Cedar Stars Academy and the New York Pancyprian Freedoms kick-off the second half in their 2020 U.S. Open Cup Qualifying match on Sunday, October 20 (Credit: Michael Battista - TheCup.us)
After one weekend, what started with three teams is down to one as both Lansdowne Yonkers FC and Cedar Stars Academy fell in their attempts to qualifying for the 2020 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament. The New York Pancyprian Freedoms, the three-time tournament champions, are now the sole Cosmopolitan Soccer League team left in the qualifying tournament as the group seeks its 5th berth in the modern era (1996-present).
The Freedoms now sit on the edge of a spot in the largest and oldest soccer tournament in the United States. It will need to win at least one more game in November (and possibly another in December) if it wants to join teams from Major League Soccer, USL Championship, the National Premier Soccer League, and more.
Here’s how they got there and how the other two fell:
Saturday, October 19:
West Chester United (United Soccer League of Pennsylvania) vs Lansdowne Yonkers FC
The Bhoys of Lansdowne Yonkers FC will not be returning to the U.S. Open Cup for a third time in 2020. The team was beaten, 4-2, on the road by West Chester United, a group that competes in both the lower leagues of Pennsylvania and the National Premier Soccer League.
With the loss, the Werner Fricker Amateur Open Cup winners will return to CSL play with a qualifying record of 1-1 this year. Assistant coach William McGrory said afterwards that the team, which had to travel over two hours to get to West Chester, was missing some of its key players and expected the tough challenge regardless.
“With a depleted squad it was always going to be a tough test against one of the best amateur teams out there,” McGrory said in the official game report. “Both teams did well but it was West Chester who were the more clinical in front of goal.”
The team went down after a half an hour to the home team but equalized not long after when Bala Danso converted a great chance in the 36th minute. West Chester took over the rest of the game, with Andrew Bishop scoring to close the first half and later 67th. Dean Dillon scored his third goal for the Bhoys’ qualifying run in the 89th cutting the lead to one but WCU scored right after the restart and let the clock run out.
West Chester will continue its qualifying run as it looks to take part in back-to-back tournaments after reaching the second round of the 2019 edition of the U.S. Open Cup.
Sunday, October 20:
Cedar Stars Academy (CSA Westchester in tournament logs) vs New York Pancyprian Freedoms (0-2)
In a rematch of the 2019 Division 1 Championship game, The New York Pancyprian Freedoms once again took the win over Cedar Stars Academy, 2-0, and advanced to the third qualifying for the 2020 tournament. With the win on a rainy day in Mahwah, NJ, the Freedoms will be in the third round for the second straight year.
The team’s deep history in the USOC, which includes former player Jeffrey Matteo being tied for second in assists all-time in the tournament, helps fuel its desire to make it once again. Team captain Andreas Chronis also knows how much it means to players looking to show they can play on the big stage.
“For us, the objective is to go as far as we could and to play as well as we could,”Chronis said. “Today our coach [Stratis Mastrokyriakos] said that ‘we actually played soccer today, we enjoyed the game and we were out there fighting.’ That’s what we want to do win or lose and as we keep going forward we just want to show that we can play soccer with any team out there.”
Adam Himeno’s goal in the 65th minute, off a cross from Chronis on the left side, was the only score the team would need. Cedar Stars struggle to make meaningful runs into the opposing end combined with a red card limiting their players spelled disaster for the defending two-time D1 finalists in their debut tournament qualification.
Despite being the better offensive team throughout the game, the Freedoms struggled to get close to the net early in the match and played long ball. Multiple times shots from beyond the penalty area were easily caught by keeper Derby Carrillo. For the Stars, passing around and using the wings allowed the home team to burst into the other end of the field but the group struggled to get shots on goal at all.
A key player on that wing attack for Cedar Star was Maxi Garcia, whose speed and long ball accuracy has been invaluable to the team both this season and since he’s joined the team. The winger provided a key assist in the previous round when he assisted Chris Katona on his team’s opening goal against the Jackson Lions.
When a red card in the 27th minute cut Garcia’s day short under a half an hour into the game, the loss of him on the wing turned out to be a huge problem. Garcia was shown a red card following an altercation with a Freedoms’ player where the two made a standing collision while going for the ball. The two began mouthing off to one another and before the referee could reach them, the Stars winger made contact with the midfielders’ face with a slap / open handed punch resulting in his ejection.
Stars’ team manager Oliver Papraniku tried to make his case that the Freedoms player also made contact with Garcia, meaning both players should be ejected, but it went nowhere.
The game progressed and despite the same great passing and team play from the Freedoms, the lack of both an 11th man, a full bench of subs, and increasingly worse rain began to take its toll. The Himeno goal seemed to be inevitable and a final kick from second half substitute Nicholas Psarras in the 90+4 minute saw the final whistle.
The team will now travel up to Massachusetts next month to face Brockton United FC of the Bay State Soccer League. After that, the winner of that game will almost certainly face the winner of the West Chester United vs Vereinigung Erzgebirge game in December should U.S. Soccer announce the need for a fourth round of qualifying.
[READ ADDITIONAL COVERAGE OF THIS GAME ON THECUP.US: HERE]