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Lower League Round-Up: July 2, 2022

Pancyprian-Freedoms fall in EPSL final and Queensboro reserves secure silverware

New York Pancyprian-Freedoms battle Northern Virginia FC in the 2022 Eastern Premier Soccer League Final
Photo courtesy of Eastern Premier Soccer League

Another week, another lower league round-up to go over the biggest stories from local teams. With summer in full swing a lot of amateur leagues are starting to near their postseasons. National leagues such as the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) and USL League Two are only half a month away from kicking off their conference playoffs. Meanwhile, some leagues have already started their postseasons or possibly finished them.

If you need a break from the New York Red Bulls… I’m not really sure why you’re on OaM but regardless you can read below!

New York Pancyprian falls in EPSL League Final for second straight season

The New York Pancyprian-Freedoms are, without a doubt, one of the city’s greatest soccer teams in terms of lineage. However on Sunday the club once again ran out of gas right at the finish line. A 2-0 loss to Northern Virginia FC (VA) in the Eastern Premier Soccer League (EPSL) final meant a second season of second place honors for the Freedoms.

The three-time U.S. Open Cup champions also lost last year’s final to Lansdowne Yonkers FC. The last time the team won any league honors was pre-pandemic when it won the Cosmopolitan Soccer League Division 1 championship in 2019.

Like last year, the EPSL held its league championship at Capelli Sport Complex in Tinton Fall, New Jersey over one weekend. The four conference champions of the EPSL each played a semifinal on Saturday, June 25 with the winners moving on to Sunday’s final.

The Freedoms, winners of the Metropolitan Conference playoffs, took on Northeast Conference champs Fall River FC in their first match of the weekend. Joseph Holland, formerly of Houston Dynamo, got New York on the board early with a free kick goal in the 6th minute. A foul outside the box gave the Hofstra University graduate a chance to shoot low and through traffic into the back of the net. Fall River tied the game midway through the half with a goal from Gerson Messias, leading to a 1-1 tie at the break.

After a back and forth second half, including a great look on goal for Fall River in the 75th minute, Holland stepped up again for his team. After one of his teammates was taken down in Fall River’s box, Holland converted a penalty kick in the 87th minute to make it 2-1. That final score held and advanced the Freedoms into the final.

Their opponent was Northern Virginia FC, better known as NoVa FC, out of Leesburg, Virginia. The Mid-Atlantic Conference champions crushed Philadelphia side Salone FC, 6-2, in Saturday’s other semifinal. Of the four teams competing for the championship NoVa is the largest considering they also field a team in USL League Two, a far bigger national league compared to the regional EPSL. Not only that, NoVa will also compete for the National Amateur Cup in early August after being crowned the best amateur team in the northeast.

In Sunday’s final neither team had a good look on net until the end of the first half. In the 45th minute, New York’s Matthew Forster got a shot off right to the NoVa keeper who kicked it downfield to a waiting KJ Nadeau. Playing around the defense, his shot from the left side was blocked back into play where AJ Sheta jumped on it. His low shot from the right side squeezed into the near post to make it 1-0. The Freedoms looked close to equalizing multiple times in the final 45 including an early shot by former New York Cosmos’ midfielder Charlie Ledula. Instead, Vagner Marques sealed the result with a goal in the 4th minute of second half stoppage time to give Northern Virginia the EPSL title.

Queensboro FC II wins UPSL Northeast Premier championship

Queensboro FC was supposed to start this season in the second division USL Championship, but pandemic complications pushed the team’s debut back to 2023. While New York City’s newest professional team waits for its time to shine - the amateurs have been hard at work this summer. In fact, the organization’s reserve squad won the organization one of its first pieces of silverware on Saturday.

Queensboro FC II defeated Oyster Bay United FC, 3-1, to win the United Premier Soccer League’s American Premier Division championship. Goals from Joshua Saavedra, Damien Barker John, and Jonathan Santillan pushed QFC to the win at Aviator Sport and Events Center in Brooklyn. Saavedra spent the last two seasons with Inter Miami II (then known as Fort Lauderdale CF) in USL League One. Santillan has been in the LA Galaxy’s academy system since 2019.

Queensboro II began play this season in the UPSL’s Northeast Conference and immediately put the league on notice. After finishing the regular season in first place with an 8-1-1 record the team crushed #5 Philadelphia Lone Star FC, 6-1, in the semifinals.

With the win the team moves on to the league’s premier division national playoffs. They’ll take on Santa Cruz FC (Lowell, MA), the champions of the New England Division, on July 9th. An interesting thing to remember is that UPSL, as a U.S. Soccer affiliate, is going to be allotted automatic berths into the 2023 U.S. Open Cup. Depending on how spots are awarded, Queensboro II might be taking part.

New York Red Bulls to host Sacramento Republic FC in U.S. Open Cup Final…if both teams win

These articles are not supposed to talk about Major League Soccer. However, last week U.S. Soccer held the hosting draw for both the semifinals and final of the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. While the Red Bulls won’t be hosting Orlando City in the next round, they are in line to possibly host the only non-Division 1 team left in the competition.

Sacramento Republic FC of the USL Championship and Orlando City SC (prior to their win on Wednesday night) were drawn as semifinal hosts for Sporting Kansas City and RBNY, respectively. In the draw for the Final though, hosting priority saw New York picked third overall while the California side was drawn last.

That means if both RBNY and Republic win their games the Bulls will host the second division team at Red Bull Arena in the U.S. Open Cup Final. Sacramento would be the first non-MLS team to reach the final since the Charleston Battery in 2008. The last time New York hosted a cup final of any kind was the 2003 Open Cup Final against Chicago Fire at Giants Stadium, which the team lost 1-0.

Sacramento reached the semifinals by beating MLS sides San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy in subsequent rounds. They will host Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday, July 27 in their semifinal match. The Red Bulls will travel to Orlando the same day. They’ll be looking to return to the Open Cup final for the first time since 2017, where they lost on the road to Sporting.

Oh by the way, if Republic FC falls to Sporting and New York wins, it’ll be a rematch of that game in Kansas City.

To steal a word from Gerhard Struber; the former option is a “sexy” possible match-up. Either Red Bull would win its first cup proper at home or they fall to a lower division Cinderella to the cheers of everyone else in the U.S. Soccer landscape. It would be historic, it would have intrigue, and my god it would be “So Metro” if they lost it.