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OaM Lower League Round-Up: August 12, 2021

Lansdowne adds another massive piece of silverware to their collection while multiple other local clubs found success this past week

Lansdowne Yonkers secured a national title in Chicago over the weekend.
Photo by Patrick Murphy

Last weekend saw three Tri State Area teams win four trophies. Two national titles and two regional cups are coming home to Gotham after several long, pandemic-strained competitions came to an end. For some it was the culmination of months of long work and a harsh weekend of games. Others hope it’s just the beginning of a long and storied history for their teams.

Lansdowne Yonkers win 2021 National Amateur Cup

This is the second time the team has won the cup after a 2017 triumph. The win secures Yonkers a spot in the 2022 U.S. Open Cup and $7,000 in prize money.

Speaking to OaM, club president William McGrory said this trophy has been a long time coming. Long before the pandemic, the work started on a field in Glendale, Wisconsin after the team’s previous title.

“It’s an amazing achievement considering what we have won already this season,” he said. “It’s something we have aspired to do since our first one in 2017. This is not an accident. There is a plan implemented and an enormous amount of hard work required by the coaches and players.”

The championship came after a grueling two game weekend at SeatGeek Stadium’s turf fields. Lansdowne, representing Region I of the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA), entered alongside Springfield FC (IL, Region II), Nashville United (TN, Region III), and Cal FC (CA, Region IV).

Against Nashville in Friday’s semifinal Lansdowne quickly learned the team from the volunteer state was stacked. The same team has recently seen former New York City FC star Kwadwo Poku and Tampa Bay Rowdies all-time leading scorer Georgi Hristov in its ranks and they came to play with other ex-pros according to McGrory.

Ten minutes into the match former College of the Holy Cross soccer star Joseph DeVivo scored the match’s only goal when his shot deflected off a Nashville player and into the net. Despite constant back and forth, including Nashville owning possession to start the second half, the team pulled through for the narrow win. Meanwhile Cal beat Springfield, 4-2, to set-up a classic LA vs NY final.

Cal, who are best known for beating the Portland Timbers in the Open Cup back in 2012 under USMNT Eric Wynalda, are a major power out west. The team had only been eliminated from the UPSL national quarterfinals two weeks prior and were one of the amateur teams snubbed after they qualified for the 2020 Open Cup.

With under 24 hours to rest for both finalists the match was never going to be pretty. After taking the early game to feel eachother out, Cal struck first in the 30th minute. A cut-in from the right side and quick 180 reversal by forward German Alfaro gave him enough space at the top of the box. The low bouncer to the opposite net got past the diving Kabo Danso and Lansdown trailed heading into the half.

Whatever head coach Sean Kelly told his team during the break struck a nerve because it only took 40 seconds to tie the game. A long cross to the right side was headed by Shamir Mullings towards the opposite post. Former Richmond Kicker trialist Patrick McCann jumped up and popped another header over the keeper’s head. The Bhoys didn’t stop and in the 61st minute were awarded a penalty kick after a McCann shot attempt came off a Cal defender’s hand inside the area. DeVivo’s low conversion from the spot made it two goals in as many games for him.

The rest of the match was hectic as both teams fought valiantly. Cal earned a late spark when DeVivo earned a second yellow in extra time for decent (aka talking mad shit to the referee). The west coast side had two chances against the ten remaining New Yorkers but as the final one trickled wide right the final whistle blew.

“The entire team was superb,” McGrory said. “Johan Mauritzon, Bala Danso and Kabo Danso (were) outstanding, supported by Sean Reilly and Stephen Elias. Veterans Pat McCann and Daryl Kavanagh did well. Shamir Mullings was carrying an injury but did well when he was involved.

Huge team performance and from our two young first year coaches Sean Kelly and Craig Purcell.”

(Fun note: After the match Cal went on Twitter and called out USASA’s president by claiming the match was rigged against them)

What’s even crazier to believe is that while Lansdowne was winning in the Chicago suburbs, a draw in Newtown, CT cemented the team’s seventh trophy of 2021. The 2-2 final between Newtown Pride FC and fellow EPSL member Mass United Rush meant the national champions were also NISA Independent Cup New England Region champions.

There is at least one more trophy for Yonkers to win in 2021. The Bhoys will head to Washington, Michigan later this month to take part in the USASA Champion of Regions with three other teams. The winner of these nationals will win the USASA Werner Fricker Cup, a trophy that seeks to honor the semi-professional and amateur teams within the association.

Lansdowne is the defending champions after winning in 2019. The team also had a double back in 2017 winning both the Natty and Fricker.

McGrory isn’t sure where this puts his guys in terms of national records but in terms of success, even with the results now, it’s the most successful calendar year in club history.

“This (year) even outdoes 2017 when we picked up five cups, we have the Fricker cup in two weeks time and remember we are the current Champion of Regions so we could potentially do the back-to-back, and I think (we’d be) the first club who would complete a second national double title.”

The team plays Ann Arbor FC (MI) on August 20. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 PM.

New York Contour Capture UPSL National Championship

While one New York team beat a California club for a title another one wrapped up an undefeated season in The Golden State. New York Contour United won the United Premier Soccer League Spring 2021 National Championship by defeating East Valley United PRO, 2-1, in Irvine, CA on Sunday.

The Garden City, New York club is the first team from the state to win the league, which has been expanding out of the west since it started in 2011. Contour’s head coach Christian Turizo spoke to OaM following the match and explained just how much the honor meant to the nearly four year old team.

“It feels rewarding after everything we’ve worked for these past six months,” he said. “We’ve all sacrificed family time to make it to practice and games, that’s why this championship feels special. Representing New York nationally and showing everyone some of the many talented players we have in the communities was our goal.

“We became a family, starting from our president (Nelson J. Rodriguez) all the way down to our equipment manager. We became stronger every day, the dream to become a national champion became a reality and today we celebrate not only within the club but at home with our loved ones that supported us nonstop, day in and day out.”

Like Lansdowne, Contour’s path to the final began on Friday in a national semifinal. Against Southeast Region champion Florida Tropics it only took three minutes for Honduran striker Rances “Torito” Reneau to find the back of the net. A pass into the middle separated two defenders and the sliding keeper failed to keep the shot out. An own goal and header by Juan Alava closed out the final five minutes of the half.

“We scored an early goal and that unbalanced the Tropics, I don’t think they were expecting (three unanswered goals) in the first 45 minutes,” Turizo said about the 2019 Spring national champions. “We took advantage of the lead and played a more possession-based game in the second half.”

Despite the more even second half and Florida pulling back three goals, scores from Erick Turcios and José Nájera sealed the 5-2 win. Nájera in particular might have scored the goal of the nationals when his shot from 48 yards out sailed past the jumping Tropics’ keeper.

The national final on Sunday against Western Region champion East Valley United was a game between two highly offensive teams. East Valley, who knocked off Central Region Cinderella Boise Cutthroats FC 7-2, pushed Contour into an aggressive game. Ten yellow cards between the two teams and countless fouls.

Again Contour scored multiple goals in the final minutes of the first half. A great passing sequence allowed Reneau to open the scoring yet again in the 39th minute. Right after East Valley resumed the game they were challenged and immediately lost the ball. Oscar Rivas helped lead an attack down the left side, including a great back-pass into the corner, before a goal-line pass to Reneau got him his second goal in the 40th minute.

A 65th minute goal by East Valley gave the Arizona side hope but the compact play mixed with the physicality from both teams did not allow either to stay clinical for long. Contour held on to win both the trophy and $20,000 in prize money.

The work isn’t over for Contour though who have big plans they’d like to see develop over the next few years. The team will be sitting out the Fall UPSL season but Turizo explained it will continue to play in local leagues and are hoping to start an academy by the end of the year.

“We are aiming for NISA Pro in 2023, we have to prepare to be able to perform at a higher level,” he said. “The U.S. Open Cup is definitely in our plans.”

The recently crowned National Premier Soccer League champions Denton Diablos FC have already teased/proposed a match against Contour.

New Jersey Alliance FC Wins UPSL American Cup

While the two national championships might be the headliners one more local side won silverware last weekend. Lynhurst based New Jersey Alliance FC won the inaugural UPSL American Cup on Saturday over Sure Sports FC (Maryland), 4-1.

Former New Amsterdam FC striker Michael Bello scored twice during the match at Athenia Steel Park. Former New York Red Bulls academy product Malik Stewart and Chris McLaughlin both netted one goal each in the dominant display.

Both Bello and Stewart recently played for FC Motown in the NPSL & USL League Two respectively. The game also marks Bello’s second title match where he scored a goal following Motown’s Keystone Conference Final win over FC Monmouth last month.

The cup is a recent creation of the UPSL and part of a larger regional cup initiative. The 11 team tournament featured representatives from four nearby states who are able to play competitive matches between the Spring and Fall league seasons.

Alliance will be awarded the trophy in a few weeks when they open the Fall Season in UPSL’s Fall Season. The team’s first UPSL silverware also netted them $2000 in prize money.

Manhattan Celtic Joins Eastern Premier Soccer League

After an outstanding season last year, Manhattan Celtic became the first team to earn a spot in the Eastern Premier Soccer League via promotion on Tuesday.

Celtic finished 2nd in the 2020/21 Cosmopolitan Soccer League Division 1 table with a record of 18-3-1 and a goal differential of +53. Despite finishing one point behind champions New York Shamrock SC the Rocks declined the option to seek promotion, opening the door for Manhattan to advance.

“This gives us Manhattan Celtic an opportunity to go up a level as we continue to strive to become a bigger club,” head coach Matt Kane said in a phone conference. “We are ready for more challenges, and it was with that in mind that we were able to work hard to be promoted to a very like minded league that will allow us to grow even further.”

Kane, who also recently joined the coaching staff of USL League Two side Ocean City Nor’easters, will need to prepare his squad quickly. The EPSL season is expected to start in early September.