Manhattan Kickers Comeback Against FC Ulqini and Williamsburg Overpower Stal Mielec in Week 15

By Michael Battista

Manhattan Kickers Comeback Against FC Ulqini and Williamsburg Overpower Stal Mielec in Week 15

After seven games last weekend, two teams were officially eliminated from playoff contention in Division 2 - both from the South region. In the North meanwhile, technically all but one team can still make the playoffs meaning every resilt counts even more. One favorite fell, two teams rebounded after tough losses last week, and a last minute comeback were just some of the things that took place in Round 15.

Here's the full recap:

Saturday, April 27
Polonia Gwardia NY v. Beyond FC (2-1)
Beyond FC could not make it two wins in a row against top D2 teams as it fell to South leaders Polonia Gwardia NY, 2-1. The result officially eliminates Beyond FC from the playoff picture.

Despite the loss, team manager Ahmed Hamami knows his team played right up with one of the best in their region and knows it’s a stepping stone.

“Polonia are very strong side that plays very disciplined,” Hamami said in an email. “Over the 90 minutes, Beyond were clearly the stronger side and are very unfortunate to not get the three points from the game.”

During the game Beyond couldn’t come out on the winning side of certain plays, missing a penalty kick attempt that could have tied the game and PGNY’s second goal coming off a clearance ricochet into their net. Patrick Doherty’s goal, assisted by Hamami, was the only bright spot in the squad’s few chances on net. Both Kulesza Mariusz and Bielen Lukasz were able to covert for Polonia and scored their first goals of the spring for the team.

A win or tie next week against NY Ukrainians will clinch Division 2 South for Polonia while Beyond stays on the road to face the second division's other Polish side Stal Mielec NY, the team currently in second place in D2 South.

“While the results for us haven't gone our way, these performances are proving that we are building something here at Beyond and will prove to be a force in this division,” Hamami said.

CD Iberia v. FC Spring Valley (6-0)
No goal scorer information given by CD Iberia
CD Iberia beat FC Spring Valley, 6-0, on Saturday night at Randalls Island. 

Iberia’s chances to make the playoffs stay alive thanks to this win. With 20 points through 14 games, and second place NYPD FC sitting at 23 points through the same amount, it’s possible for the team to sneak into the final playoff spot from the lower middle of D2 North. However, it would require a lot of other teams to lose.

Sunday, April 28
NYPD FC v. Manhattan Celtic (1-0)
After falling last week, NYPD FC picked up where its’ three game winning streak left off by beating Manhattan Celtic, 1-0, in Sunday’s early game. Celtic’s stuttered  spring pace continues with the team going 2-2 in its first four games since the season restarted with one win coming against the lowly FC Spring Valley.

The win jumps NYPD back into second place in D2 North with 23 points, but both Sporting SC and Celtic have at least an extra game to play where they could overtake for the last playoff spot.

The team’s manager Ronald Mejia said that he’s excited so many officers are making time to play when duty isn’t calling.

“With us being Police Officers and not knowing who will be stuck at work on any given Sunday with an arrest or any other Police related issue like having to work a parade, demonstration, sitting with a sick prisoner at the hospital, etc. (on) Sundays,” Mejia said in email. “It's been super that the guys that can make it out to a game have been playing well and making it work. It's an overall morale booster for our team. It's been a whole team effort.”

For those efforts, officer Pablo Orantes was able to score the game winner in the latter stages of the second half to give his team the win.

For Celtic the team played, in the words of head coach Matthew Kane, one of the best games they have all year.

“It was one of our best performances all season, moving the ball brilliantly, giving up almost no chances,” Kane said in an email.

Manhattan had multiple chances on goal and controlled the pace of the game but lacked the ability to finish. Top goalscorer Marco Charnas was unavailable and none of his teammates could fill his cleats against the recently surging NYPD squad.

Kane knows that his team still has a chance at the playoffs but it not all the pieces are in their hands.

“We know the league is no longer in our hands and will focus on winning our remaining three games and hope it's enough,” he said.

Stal Mielec NY v. Williamsburg International FC (2-4)
After a late game heartbreaker last week, Williamsburg International FC responded this week with a win over Division 2 South second place Stal Mielec NY, 4-2, in Brooklyn.

Stal opened the scoring on a quickly taken free kick by Piotr Dublicki to give the team the early lead, but WIFC soon started playing into a groove. Not long after Kevin Ruppel caught Stal keeper Lukasz Stankowski off-guard during a free-kick attempt. The keeper thought the WIFC player would pass the ball but instead he took the opportunity to slide it into the net to even the score.

Stal team manager Artur Kurasiewicz felt cheated by the goal, claiming that in 15 years of playing in the CSL he had never seen something like that.

"The ref awarded Williamsburg a free kick, my keeper left the field to pass them a ball and as soon as the opposing player got the ball he scored on an empty net taking advantage of my keeper's good nature," Kurasiewicz said in an email.

The Polish side were overwhelmed in the second half by Williamsburg pressure and couldn’t keep the ball outside of their own end. Mark Gallagher knocked back the tie-breaking goal off the far post and into the net to give his team the lead before Ruppel slammed a curving shot into the upper right corner of the net. 

Misha Carrel-Thomas finished off the scoring off a free-kick hit low and hard to the near post. Stal responded too little, too late as Grzegorz Kruk scored the second goal late off a corner, but failed to put the game back in reach.

Team manager Jason Roos told the league in a postgame email that the win is a great booster for the team, not only in the standings but also for the team’s morale.

“We came back and showed how we can really play, which was important after two not great outcomes in our past games,” Roos said. “We were able to put a good amount of pressure on them and actually capitalize on a number of our chances. It’s always fun to get a win over a quality squad like Stal, especially another local team. It’s what we needed to keep pushing for the top of the table and we’re just looking forward to keeping up the momentum.”

While the playoff odds aren’t totally in WIFC’s hands, they have decent odds. If the teams wins out its last three games it will finish with 33 points. Stal Mielec only has two games left and a tie or loss in either would put it in jeopardy of being overtaken either by Williamsburg or third place Manhattan Kickers.

FC Ulqini v. Manhattan Kickers (2-3)
No goal scorer information given by FC Ulqini
The Manhattan Kickers overcame a two goal deficit to win its game against FC Ulqini, 3-2, thanks to a late penalty kick scored by Mathias Jorge. Shaiem Allahmorad’s constant cutting in the Ulqini box finally pushed an opposing player to foul him in just the right spot giving his team the chance they needed to take the lead.

Ulqini scored twice in the first half off two fast breaks despite Manhattan owning possession for most of the game. A win in the game would keep the team’s playoff chances alive, if slim, meaning this is the type of start it would want. The team also has the semifinal of the CSL Kilby Cup against Doxa FC as well on June 2 to prepare for and a win against a high offense team, especially a clean sheet, would be a step in the right direction.

But it didn’t last long after the second half kicked off. Manhattan scored early with goal by James Zaiden via a corner kick from Bryan Baracaldo, who found Tommy Fitpatrick in far post and headed it to Zaiden for the finish. Trailing by only one, the team continued to press and put up chance after chance. In the 80th minute with time running out Gonzalo Trovato-Rodriguez’s shot from far out bounced off the Ulqini keeper after he failed to secure it, allowing Kickers’ team captain Kriswayne Wallace to pounce on it and tap it in to tie the game.

The loss eliminates Ulqini from playoff contention but gives the Kickers hope to catch up to Stal Mielec NY with two games to go for the final playoff spot in D2 South.

KidSuper Samba AC v. Brishna (4-1)
No goal scorer information given by Brishna
KidSuper Samba AC kept its commanding lead over Division 2 North with a win, 4-1, over Brishna. With a game in hand over second place NYPD FC, KSAC may potentially have a three game lead over the competition with games winding down. 

The division leaders got off to a strong start when Ebrima Jallow lead of scoring off an assist from Khadim Diop. A mix of Brishna defending and missed chances from Sampa left the score untouched until the second half. After Brishna evened the score not long after the game resumed, the tide began to turn towards the home team.

Diop scored what would be the winning goal off an assist from Yankuba Janneh before Jallow notched his second score of the game thanks to an assist from Chris Peralta A penalty allowed Janneh to score the fourth goal for his team.

KidSuper now waits until Sunday where it will play CD Iberia on the road while Brishna faces Real Ole FC at Flushing Meadows the same day.

Real Olé FC v. Central Park Rangers Reds (0-5)
In what was originally was supposed to be a game against Sporting SC, Central Park Rangers Reds took the rescheduling and made full use of it by beating Real Olé FC, 5-0, on Sunday evening. 

“We see everything as a learning experience and will finish out strong,” Real assist coach Patrick Alvarez said in an email. “Just didn’t want to lose those three points.”

Despite missing some key players Olé started the game with intense pressure on the CPR backline. The Reds were able to withstand and after a brief back and forth with teammate Matteo Cattania inside the Real box, Facundo Zalazar gave CPR the lead with a clean strike passed the keeper. 

With the confidence boosting goal, the team’s midfield began to sting passes together and keep possession, even while under heavy pressure from Real.  

“This is something we've been missing all year and even with several key players out, including first team captain and starting striker, Mike Lindley, the boys weathered the storm” Reds’ team manager Mike Carducci said in an email.

Three more goals, including a penalty from Zalazar and a two from Sam Allington, put CPR’s lead at four heading into halftime.

Despite trailing, Real continued to play up until the final whistle and challenged for its first goal constantly. The back and forth play pushed both defenses to keep up and the Reds responded with some of its best play this year.

“It may have taken virtually the whole season, but the Reds' defense finally got some breaks our way and solidified things with all the newcomers we've brought in this year,” Carducci said. “The past few weeks have either seen some huge improvements or incredibly lucky breaks--things we were sorely missing in the fall.”

The final goal was a 25-yard screamer by Paris-transplant Axel Ebene at the 70-minute mark.  

Carducci knows that, despite what the scoreline may imply, the game was extremely close from the play on the field. Both team’s pushed each-other to the brink and several near chances by both sides in the second half proved that.

“Their overall skill level was definitely superior but we simply found a rhythm after that first goal and every bounce after that seemed to go our way,” Carducci said.












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