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OaM Lower League Round-Up: July 29, 2020

Lansdowne secures title while Motown season ends in heartache

Lansdowne Yonkers secured silverware over the weekend.
Photo by William McGrory

To keep it brief, last Sunday from start to finish was all about the little guys. Starting with a league championship between a former U.S. Open Cup champion and a regional power, that was followed up with two teams battling to reach the national semifinals in their respective leagues. It almost makes me forget about what happened Sunday night against D.C. United.

Almost, but not fully.

Regardless the full recap of everything else that happened last weekend is below:

Lansdowne Wins Inaugural EPSL Championship

The first match on Sunday saw Lansdowne Yonkers FC win the first-ever Eastern Premier Soccer League Championship, 2-0, over New York Pancyprian Freedoms. The silverware is the latest in an unprecedented season for the Bhoys who are continuing to set the standard when it comes to lower league dominance.

Former Richmond Kickers’ midfielder Patrick McCann got Lansdowne on the board around 30 minutes in. A poorly cleared corner landed at the former New York Red Bulls II trialists’ feet which he calmly chipped into the right side of the net with the Freedom’s keeper failing to even try and stop it.

The game sealer also came from a former professional. English journeyman Shamir Mullings, whose former teams include Forest Green Rovers (League Two), headed in Lansdowne’s second goal just before the 60th minute. From there the backline and goalkeeper Abdoukarim “Kabo” Danso held on for the clean sheet and another title.

The team had won the regular season title in the EPSL’s Metropolitan Conference to earn its place in the league playoffs over the weekend. The other three teams competing were all top representatives of each of the EPSL’s three conferences and the final four took place at Capelli Sports Complex in Monmouth County, NJ. Yonkers’ beat Baltimore’s DMV Rangers FC, 4-1, in Friday night’s semifinal to reach the championship game.

DMV had only won the Mid-Atlantic Conference championship earlier that week after the previous title game, between two other teams, was protested. That meant fourth place DMV and third place NoVa FC played in a “behind closed doors” championship that was decided by penalty kicks. Reading about stuff like this makes GAM and TAM issues seem like child’s play.

The trophy is Lansdowne’s fifth in the calendar year. It joins the 2021 Eastern New York State Soccer Association (ENYSSA) Amateur Cup, 2021 USASA Region I Amateur Cup, 2021 USASA Region I Werner Fricker Cup, and the aforementioned conference regular season title.

Club president William McGrory told OaM that his team has battled through a lot this past year just to get back on the field, but they know there are still important games down the road.

“Delighted to win the inaugural EPSL championship,” McGrory said. “Hardworking and a dedicated group of players got it done (on Sunday). Now onto (two) national finals in August!”

Yonkers will now head for Chicago’s Seatgeek Stadium in two weeks where they will challenge for the National Amateur Cup. Coincidentally, RBNY heads to the Windy City that same weekend to play the Chicago Fire so here’s hoping for some road fans to stop by.

They’ll play in a semifinal match between one of the other regional champions on August 6, with both a third place and championship match the next day. The team previously won the title back in 2017 and a repeat win this year would earn the Bhoys the cup, $15,000, and an automatic first round spot in the 2022 U.S. Open Cup.

Additionally, Yonkers also has the Werner Fricker Open Cup later in the month (think of it as the Europa League equivalent to the Amateur Cup) plus they are also still fighting to win the NISA Independent Cup’s New England Region.

Contour United Wins East Region, Reaches UPSL National Semifinals

The undefeated season of New York Contour United continued on Sunday afternoon. The Garden City, NY side defeated Minneapolis City SC 2, 2-0, in Michigan to clinch a trip to the United Premier Soccer League’s national finals next month. The win also secured the team’s third trophy this season with the East Region title joining the Northeast Conference and American Division titles.

First half goals from Oscar Rivas and José Nájera lifted Contour past City 2, who also went undefeated this season on route to the Midwest Conference title.

The first 45 minutes saw Contour take control and only a few moments late in the game saw any challenge to that. While both teams allowed some of the fewest goals across the whole league during the regular season, City’s offense was unable to make up the difference. Constant cut-off passes and an inability to get past backline players, especially Juan Alava, spelt the Crows downfall.

Misery loves company though since City’s first team also lost in the NPSL’s Midwest Region Finals to Cleveland SC on the same day and by the same score.

The UPSL, a huge amateur league with two men’s divisions, will be holding it’s Premier Division national final four in the Los Angeles area during the second weekend of August. The semifinals will be played at LA Galaxy’s Dignity Health Sports Park Track Stadium on Friday, August 6. The UPSL Spring 2021 National Final will be two days later at Championship Soccer Stadium in Irvine.

Penalty Kick Loss Ends Motown’s Season in Baltimore

FC Motown’s playoff run came to an end in the National Premier Soccer League’s East Region Final on Sunday evening. The Morristown squad came back three times against top seed FC Baltimore Christos before a string of missed penalty kicks allowed the Mid-Atlantic side to advance, 3-3 (4:3 via PKs).

Since both teams joined the league in 2018 they’ve collided in the regional playoffs every season with Baltimore now holding the edge with two wins (though this was the first instance a match went to extra time so it could be seen as a record of 1-1-1 for both sides).

The game was always going to be a challenge for Motown who were playing on enemy soil all weekend. As the highest seeded team in the region, Baltimore earned hosting rights for both the semifinal and final. The only reason the boys of Morristown even reached this match was because of a second half comeback against Georgia Revolution FC on Friday, where New York Red Bulls II alum Roy Boateng headed in the game winner in the 90th minute.

Another challenge was Christos’ keeper Michael Zierhoffer who despite letting in three goals came up huge for his side during the 120 minutes and beyond. Four saves early on allowed Baltimore to hold a 1-0 lead, circa a Benjamin Stitz goal (5’), heading into halftime.

Following the break, Šaćir Hot’s group began to garner more momentum as the Christos backline and Zierhoffer faced more challenges. Federico De Oliveira tied the game back up at one each in the 62nd minute only for Christos to respond with another goal five minutes later. A long free kick into the box was headed in by a pressured Jordan Travers to give his team the 2-1 advantage.

What was already a back-and-forth game then turned to absolute chaos in the final ten minutes. With Motown trailing, second half sub Eddy Enowbi snuck in an absolute dribbler past Zierhoffer from the top of the box in the 86th minute to tie the game again. While most teams would just play out the final few minutes neither of these got the memo. Baltimore’s David Harris and Motown’s Orlando Neto both scored goals in the 90th and 94th minute respectively to force extra time in front of an absolutely electric crowd at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) Essex.

After two scoreless extra time halves both teams lined up for penalty kicks. Motown was able to convert it’s first three but failed to make any of its final three. The fifth round attempt by captain Danny Cordeiro would have sent his team through but the low shot plunked off the left post to force the fatal sixth round, where another save by Zierhoffer clinched the result.

Baltimore Christos moves onto the national playoffs for the first time in its history and will host South Region Champion Tulsa Athletic this weekend at home.

NISA Independent Cup Nears Conclusion

Sunday’s match between Lansdowne Yonkers FC and fellow EPSL side Mass United Rush was postponed due to the Bhoys participation in the league playoffs. Interestingly, Northeast Conference champion Mass dropped out of the EPSL playoffs due to the Independent Cup and it’s UPSL playoff run (which came to an end two weeks ago against NY Contour).

The Bhoys still had Independent Cup action on Wednesday night as they defeated New Amsterdam FC, 1-0, at Fleming Field in Yonkers. The match was a first for Lansdowne as this was the first time they had hosted a professional team in a competitive, non-friendly match. While NAFC is still in a rebuilding mode for the upcoming fall National Independent Soccer Association season the group held strong and gave Yonkers a fight.

The lone goal of the match came in the 33rd minute. Former USL player Sean Reilly played the ball down the left side before a high cross into the box slipped past the Amsterdam keeper’s fingers and off the far post. A quick minded Charlie Livingstone tapped the ball in before it could roll anywhere else and put the team up for the rest of the game.

Late in the match as the professionals began to regroup Abdoukarim “Kabo” Danso once again proved his worth in net by making a string of clutch saves. A breakaway chance in the 64th minute saw the Gambian international come out of his net to block the shot before quickly getting up as the ball stayed in play. The rebound was quickly passed in front of the net right into the path of a charging Bljedi Bardic. The former New York Cosmos star slammed a shot toward goal but Kabo pushed it over the bar in probably the moment of the match.

Both teams had other chances on net, especially in the final ten minutes, but Lansdowne held on and now sits at the top of the New England Region table with six points. The team’s makeup group stage match against Mass United will determine if Yonkers takes home another trophy this season. The date, time, and venue for that have not been announced.

NAFC, who also tied Newtown Pride FC, 1-1, last Saturday, sit in third place in the region behind the Bhoys and the Pride.

To make that clear; two amateur teams currently sit higher than a professional team in a group stage competition. Let that sink in.

In the Mid-Atlantic Region, Atlantic City FC (NPSL) fell to Maryland Bobcats FC (NISA), 1-0, in both team’s final match. The result gave Maryland it’s second consecutive regional title in the competition. The loss also followed up ACFC’s loss in the NPSL Keystone Conference semifinal to FC Motown.