The New York Pancyprian Freedoms huddle up before their U.S. Open Cup qualifying match against Brockton FC United (Credit: Liz McQuilkin – Mass Soccer)
The New York Pancyprian Freedoms are returning to the U.S. Open Cup after their game against Bay State Soccer League side Brockton FC United was called off early in the second half. A goal by Charlie Ledula in the 3rd minute was the only score as the elements wreaked havoc on the match prior to its early stoppage.
The weather in Everett, Massachusetts consisted of hard rain and heavy winds which affected play at both ends of the field. Freedoms technical director Panayiotis Onisiforou explained that, even knowing the result, the game was a disaster to play or coach.
“We were (up) against 20 mph winds and heavy rain,” Onisiforou said in an email. “We got a lucky break in the [3rd] minute [when a] ball dropped to Charlie Ledula and he slotted the ball one touch, bottom right corner. After that there was not much soccer played due to conditions and it’s a shame because both sides had quality.”
The weather wasn’t the only challenge for the team. Going over 200 miles from their home in Queens, NY to Massachusetts was a trek, the longest the team has ever had to make for a USOC qualifying game since the new system took hold in 2016.
The distance however wasn’t as much of a problem as one might think according to Onisiforou.
“We as the players didn’t get affected by it and it was all down to the president (Philip Christopher) and the board, they got us hotels, food they went above and beyond,” he explained. “Without their support none of this was possible, we are happy to get the win and repay their faith they have put in us.”
Despite both teams getting chances the game was best described as competitive chaos with ball mobility ranging from slick and quick to stuck in the ground. As time went on and the weather deteriorated, the field became less playable and not long into the second half of the game officials convened to discuss options. With visibility also reducing, the game was called off.
According to the U.S. Open Cup handbook, updated for the 2020 Qualifying Rounds earlier this year, it is stated that:
“If a match is terminated after the end of the first half of a match, but before the end of the second half with one of the teams winning, and the termination is not due to the conduct of one of the teams, the match is considered complete, and the team winning at the time of the termination shall be the winner.”
This is the first time that the Freedoms have reached the tournament proper since 2016, where the club beat the New York Red Bulls U-23 team of the Premier Developmental League (Now USL League 2). The Freedoms are well known for qualifying, or attempting to qualify, for every U.S. Open Cup tournament since their inception in the 1970s and of course have won the competition three times (1980, 1982, 1983).
As time went on and the landscape of soccer changed, with new first divisions emerging and professional soccer growing, the tournament began to take on a different meaning for the club while still holding significant value.
“This is what the club thrived on, especially in the 80s,” Onisiforou explained. “It’s something back then which we would go far in, obviously as time went on soccer landscape change but the club ambition went from winning it to going as far as possible.
“In the modern era just entering the cup is an achievement in itself and it’s something we are all proud of”
The Freedoms will learn who they draw in the First Round of the 2020 tournament in the Spring. The first games are loosely scheduled for early next year (March / April) and the early rounds will feature teams from local leagues, the National Premier Soccer League, and USL League 2 among possible others.
Teams from the Cosmopolitan Soccer League have won the Open Cup, previously known as the “National Challenge Cup,” 16 times over its century long history. Besides the Freedoms, three of these clubs still play in the CSL to this day with The New York Greek Americans, New York Ukrainians, and S.C. Eintracht all still fielding teams in various divisions.