NY Greek Americans midfielder Stephen Roche celebrating after scoring against NY Athletic Club on April 30th. Picture by Dinos Avlonitis
May 24th, 2017
NY Greek Americans clinched the last playoff spot by one goal differential over Cedar Stars Academy after tying with NY Pancyprian Freedoms 1-1 on Sunday in the Greek Derby.
NY Greeks are set to play Lansdowne Bhoys in the semifinal.
Former Lansdowne Bhoys captain Stephen Roche. Photo by Dinos Avlonitis
Five NYGA players used to play for Lansdowne: Stephen Roche, who captained Lansdowne last year, Shaun Foster, Colin Murphy, Elliott Firth and Jimmy Nealis.
NY Greek Americans defensive midfielder and former Lansdowne player Shaun Foster [number 16]. Photo by Dinos Avlonitis
“I’ve got a lot of friends on that team, I’m looking forward to it,” Foster said. “It should be a good game. We know they have a lot of quality but like I said we’re the in-form team, I’m sure they will be worried about us as much as we’re worried about them.”
He later added: “They haven’t been beating for a few years but they lost a couple of games recently so as a player I’m sure that puts a little doubt in your mind, hopefully we can play on that. We think we’re as good as them. We don’t think they’re any better than us as a team. So we feel like we have a good chance, we’ll see what happens.”
The Greeks were in eighth place after the first half of the season. After making a makeover of the team with the acquisition of numerous players, which include the former Lansdowne players mentioned, they went undefeated in the second half of the CSL season, winning seven games and drawing one.
In fact, going into the Spring season, being so far out of a playoff spot in eighth place, their goal wasn’t to make the playoffs but to win every game.
“It really wasn’t ‘let’s make the playoffs’,” NYGA forward Adam Marcu explained. “A big group of guys came back, who’s been with the team a while ago.
"They had the culture of winning games, they brought experience to the team and we just said let’s keep winning games. Because we needed all the results to go in our favor, so even if we won every game we didn’t know if we were going to go in.”
After winning their first seven matches of the Spring season, NY Greeks’ only hope to make the playoffs was if Cedar Stars lost to Shamrock and if they defeated or drew with the Freedoms.
“That wasn’t a guarantee because Cedar Stars had beat Lansdowne recently and they were playing well,” Marcu said about the Greeks’ chance of making the playoffs then. “We were a little bit nervous that no matter what we did we weren’t going to have a chance to go to the playoffs.”
Shamrocks defeated Cedar 4-0 on Saturday night.
“We were really excited,” Marcu said when the players found out about CSA’s lost. “We had a team conversation and all the sudden someone saw the result and we were just buzzing since then.
"The idea was to act like we were confident about the game [against NY Pancyprian] but everyone was a little bit nervous, not nervous but excited in a way, more energy than usual. Because we knew that someone out there had looked out for us and gave us the result that we needed.”
He later added: “When that result happened it was like a light switch turned on.”
NYGA netted fifteen minutes against the Freedoms as Marcu hit a shot from the edge of the box in the net after receiving a neat pass from Murphy.
The Freedoms equalized in the 52nd minute when Adam Himeno headed James Riley’s cross in the goal. The scoreline remained 1-1 all the way to the final whistle, guiding the Greeks to the last playoff place by one goal differential over CSA.
NY Greek Americans keeper Andrea-Roberto Pellegrini intercepting a corner kick against NY Pancyprian Freedoms on Sunday. Photo by Dinos Avlonitis
Marcu was pleased to be the one who scored the goal that pushed NYGA to the playoffs.
“It feels great, I’m glad to have helped in any way that I can,” Marcu said. “It’s a team effort.”
He later added: “I’d take just the little credit for sticking it in the back of the net but everybody else did the work.”
Foster is assured that NY Greeks will keep their non-losing run in the playoffs and ultimately win the league.
“Can we go all the way? Yeah, I mean of course,” the defensive midfielder said. “A lot of players in here have won the league a few times. We’ve won national championships so we feel like we can win whatever competition we’re in. Like I said, form is crucial at the end of the season so we think we can win it all.”