Cedar Star Academy play defense against the Jackson Lions FC early in the first half of their U.S. Open Cup Qualifier on Sunday, September 22 (Credit: Michael Battista / TheCup.us)
Two Cosmopolitan Soccer League teams began their roads to the 2020 U.S. Open Cup last Sunday, while another waited in the wings for its first game next month. For Cedar Star Academy (labeled CSA Westchester in tournament logs) its first ever Open Cup match was won thanks to key saves and fast offense while Lansdowne Yonkers FC took advantage of poor defense and possession based play in its win.
The New York Pancyprian-Freedoms received a bye in this round due to the number of teams and geographic availability. They begin qualification next month against a familiar foe on the road.
Here are the recaps from Sunday’s victories:
Cedar Star Academy vs Jackson Lions FC (Garden State Soccer League) (2-1)
In a hard fought game, with the noon sun blazing down both teams at Ramapo College, Cedar Star Academy took two leads and held on to defeat Jackson Lions FC, 2-1. The game was the first Open Cup Qualifier for Sunday, kicking off at noon eastern.
Despite coming away with the victory, Cedar Star struggled against the Lions at times during the match. The two-time CSL Division 1 Finalists struggled to hold majority possession early on in the game and chances were few in the first 45. After the game head coach Austin Friel could be heard talking to his team and telling them what they needed to do for both the next round and next league game. Afterwards he explained further.
“The result was probably the only thing that went right,” he said. “I felt the (field) surface didn’t really suit us even though it was our home game. We tried to have it on the turf but because we put 12 o’clock kickoff there was a clash with a college lacrosse game. We just had to adjust to it and play on the grass.”
The games field was a sloped, grass field next to the turf one which meant the ball moved and gilded differently than usual. Forward Chris Katona said after the game that he hadn’t played on that type of field in years and it took a few adjustments to get used to.
“Especially on the sideline that’s where the field started sloping where it’s grass and obviously we’re used to playing on turf,” Katona said. “I don’t remember playing on grass (since) 10-12 years ago, back in high school.
“It plays well in (Jackson) being able to compact into the middle, where as we’re the opposite where we play wide and one-on-one,” he continued. “It’s a lot different element because you’re not on turf, the ball’s not going as smooth. (The players) have to concentrate a little more because it touches and they got to get used to it. It played a little bit of a factor but (we) were able to control the ball and play our style.”
The back and forth play in the first half, with more chances coming for the Lions, included a yellow card for a CSA player for a hard challenge and multiple shots going wide for both teams. It wouldn’t be until the 52nd minute until Max Garcia found Katona on a run and set him up to finish a shot past Jackson’s goalkeeper Charlie Cunliffe.
The Lions, who were in their fourth straight Open Cup qualification tournament, didn’t let up after going down. Six minutes later, Walter Calderon ran up on a ball that looked like an easy grab for the Stars’ keeper. However, he bobbled it and allowed Calderon to swipe around and shoot on the empty net to even the score.
With time winding down, both teams pressed for possession but shots on goal were a rarity in the latter stages of the second half. Katona and Garcia both had chances while one Jackson player struck a shot high over the crossbar and into the side of a passing minning van.
One final momentum swing pushed Cedar Star over the edge. In the 87th minute, Jackson’s Ryan Bailey was initially called for a foul on a CSA player and shown a yellow. After a few moments, the referee returned and produced a red card from her pocket for apparent remarks the Lions had said just prior. The man advantage allowed Cedar Star to take control, and in the 90th minute Ovan Oakley received a long ball from Matt Nigro and shot low past the advancung Cunliffe for the game winner. Two fantastic saves by the Stars keeper saw the game out as the team held on.
With advancement, CSA’s next Open Cup Qualifier will be against fellow D1 CSL side New York Pancyprian-Freedoms in a rematch of the 2018 Division 1 Final. The game will once again be at Ramapo College on October 20, with kickoff scheduled at noon. The team also has a game this Sunday against Sporting SC in CSL Division 1 play.
For Friel and his team, the entire group what comes next and what they need to do. The coach, who lead Lansdowne Yonker FC to the Third Round of the 2016 Open Cup, thinks in terms of talent his skill this new group can go just as far.
“Obviously in any cup competition you want to progress as far as you want to go,” Friel continued. “Happy enough to get through to the next round. But the players know there’s a lot of hard work to do to go further. This team’s capable of going to the third or fourth round, like I as a coach have done before, so that’s the aim but we’ll take it one game at a time.”
Clifton Elite FC (Garden State Soccer League) vs Lansdowne Yonkers FC (2-4)
While Cedar Star was victorious in its first Open Cup game, the same could not be said for Lansdowne Yonkers FC’s opponent, Clifton Elite FC. The Garden State Soccer League team was hammered in the first half by the Bhoys and despite two stoppage time goals by a familiar face, the team fell 4-2.
Lansdowne outplayed the young side, who struggled to get meaningful chance against keeper Abdoukarim “Kabo” Danso and to also get high passes. Many of Clifton’s players were shorter than their opponents, meaning high passes or headers were difficult to finish, and the speed advantage was taken away early when the backline isolated so many possible passing or advancing options.
Dean Dillon, who recently signed with the club from Irish Top Division side Shamrock Rovers, opened and closed the scoring for the Bhoys. In the 24th minute, a chip from just outside the top right corner of the penalty area went over jumping Clifton keeper Ryan Linder. He made Linder pay once again in first half stoppage time, when the tired Clifton defense allowed Dillion to play around them before making an excellent finish for his team’s fourth and final goal.
David Ardvidsson and Nicolai Andersen also scored goals for Lansdowne in the first half, with the former slamming in an opposite corner bullet after a cross went by two of his teammates feet but found him alone at the top of the left side.
While the team dominated the first half, the second saw Clifton increase its ball possession and time in the Lansdowne end. Despite their frustrations the home team’s work did pay off late in the game.
Clifton team captain and former Lansdowne player Isimohi Bello scored two goals in second half stoppage time, the first coming off a freekick which he headed in over Kabo and the second off the restart a minute later where he ran past the advancing Bhoys and quickly beat Kabo once again. Another chance right before the final whistle nearly cut the lead to one but the shot went wide.
Clifton's head coach Matthew Farrell spoke highly of his team's captain after the match.
"He's a captain, he's a leader, he puts himself in the line of fire and makes sure to give it all for the team. He's played in England, I've known him as a coach, and he's been the top goalscorer for our team for at least the past two years. Good guy, good player, good captain."
He also explained that despite the loss, his team would take the experience from the game against Lansdowne and look to use it going forward in both league and state games.
Club manager Jim Kelly said after the match that his team’s performance, while excellent, didn’t finish the way he hoped. The defense slipping up late and allowing the keeper to be challenged as much as he was isn’t the way a lead should be held, he explained.
“It has to be done for 90 minutes, it doesn’t just last for 80,” Kelly said. “That’s the problem. I was just disappointed in the end because we haven’t been conceding goals. The goals we scored and the way we played in the first half, the way we managed the game was excellent… Just move the ball quicker.”
He also explained that so many of the players know others on teams in the area, which means playing against them is that much harder. The familiar play styles, seen with Bello who was with the Bhoys, and recent Werner Fricker National Championship means teams in the area want to play against the Bhoys more.
“A lot of players know players from these teams and FC Motown, and that’s what you get,” Kelly said. “Because we won a national championship as well, it puts you up there and people want to (play against you) but they need to be up to the task. It’s good and keeps you on your toes.”
Yonkers will need to be on its toes as next round it will travel to Pittsburg, PA to take on West Chester United on October 19. The Second Round game will be in the same city where Lansdowne famously beat the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of USL Championship back in 2016 against an opponent that reached the U.S. Open Cup tournament proper last season through qualifying. The team returns to league play this Saturday against New York Athletic Club at home.