Lansdowne Bhoys left back Jean Voltaire defending ex-NY Pancyprian Freedoms player Stephen Megaloudis. Photo by Dinos Avlonitis
By Ralph "Onz" Chery
June 4th, 2018
CSL powerhouses Lansdowne Bhoys and NY Pancyprian Freedoms will fight for a spot in the 2018 CSL final on Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. at Randall’s Island Field 70.
The winner of the semifinal will face Cedar Stars Academy in the championship game on Sunday at 8:00 p.m. at Randall’s Island Icahn Stadium.
After winning the league for three straight seasons, Lansdowne lost in the semifinal last year to NY Greek American 1-0.
The Irish team’s veteran right back Craig Purcell shared that the CSL is his most wanted title after the club ended the domestic season empty handed last year in the midst of a tremendous campaign, in which they finished the regular season in first place by four points over NY Shamrock SC, won the Fritz Marth National Amateur Cup, the Werner Fricker Open Cup and the Manning State Cup.
“The league is one we left behind last year, and in my time at the club it was probably the hardest one to take considering how well we played in the league all season,” Purcell said.
“Personally, after last season’s disappointment, this season’s league is the one I wanted the most. Winning the league means you’re champions of the toughest league in the country which is important for this team and club to keep progressing.”
Lansdowne Bhoys fullback Craig Purcell going for an interception.
The Yonkers based club won the Rapaglia Cup this season and qualified for the U.S Open Cup, reaching the second round but is a step away from their form of last campaign.
They played their least successful regular season in the CSL in seven years, finishing in third place with a 13-3-2 record, were knocked out of the first stages of the Amateur Cup and the Fricker Cup and recently fell to Charlotte Eagles 6-2 in the Hank Steinbrecher Cup semifinals before defeating Elm City Express 2-1 in the third-place game.
However NY Pancyprian Freedoms midfielder Jeff Matteo is not underestimating the three-time CSL and national double champions.
“They are always one of the top teams,” the former MLS player said. “They have dropped a few games this year because they were in a lot of national tournaments and that takes its toll. They’ve done a good job of resting players and preparing for the big games. They want to win another trophy and this is a big step.”
NY Pancyprian Freedoms midfielder Jeff Matteo. Photo by Devaughn Clasp
The two CSL giants have met several times in recent years in crucial matches. Some of the notable ones are the CSL 2014 and 2015 finals, the 2017 and 2018 Open Cup second qualifying round. The Bhoys got the best out of the Cypriot club in all the matches cited nevertheless they’re winless against them in the CSL this season, drawing one game and losing one.
Purcell looked back at his previous encounters with the Freedoms and noted how rough of a game it’s destined be on Tuesday.
“We know it's going to be a tough battle against them, they’re usually tight games with not many goals, but we know we need to put in big performance to win,” the right back said. “But with this Lansdowne team we know we have it in us which we have proven time and time again.”
The Freedoms played their best regular season in three years, going 13-1-4 to finish in second place. Matteo noted that the depth of their roster has been a key factor in their success.
“I feel that we have a deeper team than we have had the last few years and that has contributed to the success during the regular season,” the midfielder said.
“We are pretty healthy now and should have a solid squad for the game and the bench has provided us with many goals and big plays this season. We definitely will be looking for them to help us in this game as well.”
The Queens based club were the second-best scoring team during the regular season, tallying 50 goals in 18 games. But unfortunately for them their most valuable player, Adam Himeno, is ineligible to play in the semifinals as he’s serving a one-game suspension after picking up a red card in the team’s last game versus Doxa.
NY Pancyprian Freedoms top scorer and assist provider won't take part in the semifinal versus Lansdowne Bhoys due to a one-game suspension. Photo by Dinos Avlonitis
Himeno contributed in half of NY Pancyprians’ goals, scoring 14 times and tallying 11 assists. Purcell uttered that the Cypriot club has other attacking threats.
“But the Pancyprians have some other good players so we know we can't just focus on one player,” he said.
Some of coach Stratis Mastrokyriakos’ other attacking weapons are ex-New York Red Bulls II players Daniel Bedoya, who racked seven goals and 10 assists during the regular season, former Greek Super League winger Andreas Chronis and 2004 MLS MVP Alecko Eskandarian, who only played two CSL games but already scored a hat trick.
The Bhoys doesn’t lack talents up top either as they own two players from the top scorer chart, Ovan Oakley, who netted 12 times and Mamadou Guirassy, who was on target nine times.
Despite the two clubs’ attacking prowess, last time they played in a knock-out game the match ended in a scoreless draw.
Players to watch
NY Pancyprian Freedoms-- Daniel Bedoya
NY Pancyprian Freedoms playmaker Daniel Bedoya. Photo by Dinos Avlonitis
In his first season with the Freedoms, Daniel Bedoya is the club’s second-best scorer with seven goals and the second best assitman as well with 10 goal passes. Bedoya scored against Lansdowne away from home in a 1-1 draw earlier on Oct. 10th.
Lansdowne Bhoys-- Ovan Oakley
Lansdowne Bhoys top scorer Ovan Oakley.
Four-year Lansdowne striker Ovan Oakley leads the Boys in scoring with 12 goals, which is the regular season’s third best tally.
However the Jamaican is disappointed of his scoring tally and is eager to score in the playoffs as he wrote on social media:
“Worst scoring record in my entire Career...at all levels. Ready to show when it matters most. Let’s go!!!!!!!”
Four key stats
1. NY Pancyprian Freedoms top scorer and assistman Adam Himeno won’t be in action as he’s serving a one-game suspension. Himeno had a hand in half of NY Pancyprians’ goals, scoring 14 times and tallying 11 assists.
2. Lansdowne Bhoys defeated NY Pancyprians in the 2014 and 2015 CSL finals.
3. The Freedoms ended the regular season with a six-game win streak when Lansdonwe lost two of their last five CSL outings.
4. The Bhoys played three days before the semifinal in the Hank Steinbrecher Cup when NY Pancyprians' last game was two weeks prior to the game.