Cedar Stars Academy players after their 3-0 victory over Central Park Rangers on March 18th, 2018. Cedar Stars Academy Images
By Ralph "Onz" Chery |@onz_11
April 15th, 2018
Shooting stars normally glow for only a short period of time, however Cedar Stars Academy is on the longest active winning run in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League. The Stars are on a six-month winning streak, amounting to eight matches.
Nevertheless length isn’t the most illuminating aspect of Cedar’s winning streak but the results it consists of. Oliver Papraniku’s men dominated the CSL in the past six months, outscoring their opponents 36-1, including a 3-0 win against three-time CSL champions Lansdowne Bhoys and a 7-0 victory over last year’s CSL semifinalists NY Shamrock SC.
The player who's been watching from the back, keeper Bryan Lopez shared that deterrmination and discipline has been the key for them in their victories.
"We just keep up the same hard work and the same hustle," Lopez said. "Game behind game the team gets more confident and stronger, which is good. Me as a goalie looking at everything from behind I think everything is where it's supposed to be, everybody's doing their job correctly to make the team look positive on the field."
Cedar Stars Academy keeper Bryan Lopez in his days with Paraguayan side Club Sportivo San Lorenzo in 2014.
As for the man on the sideline, CSA team owner and head coach Oliver Papraniku, he praised his players’ teamwork.
“The team has great chemistry and are playing for each other,” he said. “A great thing to be a part of. The results will come as long as we keep our current collective team attitude.
He later added: “The players are so easy to coach, understand our game plan and have a great attitude. We need to continue our hard work and not take any opponent for granted.”
Hard to believe that Cedar Stars didn’t qualify for the playoffs last year with the winning run they hold now.
“It was tough seeing Cedar Stars staying out of the playoffs last year,” Lopez, who missed most of last season due a suspension said. “I was spotting the games back to back and if you look at the way they got disqualified, they couldn’t make it to the playoffs by just one goal difference, imagine that, it’s hard to see a great team like Cedar Stars out of the playoffs.”
The Stars sit three points below league toppers Lansdowne with a game in hand and a better goal differential now hence the club could become the first team to finish in first place in the league after ending outside the top four in the previous season since NY Athletic Club went from eighth place in the overall table of the 2009-10 season to first place the next campaign.
Cedar’s sister club F.C Motown's head coach Sacir Hot noted that the acquisition of top-notch players during the summer is what’s guiding CSA to their success after the rough 2016-17 campaign, something coach Papraniku strongly agrees on.
“Oliver and [assistant coach] Bujar[Gata] have done a great job shopping around in New Jersey during the offseason to revamp their roster and it's paying off. In every position they have two quality players that can fill in on any given weekend. A+ offseason pick-ups.”
A regular at Cedar Stars Academy's games, F.C Motown head coach Sacir Hot, said the club's new players has played a huge role in their dominating eight-game winning run.
In fact the Stars added 16 players to their roster from last season. The club’s most prominent new signing this campaign has been the league’s top scorer Christopher Katona, netting 17 goals in 12 games.
However, Hot, who’s been to about every CSA games this season, noted that defense has been the key factor in Cedar’s dominance in the CSL.
“Think [coach] Oliver's strength is on the defensive side, the numbers prove it, Oliver’s defense keeps him in every game which goes a long way in such a tough league. If you notice, starting from the forward all the way to the goalie, everyone is responsible for their defensive effort."
CSA conceded a league low of nine goals in 12 CSL outings. In the last seven games the team hasn’t allowed a goal, a stats keeper Lopez is fond of and thanked his defenders for.
“It’s something incredible, it’s something you don’t really see as much,” the 29-year-old said, “especially in the league so competitive like the Cosmopolitan, you know, it’s really tough. Each game any goalie always goes in with the mindset of not getting scored on and luckily and thanks to my defense I was able to come out with those clean sheets.”
Three of Cedar Stars’ regular defenders are players the club signed this season, ex-Monmouth University standout center back Hani Nasr, 2015 MLS signing center back Matthew Jeffery and 2016 MLS draftee Mitchell Lurie at left back.
The Stars’ next game is against the only CSL team that hasn’t lost a game yet this season NY Pancyprian Freedoms.
“It’s always tough playing against Pancyprians like any other teams,” Lopez said. “Every team that’s going to play against Cedar Stars is going to play with everything so we won’t be surprise if they come from the beginning of the game as a challenge.
“It will be a nice match; hopefully everything comes out well we keep on with the clean sheets and get another victory.”