While the plethora of soccer to watch this summer might seem overwhelming by this point, adding some local flavor to the pile never hurts. The second edition of the NISA Independent Cup began last weekend with 12 matches over three days, including the debuts of new professional teams and great performances from amateur clubs that are both nationally recognized or just getting started.
Included in that pile of 24 teams were multiple tri-state clubs looking to stand out among the fierce competition. In a battle between two regional powerhouses on Saturday, Lansdowne Yonkers FC held back reigning National Amateur Cup champion Newtown Pride FC, 2-1, in both team’s opening match of the competition in the New England Region.
Both sides recently added silverware to their resumes. Lansdowne is just coming off winning the Eastern Premier Soccer League (EPSL) Metropolitan Conference regular season and clinching a spot in the league playoffs. The Bhoys also recently won both the USASA Region I Amateur Cup and Region I Werner Fricker Open Cup, the second time the team has accomplished the double in five years and earned berths in both tournament’s national finals later this year. The Pride meanwhile won their seventh consecutive Connecticut Soccer League Championship late last month and are one of the two amateur teams selected for the (as-of-now) postponed 2021 U.S. Open Cup.
Following a last minute venue change to Yonkers’ Fleming Field the Bhoys and Newtown came out swinging with both groups having plenty of good looks on net.
The defending National Amateur Cup champions attempt to play a very wide game with varying degrees of success, using long passes and the full length of the field to try and put off Yonkers. Meanwhile, a stout game from keeper Abdoukarim “Kabo” Danso in net and tight work from the midfield ensured the NYC power was not going to be outplayed easily.
Yonkers went up in the 35th minute when an Andrew Sousa corner was crossed in the direction of forward Shamir Mullings at the near post. Thinking quickly, he redirected it into the box where former Rochester Rhinos’ midfielder Sean Reilly headed in past the Newtown keeper.
“It was a bullet header, a beautiful move by Lansdowne… and it just left (Newtown out of place),” said Lansdowne’s honorary president and ESPN soccer analyst Tommy Smyth, who could only follow up that goal in one way while acting as match commentator.
“And what a bulge of the old onion bag that was,” he said, probably with a smile on his face and much to the ire of anyone who watched the Champions League on ESPN years ago.
In the second half, it looked like Lansdowne would double their lead in the 53rd when Pat McCann sniped a curved shot around a blocking defender from the top of the penalty area. The ball had the keeper beat but it slammed off the post with one of the loudest, most unsatisfying clunks I’ve ever heard. It ended up being a moot point though when a slew of defensive errors allowed the Lansdowne front line to break multiple Newtown ankles two minutes later. Mullings put in the game winner with at least two of the visitors on the ground.
Newtown pulled one back in the 76th minute when a cross from the right side was knocked in by one of their charging players in front of the net just as the team began to push and create more chances. Before the equalizer could come though the final whistle blew giving Lansdowne the win and the lead in the region.
Lansdowne’s next match will be this Saturday (July 17) when they visit NISA side New Amsterdam FC, which will be playing it’s first match of the competition.
On the same day in the Mid-Atlantic Region Atlantic City FC of the National Premier Soccer League became the first local to be involved in an upset, though not in the way they had hoped. On the road the men from Monopoly City fell to Allentown United FC of the United Premier Soccer League, 2-1, despite a late game push. An errant back pass in the 22nd minute by an AC player slipped past keeper Zack Matick putting the visitors down 1-0. United’s Jose Avila put the game out of reach in the 49th minute when he capitalized off a rebound, lifting his team to three points in the round robin competition despite an 82nd minute goal by ACFC to cut the lead in half.
City’s next game in the competition will be on Sunday, July 18 against Steel Pulse FC of Baltimore. The Charm City team recently finished atop the EPSL’s Mid-Atlantic table and held NISA side Maryland Bobcats FC to a scoreless draw on Saturday.
The Aces recently wrapped up their regular season in the NPSL’s Keystone Conference, going undefeated (8-0-2) and scoring the most goals of any team in their conference (31). Their league season is scheduled to continue with a local derby this Friday as they host third seed FC Motown in the conference semifinals.
(For more regular coverage of Atlantic City FC be sure to follow Brotherly Game)