Playoff Hopes Rise and Fall in Week 14 as Teams Head into Holiday Break

By Michael Battista

Playoff Hopes Rise and Fall in Week 14 as Teams Head into Holiday Break

As the dust settled on Week 14, multiple team's playoff hopes were strengthened while others dimished. The Polish power duo of Polonia Gwardia NY and Stal Mielec NY still hold the top spots in D2 South after wins this week, KidSuper Samba SC's bye week gave Sporting SC and Manhattan Celtic a chance to gain group on the D2 North leaders, and a last minute loss against Beyond FC shakes playoff hopefulls Williamsburg International FC.

Here's the full recap of the weekend:


Saturday, April 13
Manhattan Kickers v. Panatha USA (3-0 FT)
The Manhattan Kickers were awarded a win, 3-0, after Panatha USA forfeited its match on Saturday afternoon.

The win keeps the Kickers in third place in Division 2 South with 23 points on the season. This is five behind second place Stal Mielec NY who currently hold the regions final playoff spot. Manhattan returns to the field after the Easter break on Sunday, April 28 when it faces FC Ulqini on the road.

Pantha remains pointless on the season with the worst goal differential in all of D2 (-57). It’s next game is scheduled for Sunday, April 28 against the NY Ukrainians. 

FC Japan v. Polonia Gwardia NY (3-5)
No goal scorer information given by Polonia Gwardia NY.
Polonia Gwardia NY, the top team in both Division 2 South and the entire CSL second tier in terms of points, stayed on course with its win over FC Japan, 5-3.

The Polish squad played some of the best offensive in the first half as it had all year, scoring four times in the first half and making a strong attack the best defense against the reeling Japanese side.

Despite this Japan rallied back in the second half. Two goals from Mitsuhiko Konoue and one from Dai Kageyama brought the team to within one heading into the game’s closing stages. The team fought for its first draw of the season but the momentum shifted in the last moments when PGNY scored one final time before the whistle.

Stal Mielec NY v. FC Ulqini (5-2)
No goal scorer information given by FC Ulqini
Stal Mielec NY stayed on pace in the D2 standings with a win, 5-2, over FC Ulquni on Saturday night. The win puts the team at 28 points after 13 games which is three points shy of D1 North leaders Polonia Gwardia NY, five points ahead of the Manhattan Kickers, and enough to hold the last playoff spot in the region for the time being.

Ulqini remains at 19 points but has a game in hand unlike the teams in the top three meaning there is a total of 12 points still up for grabs.

Stal’s newest signing Carl Turner had a fantastic coming out party as he scored three times for his team during the game. The young player looks as though he may be able to fill the void created by former SMNY forward Bartlomiej Dziuban, who scored just under 50 goals over his last two seasons with the club.

Piotr Dublicki and Pawel Marczenia rounded out Stal’s scoring by netting one goal each during the match. Marczenia’s goal was his 60th with the club putting him three away from tying the team’s all-time leading scorer Jacek Lawniczak (63).

“This was our best game of the Spring season which started terrible for us,” Stal Mielec NY manager Artur Kurasiewicz said in a postgame email. “Our best player Chris Karcz torn his ACL during our first game, but now after (the) addition of Carl and couple of key players coming back from injuries I feel much more confident about the remaining games.”

 

Sunday, April 14
NYPD FC v. Central Park Rangers Reds (1-3)
Central Park Rangers Reds won its’ second game in a row with a chippy win, 3-1, over NYPD FC on Sunday morning. The win is CPR Reds’ second in a row, making it the second time this year the team has won back-to-back games, while NYPD’s win streak ends at three.

The same CPR side that has struggled as of late in CSL play showed that, in the words of team manager Mike Carducci, when they have a full squad show up they “can usually play with just about any team in D2.” 

Central midfielder Facundo Zalazar scored twice for his team with the first on a curler to the top corner from about 20 yards out.  The second came from a strong volley from newly-signed first team keeper Mike Moraitis, who saw NYPD’s left back line fading as the team pushed up to try and equalize. He found Zalazar who beat the keeper one-on-one to double the Reds’ lead. 

For another week the recently returned Endo Mhilli came up huge at center back, making skillful runs deep into NYPD's end of the pitch.  

“It's huge having him back with the team since it seems to have been the missing link to us not vomiting goals to the other team every game,” Carducci said in a post-game email.

New York’s bravest pushed back hard against CPR as both teams were pulled into a physical battle. A total of four red cards were shown with three going to the NYPD side. Even down players, Cesar Torres was able to bring his team within one goal after scoring his first of the season. CPR made the last statement though as winger Junior Sanguina sent a well placed free kick to the head of defender Colin Haggerty at the back post, who expertly finished for his own first goal of the season.

With only eight players left on the pitch for NYPD the official blew his whistle a little early before tempers flared up once again.

“We were happy to be back on the win track with this two-game win streak and look to continue in our next match after the Easter break,” Carducci said.

FC Spring Valley v. Real Olé FC (0-7)
In its’ largest win of the season Real Olé FC blazed past the struggling FC Spring Valley, 7-0, to keep pace in the playoff hunt. Real now sits in fourth place in D2 North with 21 points after 13 games with the top three all sitting at 12 games played.

Patrick Álvarez played a huge role for his team during the match assisting on five of his team’s goals and scoring the other two himself. His work this week increases his season assist total to eight and tying him for second most in all of D2 North. 

“We wanted to make sure we stay in the playoff hunt and not give up any goals doing it,” Álvarez said in a post-game email. “Glad to grab the three points.”

Assistant team coach Nick vonEgypt knocked in four goals of his own while also assisting on one as well. Kevin Davis rounded out the scoring with a single goal and a assist.

Beyond FC v. Williamsburg International FC (3-1)
In the CSL Game of the Week, Beyond FC stunned playoff hopefuls Williamsburg International FC, 3-1, with two late goals on Sunday afternoon in Secaucus N.J.

With a loss Williamsburg loses ground on Stal Mielec NY and the second playoff spot in the north region. Both of these teams meet after the Easter break on Sunday, April 28. Beyond meanwhile earns its first win of the spring with a record of 1-1-1 since the season restarted last month. Despite playoffs not being a possibility the squad is hoping to finish the year in the top half of D2 South.

One minute after his team let in the late game equalizer winger Sherief El-Helaifi knocked in the winning goal with under three minutes to play. A long clear found three Beyond players and one WIFC defender at midfield, which forced the keeper out to challenge leaving El-Helaifi an open goal when he received the ball at the top of the box.

“It was a team effort,” El-Helaifi said after the game. “We were definitely better than them and we deserved to win.”

The first half was a different game compared to the last ten minutes where ten goals were scored. A back and forth saw the first half fly by with very few stops of play. Clean football from both teams brought out what each team excelled at. For Beyond the team was great at putting bodies between Williamsburg shots and the net while the Doylies kept the home team from making short passes in their end and forcing longer, more risky plays. 

The same goes for offense. WIFC’s John Kaddo stayed up front and played impressively in recovery. Any loose balls or deflected passes wouldn’t leave his sight as the Rochester Institute of Tech graduate made his presence known for the whole match.

“Felt that we stayed pretty composed,” said player manager Jason Roos. “Kept trying to work the ball (and) not try to force it too much. We were missing a few guys… so we didn’t have some of the core guys that we usually work it through in the middle and up top.”

The second half seemed like more of the same as the offenses pushed to no avail. In all, Williamsburg was the better offensive team in the last 45 but Beyond made its chances count more. A long pass found El-Helaifi in a backline opening. Despite a defender challenging he was able to bring the keeper out and shot low to give his team its first lead.

With its playoff chances dimming, Williamsburg put all of its’ players up in the games final five minutes David Vogt found the ball in the middle of the Beyond box and knocked in the equalizer.

“That’s just kind of our character,” Roos said. “We’re more of an attacking team. Pretty consistently for the past couple of years we’ve been at the top (of the league in) goals scored. The problem is always just making sure we don’t concede that many.”

Williamsburg kept pushing after the second El-Helaifi goal but couldn’t convert and the open backfield allowed Abrahim Hamami to ice the game for his team.

“It’s very important because the other two games we tied and we lost but definitely we were better in the playing as well (against) the other teams,” El-Helaifi said about the win. “So finally we got what we deserved.”

Sporting SC v. Brishna (5-2)
No goal scorer information given by Brishna
With all the Week 14 results Sporting SC needed a win if it wanted to hold onto the second playoff spot in Division 2 North. Four second half goals was enough to push the team past Brishna, 5-2, and get the job done.

Sporting team captain Abbe Ibrahima scored two times including the opening goal in the first half. A Brishna defender made a critical error and gave up the ball in his own end which set up Ibrahima to score his second of the spring. Brishna didn’t rest though and played physically in response, noticing a goal of their own before the half.

The later half of the game was all Sporting as Brishna began to crumble. Both Rochard Chamorro and Carlos Garcia found the back of the net, with the latter striking the ball from 25 yards out past the diving keeper. Only a few minutes after that a cross by Garcia found Don Oba to make it 4-1.

After starting the scoring off and after Brishna got a goal back, Ibrahima found a rebound off a blocked Oba shot and tucked it in for the final.

Great win and great result,” club manager Ed Romero in his official postgame report. “We showed character and determination in the second half that should carry on into our next games."

Manhattan Celtic v. CD Iberia (3-2)
No goal scorer info given by CD Iberia
Manhattan Celtic held off a CD Iberia comeback and left Randalls Island with a win, 3-2, on Sunday night. Celtic still sits in third on the D2 North table with 21 points, trailing Sporting SC by one and KidSuper Samba AC - who the team faces the close out the regular season - by five.

“We made the game harder for ourselves that it needed but we dominated the majority of the match,” Celtic head coach Matthew Kane said in a postgame email.

Marco Charnas scored two goals for Manhattan, bringing his spring total to four, and Jon Leon scored the other for his team. 

CD Iberia played the ball wide and tried to make long, tactical passes in order to get around the Manhattan defence. Kane says his entire team pressed well against the attack but especially gave praise to Sala Enrique who helped protected the backline and played setup man on multiple drives.

With only five points separating and a extra game separating Iberia from the last playoff spot in D2 North the team still has hope. A next week against the struggling FC Spring Valley is vital before the team faces the current top two in their region to close out the season, KidSuper Samba and Sporting. 

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