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Lower League Round-Up: May 27, 2022

A new women’s club launches in Kearny, Gideon Baah settles in at Motown, Hoboken secures silverware, and more…

Kearny-based women’s club Paisley Athletic FC has played its first games.
Photo by Nets Republic

It’s a pretty good time to be a soccer fan in the local area. The New York Red Bulls are advancing in the U.S. Open Cup and the Major League Soccer season is still building to a mid-way point. But at the other end of the spectrum the amateur leagues are in flux. For a few of the locals their league seasons are nearing an end and champions are set to be crowned. Meanwhile the national amateur leagues are just getting started with their summer seasons.

Over the past week, a number of big events took place. A new pro-am women’s team from a soccer hotbed played its first home game at a new level. Meanwhile, a former Red Bulls player managed his second game as a head coach that coincided with a team anniversary. Finally, the Eastern Premier Soccer League (EPSL) is gaining new teams in more ways than one.

Read all about it below:

Paisley Athletic Debuts in UWS Division 1

On Friday, May 20 Paisley Athletic FC took the field at Kearny High School already accomplishing a major feat. In front of about 250 spectators, including a plethora of young girl academy players, made its debut in the first division of United Women’s Soccer (UWS).

While the UWS isn’t directly sanctioned by U.S. Soccer due to its pro–am (professional-amateur) status, the league is one of the highest caliber leagues in the country available to women’s soccer players. That makes Paisley the highest tier women’s team to ever compete out of Kearny, New Jersey, better known colloquially as “Soccertown USA”.

The final result saw Paisley fall, 1-0, to Lancaster Inferno FC (Pennsylvania) off a great goal by Taylor Mentzer. Against a well-established team like Inferno, who won the East Conference in both 2018 & 2019, Paisley showed promise. The new side struggled to get out of their own end consistently but a healthy defense held back Lancaster for about 80 minutes. Paisley’s ability to get balls into the final third, especially after drives up the wing, was a sticking point and meant looks on net weren’t common.

That didn’t matter to the crowd though. Free admission and appearances from NY/NJ Gotham FC stars Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris filled two of Kearny High’s concrete stands with plenty more standing along the top.

The town is nothing short of soccer crazy. Consider the fact that three U.S. Men’s National Team players (Tab Ramos, Tony Meola, and John Harkes) all came up playing soccer in Kearny together. Even as recently as last October, both the boys and girls soccer teams from Kearny High won Hudson County titles at Red Bull Arena. The Kardinals’ boys team even went on to win the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Section 1, Group 4 championship and Group 4 overall championship later that fall (a record 33rd state championship).

Paisley returns to action next Saturday, June 4, on the road against Coppermine United (Baltimore, MD). The team’s next game at Kearny High will be the following Friday, June 10, where they’ll once again host Lancaster with a 7:00 PM kickoff time.

Those looking for a deeper dive into Paisley should check out last week’s article by Jenna Tonelli on All For XI.

Gideon Baah Falls in Home Coaching Debut with FC Motown

Coming off a successful U.S. Open Cup run, FC Motown looked to make an impact to start the 2022 National Premier Soccer League season. Under new head coach Gidean Baah, the side fell, 3-2, in a heated rematch (literally and figuratively) against West Chester United SC on Saturday, May 21, at Drew University.

The last time these two teams met was in the Open Cup first round this past March. After the Pennsylvania team won the original game 3-2 in extra time, it was revealed a substitution error occurred late in the game. A controversial replay saw Motown advance, 1-0, as they went on to reach the third round of the competition and win $25,000.

On Saturday, the two teams reiterated why they are some of the best in the country. After taking an early lead off a Danny Cordeiro goal, West Chester responded two minutes later with a Ndeh Tima header to make it 1-1 in the 12th minute.

The heat beat down on both teams but the visitors took control in the second half. Harrison Coron and Dominick Bachstein both netted goals to put the lead out of reach for the Morristown side. Assane Ben Fall got one goal back for Motown in the 74th.

Under Baah, who replaced Šaćir Hot as Motown’s NPSL head coach in early May, the team is 1-1-0 (WDL) to start the season. The former New York Red Bulls and Ghana national team player previously played with Motown during this year’s Open Cup run.

Ironically, the match took place on the sixth anniversary of the “Red Wedding” against NYCFC. Baah played a role in that 7-0 scoreline, collecting the final tally in the 89th minute.

His team’s next game is against FC Monmouth on Sunday, May 29 at Montclair State University Soccer park. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 PM.

Hoboken FC 1912 Wins Cosmopolitan Soccer League D1 Title

Hoboken FC 1912, one of the oldest continuously operating soccer teams in the United States, made history on Sunday afternoon. After wrapping up a 7-0 win over Stal Mielec NY at Laurel Hill Park (Secaucus, NJ), the team clinched the Cosmopolitan Soccer League Division 1 championship.

Despite being a founding member of the historic New York City league, being the only team to play every season since 1923, this is only Hoboken’s second league title. The previous one came nearly forty years ago during the 1984–85 season.

“It has certainly been a long, difficult season,” Hoboken head coach Steve Korfiatis said in an email. “The competition in the Cosmo League has increased exponentially over the past few years and winning the championship is an extremely difficult feat for any team. In the end, we were the more consistent team over the course of the season and it showed in the results throughout the course of the year and reflectant in the standings.”

With a record of 16-3-2 (WDL) and 51 points, the title race came down to four teams down the stretch. Defending champion New York Shamrock SC started the year slow but mounted a comeback in the spring to launch into the top four. Staten Island-based Richmond County FC, bolstered by professional caliber talent such as former New York Cosmos’ star Bljedi Bardic, were a constant in the top spot but struggled against other big teams. Finally, last season’s Division 2 champion Borgetto FC nearly made it two titles in as many seasons but instead will finish in second place.

As Division 1 champion, Hoboken now has the choice to seek promotion into the Eastern Premier Soccer League’s (EPSL) Metropolitan Conference. If accepted, the team will play against the champion of the Garden State Soccer League’s Super Division. If both the New Jersey league’s champion and runner-up decline promotion, Hoboken will automatically be promoted into the EPSL.

If Hoboken declines, the CSL Division 1 runner-up Borgetto will be given the choice to replace the relegated New Amsterdam FC II in the EPSL.

Hoboken wraps up the season on Saturday, June 4 on the road against Kelmendi FC NY. The game will be played at Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus with kickoff set for 8 PM.

EPSL Announces Partnership with South Jersey/Philly League

On Wednesday, the Eastern Premier Soccer League announced it has entered a partnership with the Philadelphia/South Jersey CASA Soccer League. Moving forward, the two groups will establish a new lower division that will compete for promotion into the EPSL’s Delaware River conference.

It joins the New York-based Long Island Soccer Football League (LISFL) as new feeder partner for the EPSL. Existing feeder leagues include the historic Cosmopolitan Soccer League, the Maryland Majors Soccer League, and the New Jersey based Garden State Soccer League.

Starting later this year, teams from South Jersey and Philadelphia, along with others from Lehigh Valley and Delaware, will have the chance to compete for promotion into the EPSL. These teams will compete in a newly formed CASA division with the 2022–23 champion earning direct promotion into the EPSL. The division’s runner-up will also have a chance to jump up, competing in a promotional playoff against the last place Delaware Valley team from that season.

CASA, which is Spanish for “House”, has been around since 2005 and has grown into a large-scale operation. The association helps organize competitive and recreational soccer in the Philadelphia area and houses nearly 300 teams across various age groups.

“We are looking forward to creating a new Sunday 11v11 division to feed into the EPSL,” CASA President Nolan Bair said in the official announcement. “CASA and EPSL hold similar values; a system based on sporting merit can achieve so much in a short period of time. We want to continue to provide opportunities for players, coaches, and clubs in our Philadelphia area that want to aspire to that level, while still maintaining our traditional structure. We believe the way to do that is to branch out and provide a space to play in this historic association of leagues.”

A quick refresher on how the EPSL works for those unaware. The league, which runs from fall to spring, is a regional amateur competition with multiple conferences around the east coast. What sets the EPSL apart from other large leagues is that it enters into agreements with other local amateur organizations, which then become “feeder leagues” for respective EPSL conferences.

Those feeder league’s champions can be promoted into the EPSL itself. Meanwhile, teams that finish last in the EPSL are relegated into respective feeder leagues. So if a New York team finishes last in the EPSL’s Metropolitan Conference, it would be relegated to the NY-based Cosmopolitan Soccer League. Meanwhile, the CSL champion and the Garden State champion would play one-another for promotion into the EPSL.

A final note about this CASA announcement. All the teams in this new division will now be eligible to compete in state cup competitions as well as U.S. Open Cup qualifying.