By Ralph 'Onz' Chery
Nov. 16th, 2018
They beat their rivals Lansdowne Yonkers F.C. after losing to them for two straight seasons to stay alive in the qualifiers this year, hold the best record in the CSL after beating the unbeatable Cedar Stars Academy and if they don’t make it, they won’t play in any national cup this season as they’re already out of the Werner Fricker Cup and the National Amateur Cup.
2019 has to be NY Pancyprian Freedoms’ year to return to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, right? Well they’re close to making it, they're 90 minutes away or 120 minutes plus penalty kicks away, or never-going-to-happen case scenario, are a forfeit win away.
Their opponents will be a young and energic club from Pennsylvania, West Chester Predators, in a home fixture at St. John's University Belson Stadium on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The Freedoms' quest to the Open Cup started with as mentioned a sweet avenging 4-0 win over Lansdowne.
NY Pancyprian Freedoms suffered two straight losses to Lansdowne Yonkers F.C. in the Open Cup qualifiers before besting them in the opening round this year. Picture by Dinos Avlonitis
Interestingly enough, their match in the second round versus a less prominent side than Lansdowne, but one of the strongest clubs in New Jersey, Jackson Lions was much tougher. The game ended in a 0-0 draw when the Queens based club hit 27 shots past the Lions' defense after two added extra-time periods.
Keeper Hector Guerrero notched two saves in the penalty shootout to guide the Cypriot club to a 3-1 PK win over Jackson.
Next and final test is the encounter with West Chester. Just as Lansdowne and the Lions, the Pennsylvanian club also has a lucrative resume.
The Predators play in the United Soccer League of Pennsylvania, in which they currently hold a 5-0-0 record and in the NPSL. They finished the last NPSL season in third place in the Keystone Conference Division and were the only team that defeated NPSL finalists F.C. Motown during the regular season, slimming past them, 1-1.
The Predators reached the qualifying stages of the Open Cup after winning the Werner Fricker Open Cup. The club was also the finalist of the National Amateur Cup, losing to Milwakee Bavarians.
Despite the Predators’ past success, NY Pancyprians central midfielder Jeff Matteo expressed that his side is well prepared to vanquish them.
"We have done a great job so far finding ways to win some difficult games," Matteo said. "The league has continued to improve in quality which helps us prepare for these kinds of games. We have some great additions this offseason and they have stepped up well. We are confident going into Saturday that we can win."
NY Pancyprian Freedoms midfielder Jeff Matteo. Picture by Devaughn Clasp
Outside of the Open Cup qualifiers, NYPF holds the best record in the CSL, registering six wins and one tie.
Nevertheless, the club was knocked out of two of the three cup competitions they registered in this season, falling to Lansdowne in PKs after a 0-0 draw in their last match on Wednesday in the National Amateur Cup and to NY Greek Americans, 3-0, in the Fricker Cup. The other cup they're competing in is the Manning State Cup, in which they clinched the semifinals after a 7-0 victory over LISFL club NY Serbia.
One player who has been huge for the three-time Open Cup champions this season is Grenada international Shavon John-Brown. He leads them in scoring in the league with five goals, which includes a brace versus defensive powerhouse Cedar Stars, and saved the club from losing in the league with an 88th minute tying-goal versus Central Park Rangers on Oct. 28th.
The Freedoms will be without the services of the 23-year-old as he is not in the team's Open Cup qualifiers roster. John-Brown will more than likely play for his NPSL club Brooklyn Italians in the Open Cup.
The last two times NY Pancyprians were without the Grenadian they went scoreless. John-Brown missed the club's 0-0 draw with Lansdowne on Wednesday as he is away due to his commitment to Grenada and the Freedoms' last Open Cup qualifier, which ended 0-0 as well versus the Lions.
"Shavon will be missed but players have to step up and perform," Matteo said. "It’s an opportunity for others to step up and make a difference. We’ve been getting goals from many players this season. Adam Himeno and Lukas Ostermann will be up front for us and will hopefully come up with some big goals."
Himeno leads the Freedoms in scoring in the Open Cup qualifiers, netting a brace versus the Bhoys in the first round and is the team's second top scorer in the CSL.
NY Pancyprian Freedoms midfielder Adam Himeno in a match versus NY Greek Americans. Picture by Dinos Avlonitis
As far as stopping their opponents from scoring, NY Pancyprians has done a phenomenal job, they haven’t conceded a goal yet in the Open Cup qualifiers and is the best defensive team in the CSL, allowing eight goals in seven matches.
West Chester hasn't conceded a goal either in the qualifiers. In their road to the third round, they edged Vereinigung Erzgebirge, 1-0, before blanking Ukrainian Nationals, 3-0, in the next round.
Saturday’s meeting will be the first time the two clubs will play each other.