-2 with 15 minutes to go but the CSL powerhouse refused to go home with a loss and tied up for a last time 3-3.

The Greeks also featured in the second most entertaining game. Promoted side Manhattan Kickers had a 2-1 lead over the champions with 12 minutes to go, playing without any subs and with two injured players. NY Greeks scored two goals in the last 12 plus minutes of the encounter to steal the win from the Kickers.

 

Off the field top stories

Off the field, the most prominent signing of the Fall season was the Freedoms’ acquisition of ex-MLS MVP and former U.S international player Alecko Eskandarian in November. The Rocks also had a notable player joined them this season, former Crystal Palace defender and current Sporting Kansas City color commentator Matthew Lawrence.

Lansdowne was in the mix of things as well as they acquired the NCAA Division I Golden Boot winner Mamadou Guirassy in November. Guirassy is trying out for the MLS as he was invited to the MLS Combine after an outstanding collegiate career with New Jersey Institute of Technology.

 

MLS trialist Mamadou Guirassy standing alongside Lansdowne Bhoys club member Aiden Corr. Lansdowne Bhoys Images 

 

Last but not least NY Greeks Hall of Fame Giovanni Savarese became MLS side Portland Timbers’ head coach on Dec. 18th after a successful coaching career with New York Cosmos.

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