From Jay Mwamba
July 10, 2018
Barely four weeks after their titanic clash in the 2017-2018 CSL championship game, Lansdowne Yonkers [nee Bhoys] and Cedars Stars Academy met again in the inaugural Northeast Elite Soccer League. It ended 1-1 at the Capelli Sports Complex Tinton Falls, NJ, with youthful Cedar Stars snatching a late equalizer.
Omar Jobbie rose high to nod in the leveler [93rd] and earn what’s essentially the Cedar reserves their first point in three starts in the summer-time competition for top clubs in the USASA’s Region 1. Cedar and current league champs Lansdowne are representing the CSL in the seven-team NESL that includes semi-professional outfits.
Cedar had first dibs against the side that beat them 4-2 on penalties at Icahn Stadium last month to claim a fourth CSL crown in five seasons. That’s when striker Robert Dashi got on the end of a long ball, waltzed past Lansdowne goalie Kabo only to see his volley cannon off the upright.
The Irishmen stepped it up after that reprieve and stamped their mark on the “CSL derby.”
Lansdowne’s Pat McCann and Karim Russell both had shots saved while Nic VonEgypt came close twice -- just failing to squeeze the ball home on both occasions.
Then in the 35th minute, after volleying over the bar, Arten Baja struck home from 15 yards following good wing play by Janos Lobe.
The Bhoys started brightly after the interval, once again putting Cedar Stars on the back foot.
On the flanks, Skele Sylvester, back in the Lansdowne fold after a season with Cedar, constantly threatened his former mates on the flanks. VonEgypt again missed narrowly while Lobe was denied by both goalie Bryan Lopez and the post. Lobe had latched onto a Robbie Egan through ball.
In defense, player-coach Sean Kelly, Alexander Bangerl, O’Shane Jenkins and Martin Dedaj were solid for Lansdowne.
Still, it was youthful Cedar that came on strong at the end.
“They finished the last 10 [minutes] the stronger of the two teams and never gave up,” said Lansdowne president William McGrory. “And it paid dividends with a last second cross and headed goal.”
That’s when Omar struck in added time.
Predictably, Kelly, Lansdowne’s summer boss following the highly successful Austin Friel’s decision to step down, was bitterly disappointed to give up the two points. But he took plenty of positives from the game and was very happy with the performance of his new guys.
Bujar Gjata, in charge of the Cedar side on the night in the absence of owner-head coach Oliver Papraniku, wasn’t too disappointed either, given the squad he sent out.
“The only player from [our] first team was Bryan Lopez the goalie. He only had two shots [against him], one of which went in,” noted Gjata. “All of the players were from the reserve team including two players, one 17 and the other 18 years-old. If we only had our full reserve team I am sure we would have won.”
At any rate, he pointed to a second Cedar shot that hit the woodwork and a Lansdowne hand ball in the box that was not called.
Both Cedar and Lansdowne are winless in the NESL, which is branded as an opportunity for top teams from the United States Amateur Soccer Association’s Region I along the eastern seaboard to play in an extra competition across the region.
In addition to Cedar Stars and Lansdowne, the other participants are: Christos [Maryland Major Soccer League], Izee Auto FC [Maryland MSL], Junior Lone Star FC (Philadelphia Premier Soccer League], Motown Lions [Garden State Soccer League] and West Chester United [United Soccer League].
Prior to the Lansdowne encounter, the young and inexperienced Cedar side had lost to Izee Auto [3-0], Motown Lions [2-1] and West Chester [4-2] all on the road. Lansdowne succumbed 2-1 to Junior Lone Star in Philly.
Next up for Lansdowne [8 p.m. this Saturday] at Tibbetts Brook Park in Yonkers is Maryland’s Christos FC, in a clash between the 2016 and 2017 U.S. amateur champions.
Christos lifted the national title in 2016 and Lansdowne last year.
Cedar, meanwhile, don’t play again until July 22 when they host Christos at Capelli Sports Complex.
The round-robin competition culminates in August with a playoff between the top four finishers.