Two-goal hero Yannick Reyering nodded in a late winner at Icahn Stadium last Sunday to dethrone First Division champs New York Greek-American/Atlas 2-1 and end New York Athletic Club’s 12-year wait for a seventh CSL title.
By Jay Mwamba
Two-goal hero Yannick Reyering nodded in a late winner at Icahn Stadium last Sunday to dethrone First Division champs New York Greek-American/Atlas, 2-1, and end New York Athletic Club’s 12-year wait for a seventh CSL title.
There were also title wins on the final day of the 2012-2013 CSL season for Manhattan Celtic -- whose First Division reserves and Over-30s pulled off a rare double for the club – and Spanish Metro Division One side CD Iberia, which hailed its 4-1 drubbing of Lansdowne Bhoys as a triumph for their brand of “tiki-taka.”
Atlas’ Claudio Shala [30th minute] had canceled out Reyering’s first strike [25th] but the Greeks could not muster a response to his 80th- minute header in the championship match between two of the most successful Cosmopolitan Soccer League clubs in history. They kicked off having won 14 CSL titles between them.
“It took us a while to settle into the match. The first half was fairly nervy and to be fair to the Greeks they did a good job getting the ball forward and had the better opportunities,” said NYAC’s Scottish-born coach Andrew Cullen, who left Icahn celebrating a title win in his rookie year on any bench.
NYAC, whose six previous title victories came under Irishman Ronan Downs in a seven-year period between 1995 and 2001, regrouped in the second half.
“We controlled the midfield and our combination passes, linking up the midfield with our forwards, was excellent,” Cullen said. “We created several opportunities both with quick play through the middle and with getting the ball wide and delivered across the box.”
In a portent of what to come, Reyering went up for one of those balls into the box and crash a header off a post in the 70th minute. Ten minutes later, he hit the target with another effort from the right.
“Our pace caused the Greeks fits in the last 30 minutes,” Cullen said, even while admitting that the game at times failed to hit the heights.
Joe Ruesgen, one of Cullen’s Atlas opposites – and a fellow Scottish native – concurred.
“It was a sloppy game that neither team really dominated. Both teams looked tired and never really took a hold of the game,” said Ruesgen, a player/co-coach. “NYAC had a couple of chances that they converted whereas we never really created many opportunities. It was a bad time to have one of our poorer performances.”
It also didn’t help that almost half the Atlas side had turned out for the Long Island Rough Riders the night before.
Still, Ruesgen, who was in the Atlas side that edged Lansdowne Bhoys, 5-4, on penalties to win its eighth CSL crown last year, offered plaudits to the new champions.
“We congratulate NYAC, though, and we will move on, regroup, and prepare ourselves for our National Cup games,” he said.
Atlas manager George Mellis also said it was time to focus on their next challenge – against American Italians in the USASA Region 1 final in Philadelphia on June 16 – but not before venting over the defeat.
“Very disappointing loss and that’s not taking anything from NYAC. They were the better team on [the day] but we were the better team all year,” he insisted.
“This is my first experience coaching, so it’s not a bad start,” said Cullen. “But again, winning the CSL came down to the lads playing a system that suited the talent of the squad, and then putting in the physical and mental effort.”
He added that it was a step in the right direction as NYAC set their sights on a national championship. He thanked his predecessor Barclay MacKinnon, now coach of NYAC’s NPSL team and in charge of recruiting, for helping assemble a winning side.
“Winning confirms that we have a good group of core players who can compete for a national championship. Putting together the right squad who can compete at the national level is a process. I’d like to recognize Barclay for bringing together this group of talented players. Between Barclay and I, over the fall and spring matches, we figured out what formation best suited our style and which players could work the most effectively together.”
Ian Woodcock’s Celtic Legends were first on the winners podium after defeating Manhattan Kickers Premier 4-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the Over-30 Div. One final.
Former Red Bull midfielder Seth Stammler had fired Kickers ahead from long-range midway through the second half [65th], but Legends’ response was relatively swift. Within five minutes, Freddie Etsiakoh and Marc Zenon combined to set up the equalizer for Jimmy Conrad.
It finished 1-1 and in the ensuing shoot-out, Conrad, John O’Neil, Phil James and Chikezie Punnette tallied to hand Legends their second consecutive CSL title after last season’s Over-30 Div. Two championship.
Said Woodcock, Legends’ player-coach: “It was a tough game [and] it took everything we had. I know penalties are a difficult way to go out but overall, based on our season’s performances, our consistency and by beating Kickers 2-0 earlier in the league, I feel we did deserve the title in the end.”
Legends return to Randalls Island Field 75 at 11 a.m. this Sunday in pursuit of a league and cup double. They tackle a combined Kickers Premier/Manhattan Kickers Over-30 side in the Harry Saunders Cup final.
This after the Kicker “all stars” edged New York Ukrainians 2-1 in the semis the previous Thursday. Giland Bloom set up Andy Stern [30th] for the first goal and then nabbed the winner when the latter returned the favor [65th].
SECOND TO NONE
In the curtain raiser to the Atlas-NYAC showdown, Celtic’s David Warwick [70th] got the only goal of the match against Kevin Grogan’s youthful Jersey City Eagles ‘B’ to snatch the First Division Reserve title. John Palladino had the assist.
“Kevin has a good young team there that is maturing nicely and they will be one of the top tier teams in the years ahead. They have all the ingredients, but today was our day, we were not going to let this opportunity slip away from us,” noted Woodcock. “A deserved win in the end. I am extremely proud of both teams and their victories.”
“They were more experienced,” admitted Grogan.
CD Iberia’s 4-1 thrashing of Lansdowne for the Metro One title came just over a week before the June 11 Spain-Ireland international friendly at Yankee Stadium.
“We started off playing our tiki-taka style and we created a few chances in the opening minutes but nothing dangerous. Lansdowne were playing their long ball style and an early mistake gave them a clear chance on net which they missed,” said David Lago.
Tiki-taka [the short, quick passing game best exemplified by Barcelona] would eventually prevail with a quick brace by Antonio “Roman” Trillo [35th, 40th] giving Iberia a 2-0 half time lead. Chiki Vazquez assisted on both goals, the second following a classic spell of Iberia possession that included at least 15 touches.
Damian Mascall pulled one back but from the spot [62nd] but straight from the restart, sub Alex “Kun” Dominguez would restore Iberia’s two-goal cushion with his first touch of the ball. Chiki had the assist again.
Lansdowne kept fighting but Abdula Begai would deliver the coup de grace [85th] with a 30-yard chip from a Cristian “El Machete” Sande ball.
Lansdowne coach Marty Griffin, who led the Bhoys to the Metro One division title in the West, graciously conceded defeat to the East table-toppers.
“On another day it could have been different,” he said. “[We] should have had a stonewall penalty at 0-0, but take nothing away from Iberia they’re a good footballing side and deserved the win.”
“It was a total team effort as our backline stood strong and our midfield held it together,” said Iberia’s Lago. “If I had to signal anybody out, our three stars of the game were Trillo, Chiki and Sande who played great.”
He added: “Hats off to Lansdowne who put up a good fight and who were unlucky on a couple of chances that skipped wide of the post. A big thanks to our fans and sponsors as we had a decent showing on the sideline.
“It has been a great season and it was our goal to win it and now on to Second Division where we will look to bring our brand of tiki-taka style.”
On Travers Island, NYAC’s reserves blanked Second Division Shamrock 3-0 to reach the League Cup final.
“It was blazing hot and our plan was to use our bench and drain the energy out of them,” coach Bill Saporito explained NYAC’s strategy. “Shamrock were pretty much spent by the second half, although they played hard.”
Ryan Kneipper [35th] opened the scoring and after NYAC goalie Dave McKeon had denied the Irishmen with a double save, Shamrock would proceed to shoot themselves in the foot by conceding an own goal. It came off a free kick by Mike Rueda. Kneipper went up with one of their defenders who inadvertently deflected the ball into his own net.
“The game got stretched immediately and we really had a number of chances to finish them off,” said Saporito. “Brian Kuritzky finally did that about 70 minutes in. We then bounced a penalty kick off the post and across goal, but it didn’t matter.”
“Our reward is a game against the CPR first team! We’ll be ready,” vowed the coach.
That game will be played 1 p.m. this Sunday on Randalls Island Field 75.