By Ralph 'Onz' Chery| @onz_11
Nov. 21st, 2018
Cedar Stars Academy and NY Greek Americans’ massive encounter on Sunday night ended in a 1-1 draw at the Metropolitan Oval after Cedar's striker Bledi Bardic and Greeks' fullback Nino Alfonso exchanged goals.
The Stars were the first team that troubled their opponents’ backline as fullback Jean Voltaire paced down the left wing before squaring a pass to Janos Loebe in the third minute. Loebe, who was playing his first match for CSA, came close to scoring from his first shot for the club as he whipped a shot just over the net.
CSA later opened the scoring in the ninth minute. Joseph Lopez rolled a pinpoint wide pass to Loebe down the right flank; the German didn’t net in his debut with the Stars six minutes earlier but did rack an assist as he steered a low cross to Bardic, who then scored one of the easiest goals he will score this season: a simple tap-in in the net.
Cedar Stars Academy's scorer Bledi Bardic.
Bardic’s opener boosted him to 15 CSL goals on top of the goal chart. His teammate, Christopher Katona, who’s second behind him with 12 goals almost found the net as well five minutes later when he banged a one-time shot off the crossbar from a tough angle in the box.
The Greeks attempted to level the scoring in the 15th minute as Phil Bannister brought down Alfonso’s cross before maneuvering a shot toward the goal that was bravely blocked by a CSA player.
Back on Cedar Stars’ end, another one of their new signings had NYGA defenders on their toes in the 25th minute. It was Portland Timbers 2’s right back Jimmy Mulligan this time as he warmed Bradley Johnson’s gloves with a well hit low-shot from a tight angle in the box.
The Greeks fought their way back to an equalizer in the 58th minute when Alfonso drove Bannister’s pass to the near right corner of the net.
NY Greek Americans' scorer Nino Alfonso.
Cedar Stars’ prominent players almost put themselves back on top in the 71st minute but keeper Johnson came to the Greeks’ rescue.
Ex-MLSer Dilly Duka found New York Cosmos B captain Danny Szetela, who dazzled a low-shot on frame. Johnson looked like he had no way out of this one but stunned the crowd with a sensational kick-save.
The Greeks also came close to winning the game later in the 89th minute. Joe Holland was making his way toward CSA new keeper Rashid Nuhu alone, you could’ve bet a World Cup jersey that the former Houston Dynamo player would score but a CSA defender creeped in behind him, clipped his foot as he hit the ball, potentially causing Holland to shoot the ball wide.
Where they stand now:
Cedar Stars Academy: The Stars are still in first place with 22 points (7-1-1) but after Sunday's tie leave more room for NY Pancyprian Freedoms to hop over them at the summit of the table as the Cypriot club collected 19 points in two fewer games than them.
NY Greek Americans: The Greeks drop from third to fourth spot with 14 points (4-3-2).
Three key notes
1. Five players made their debut for the countless Stars: Jimmy Mulligan, Samuel Caceres, Rashid Nuhu, Sidney Rivera, Giuseppe Barone and Janos Loebe all played their first match for Cedar Stars.
Loebe recorded an assist while Nuhu tallied four saves.
2. Both teams go on a two-game winless run: After starting the season with seven straight league wins, Cedar Stars go on a non-winning streak in the CSL. They lost to NY Pancyprian Freedoms, 4-3, last round. NY Greeks bowed down to Shamrocks, 2-0, in the Manning State Cup in their previous match.
3. NYGA's top scorer wasn’t present: Charlie Ledula didn’t play part in the game. He leads NY Greeks in scoring with four goals.
Player's voice: Jean Voltaire (man of the match)
Cedar Stars Academy fullback Jean Voltaire walked out of the match with the top performer accolade after putting on a gallery of brave headers and tackles in the team’s backline.
Voltaire switched from his natural left back position to center back in the middle of the second half after Ryan Adeleye’s minor injury but that didn’t slow him down from exhibiting a solid defensive display.
As mesmerizing Voltaire’s performance was, to the confident defender it was just another day at the office.
“I think I played a good game, I’m used to playing like this but I think next game I will perform even better,” the 24-year-old said after the match.
He later added: “I feel really good to be selected as the game’s top performer.”
Voltaire touched on the new five CSA players who played in the game, noting that they will help boost the team’s level of playing as they get more comfortable with the style of play.
“Well, you know, they’re [the added players] used to play in high quality leagues,” the former Haiti U-20 player said. “But I don’t think they helped us today as much as they’re able to but when they get more used to the team they will perform even better."