The day is finally here. Playoff soccer is upon the Cosmopolitan Soccer League as every division from top to bottom begins, and in some cases ends, their process to decide a 2018-19 champion. With a full season of experience behind them some teams already know their sceneie will be different next season after they move up while others are looking for the chance to climb to the top in Division 1. Meanwhile in D1 itself, a four-way battle between league pillars, new faces, and last year's runner up is about to start.
Here's the playoff preview.
Division 1 Semifinals
Sunday, June 2
(No. 1) NY Pancyprian Freedoms v. (No. 4) NY Shamrock SC
The first match in the Division 1 playoffs will pit the regular season champions and top seeded NY Pancyprian Freedoms against the playoff hopefuls NY Shamrock SC. The game will take place at St. John University’s Belson Stadium one week before Major League Soccer side New York City FC uses the same facility to host it’s U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round match against USL Championship side North Carolina FC.
The seven-time league champion Freedoms entered the season looking for it’s first title since 2011 and after a regular season with only one loss and two ties there aren’t many would wouldn’t call them the favorite to do so. The team accumulated 47 points through 18 games with the best defense (18 goals allowed) and second most productive offense (56 goals scored) in the top division. The later stat was aided by a front line that includes four of the top ten goal scorers this season. With 11 to his name, Adam Himeno ranks third on that list and has scored four times this spring including two in the last three weeks of the regular season.
For the NY Shamrocks SC, a team that missed out on the postseason last year, the fight to make it lasted up until the final week. The team traded the fourth and final playoff spot with defending champions Lansdowne Yonkers FC heading into their Week 17 match where the Rocks scored a crucial win, 4-1. After that Yonkers drew its final game meaning the Shamrocks hunt for their first ever top division title can continue. The team has one of the more inconsistent defenses of any of the playoff group but what it lacks on the backline it does make-up for in critical goal scoring play. The Queen’s based club has three players in the top ten for goals scored this season with Travis Blair and Dan Giorgi tied for eighth place among others with six goals and Kurt Cameron just above them with seven. The team isn’t a blowout, high offense squad but it can wear down an opponent and score the critical goal but also risks getting outplayed themselves.
Monday, June 3
(No. 2) Cedar Stars Academy v. (No. 3) NY Greek Americans
Last season, Cedar Star Academy reached the league final behind one of the most productive offenses the CSL had ever seen and the best defense that season across all divisions (12 goals allowed). The final game’s result didn’t fall in their favor though as a penalty kick shootout saw Lansdowne Yonkers win its’ fourth ever title. CSA’s hunt for their first continues this year as the team looks to advance past NY Greek Americans in the semifinals for the second straight year.
Coming into the postseason Cedar Star holds some of the most dangerous weapons the league has seen this season. This including 2018-19 leader in goals (28) and assists (12) Chris Katona and set-up men Matthew Nigro and Daniel Cordeiro who are both tied for sixth in league assists with six each. Overall on the attack Cedar Star has been a powerhouse scoring a division leading 63 goals through 18 games with eight separate players scoring at least two goals this year. The team even reached the USASA Region 1 Amateur Cup final this past month. The last time the team ended a game with loss was on April 14 against the division leading NY Pancyprian Freedoms, 3-0, a full four games ago.
The NY Greek Americans meanwhile enter the playoffs seeking their tenth CSL trophy and second in three years. The team, headed by coach Eran Shalom, are coming into the playoffs on a mixed note going 2-1-1 in their last four games including a under-manned 4-1 loss to Cedar Star Academy. The group’s best strength comes from it’s diverse weapons aray. No one player stands out in the top ten goal scorers this season, not surprising considering the group has only scored 34 times through 18 games, but many from the team are focused in the middle of the group. Tyler Botte and Shaun 'Fozzy' Foster have both scored six each (tied with six others for eighth most this season) while Pat McCann and Charlie Ledula have scored five and four each. This trend continues with assists as well showing it’s not about being the all-star when each player can play a part for one another.
The winners of these two games will meet next Sunday, June 9, at a yet-to-be determined place and time to decide a division champion for 2018-19.
First Place Championship
Sunday, June 2
(North No. 1) KidSuper Samba AC v. (South No. 1) Polonia Gwardia NY
A rematch of last season’s second place semi-final in D2, KidSuper Samba AC and Polonia Gwardia meet once again but this time as the top seeds from their respective regions.
KidSuper Samba AC has scored an astounding 72 goals through 16 games this season while easily taking the top seed in Division 2 North. In a region where only six players scored double digit goals this season, three of them were Samba players. Yankuba Janneh was second in the North with 16 goals while Ebrima Jallow was fifth (12) and Khadim Ndiaye was sixth (10). The team is entering the playoffs on a four game winning streak and five game unbeaten one, with its’ last loss come via NYPD FC on March 24. The stretch has seen the team outscore its opponents 16 to 4 and with a respectable 29 goals allowed this season that shows a drastic improvement on the backline in the latter half of the season. It seems as though as a team with a knack for scoring, the best way around that is too simply outscore them
But the other top seed may have another advantage. Polonia Gwardia NY took first place in Division 2 South not with a overbearing front attack but a suffocating backline. Only 19 goals allowed is the least in the entire division and at least six less than the next closest playoff team. Head coach Michael Siwiec has helped develop a squad where even on offense the team has helped keep the other team from scoring, utilizing multiple ways to keep the ball out of the other team’s possession and when cornering them off from goal when they do. It’s no surprise coming from last season’s D2 Second playoff winner when the squad earned a chance to return to the top tier after being relegated only one season prior. However, the group declined the offer and now finds itself once again with a chance to possibly secure promotion while also winning the second division overall.
Second Place Semifinal
Wednesday, June 5
(South No. 2) Stal Mielec NY v. (North No. 2) Sporting SC
The final chance to reach Division 1 starts on Wednesday night as Stal Mielec NY takes on Sporting SC on Randalls Island. The winner will face the loser of Sunday's match to determine which one earns a promotion to the top tier.
Stal Mielec reached the playoffs for the first since being relegated from Division 1 following the 2014-15 season. Multiple third place finishes and just finishing out the outside looking in on the postseason finally gave way as the Polish side did just enough to finish above the Manhattan Kickers in the final standings as the two clubs sought promotion. Pawel Marczenia and Carl Turner have been instrumental to the team’s success combininding for 17 goals this year while also helping to lead the team towards a 11-1-4 record.
Sporting SC is entering its first Division 2 postseason and first promotion battle since the team climbed out of the Metro 1 Division in 2014. Since then the group has consistently finished near the bottom of the table with no finish above eight. Now, behind the second tier’s top goal scorer Abdoulaye Ibrahim, the group has a chance to reach the top division for the first time ever. His teammates call “Messi” and Ibrahim’s production numbers paint a clear picture why, scoring 23 goals through 15 games which accounts for just about 37% of his team’s 62 total goals. While it may be easy to put the success of one team on a single player it simply isn’t the case. Others like Don Oba have stepped up by leading the team in assists with six (tied for 11th most in D2 North) while also scoring nine goals of his own. The team went the whole spring season (six games, minus one due to cancelation) without losing a match including ones against the North leading KidSuper Samba.
Metro Division 1
Sunday, June 2
(East No. 1) Richmond County FC* v. (West No. 2) Kelmendi FC NY
(West No. 1) Lansdowne Yonkers FC Metro v. (East No. 2) NYFC Iliria
*Richmond County FC has already secured promotion to Division 2 next season
The winners of these two games will meet next Sunday, June 9, at a yet-to-be determined place and time to decide a division champion for 2018-19. Both Richmond County FC and NYFC Iliria will be seeking their first M1 championship, the latter of which came close two year ago when they fell in the final to Williamsburg International FC. Lansdowne Yonkers FC Metro won division title in 2014 beating Sporting Astoria SC, 3-2, in the title game. The final team, Kelmendi FC NY, only jumped up this season from Metro Division 2 and will be looking for its second taste of league silverware after winning the 2018 Harry J. Saunders Cup over Sporting Astoria SC Reserve, 5-1.
Metro Division 2
Sunday, June 2, 2019
(North No. 1) Missile FC v. (South No. 1) FC Sandzak
Both teams earned over 40 points through 18 games to reach the title game this year. Missle FC is making its first appearance in a title game since it dropped to M2 following the 2014-15 season and has already compmeted its best season to date in any division. This includes an incredible 85 goals through 18 games, including two 10+ goal affairs, which is the most by any team in the league this season. Meanwhile in only its' first year FC Sandzak rocketed in M2 South by going undefeated through 16 games (15-1-0) and clearing the next best team in the division, NY Shamrock SC 1960, by a full ten points. Both squads will be looking for their first CSL trophy.
Sunday, June 2
(No. 1) Between Rivers FC v. (No. 4) NY Shamrock SC Over-30
Tuesday, June 4
(No. 2) NY Greek Americans Over-30 v. (No. 3) NY Pancyprian Freedoms Over-30
The winners of these two games will meet next Sunday, June 9, at a yet-to-be determined place and time to decide a division champion for 2018-19. Despite being seperated by regions the playoff system for the Over-30 division divides playoff contestants based on overall standings via points. With 41 points overall through 16 games Between Rivers FC is the only team from the South region in the placeoffs after the team lepped the competition by 18 points in the standings. It's opponent NY Shamrock SC Over-30 snuck into the playoffs as a four seed, a departure from the dominance the group had over the division only a few years ago especially considering its title wins in 2015 and2016. The second semifinal between NY Greek Americans Over-30 and NY Pancyprian Freedoms Over-30 will be between two north teams that finished the season level on points with 38 each
Sunday, June 2
(No. 1) Manhattan Kickers Legends v. (No. 4) Doxa FC Legends
(No. 2) Manhattan Celtic Masters v. (No. 3) Cozmoz FC
The winners of these two games will meet next Sunday, June 9, at a yet-to-be determined place and time to decide a division champion for 2018-19. The Manhattan Kickers Legends finished with their best season to date and will be looking to avoid their third straight first round loss in the playoffs while Manhattan Celtic Masters will be looking to reach the final for the second time in three years. Cozmoz FC, having won the title two of the last three years, has a chance to earn a third. The team that stopped them from completeing a three-peat last seaso, Doxa FC Legends, can defend its title after sneaking into the postseason as a fourth seed.