By Jay Mwamba
Austin Friel’s lads had reached the final after downing U.S. legend Eric Wynalda’s LA Wolves 1-0 the previous night in the Final Four of the Fritz Marth U.S. Adult Soccer Association National Amateur Cup. Lansdowne finished with 10-men in that game.
Defender Momodou Sawaneh converted the winning penalty in the marathon shoot-out with Bavaria. The final at the Bavarian soccer club complex had ended 2-2 after extra time.
“Massive weekend for the club!” declared club president and Donegal native William McGrory. “Lansdowne are now officially the best amateur team in the country. Well done to coach Friel and his Bhoys, they’ve [done] the club and community proud.”
The Yonkers Irish became the latest club from CSL, arguably America’s most competitive amateur league, to win the U.S. Cup. New York Greek Americans were the last when they beat Guadalajara FC of Denver 4-2 in the 2014 final.
“The CSL is very proud of the Lansdowne Bhoys and their accomplishments,” said league president Mike Fitzgerald. “Having won the CSL top flight three consecutive years in a row, we are well aware of the quality that the Bhoys possess.
“Now they have reached the top of the amateur level, Lansdowne have proven once again that the CSL possesses the best amateur clubs and is one of the best, if not the best, amateur leagues in the country.”
The Bhoys started the final at a blistering pace.
Ovan Oakley and Joseph Lopez both had chances before Lopez darted past two Bavaria defenders and fired a missile into the roof of the net [33rd].
In the proverbial game of two halves, Bavaria were the dominant side on resumption.
“The Bhoys had to chase the game for long periods and it wasn’t long before the effects of the previous night’s game started to show with [Michael] Holzer and then [Lukas] Zargas both leaving the game,” said McGrory, alluding to the LA Wolves match.
“Once again, massive performances by [Tom] Warf and [Sean] Kelly kept the Bavarians at bay until the 82nd minute when Lansdowne keeper [Abdoukarim] Kabo could only watch as a rocket flew into the top right corner.”
The final then came to a dramatic conclusion.
Friel introduced fresh legs and after being fouled on the right wing Karim Russell got up and scored a wonder goal from the ensuing 30-yard free kick [85th].
It was a goal good enough to win any game, but the Bavarians showed why they’d triumphed six times earlier in the national competition by netting a late equalizer.
Extra time failed to break the impasse and penalties followed. After eight shots on either side, the defender Sawaneh shot Lansdowne and States-side Irish soccer into history.
Playing with 10 men 24 hours earlier, the Bhoys had downed LA Wolves 1-0 in the semis.
“It was a game fitting of the occasion,” reported McGrory. “Both teams started at pace, playing nice sharp, possession football; both teams created some half chances with LA having the best look after [goalie] Kabo saved a long range effort.”
Wolves went close with another shot over the bar from close range before the Bhoys got a grip on the game. Oakley, Zargas and Andrew Sousa all came close inside the box but Lansdowne suffered a setback 33 minutes in when right back Craig Purcell was ejected for a late challenge.
In response, coach Friel reshuffled his team and the Bhoys finished the half strong.
“The second half was again action packed and the Bhoys never looked under pressure despite being down to 10 men,” said McGrory. “Sean Kelly Tom Wharf and Jean Voltaire were excellent in defense and Holzer, Zargas and Sousa were immense in midfield. The Bhoys high press stopped the Wolves from creating much and Oakley, Daryl Kavanagh and Paco continued to threaten their goal.”
Friel sent on Skele Slyvester who made a big impact linking up with Sousa and Oakley. Oakley eventually connected from close range, “one of the best team goals of the season,” said McGrory.
“The Bhoys continued to press and could have been two up after good work from subs, Joe Ogoo and Karim Russell. A massive team performance and top marks for Kelly and Wharf in the back line,” summed up McGrory.
ROAD TO GLORY
The Bhoys knocked off some of the top clubs in the country en route to U.S. Amateur Cup glory.
Former U.S. champions and recently crowned CSL titlists New York Greek Americans were blanked 3-0; Cedar Stars Academy [CSL] were edged 9-8 on penalties; Pancyprian Freedoms, another former US title holder and Open Cup winner, was dispatched 3-1; Southie FC of Boston lost 2-0; New Jersey’s Brick Lions were crushed 8-0, and Junior Lone Stars [Philadelphia] fell 3-0.
The U.S. Amateur Cup adds to Lansdowne’s impressive trophy haul that began last fall.
The silverware includes the Manning State Cup, the D’Arpino State Cup successfully defended for the second time by the reserves; a sixth CSL division [regular season] title by the firsts; and both Region 1 crowns in the U.S. Amateur Cup and the Werner Fricker Open Cup.
Lansdowne’s hunt continues next Friday [August 18] in the Final Four of the Werner Fricker Cup in Michigan against the Region 3 winner.
One of the best strikers ever in CCNY history, Chris Megaloudis is now winning honors on the touchline.
A member of the Greek American squad that won the U.S. Amateur Cup in 2014, Megaloudis was named Region XV Coach of the Year by the NJCAA. He led the Nassau CC women’s team to the NJCAA District Championship in his rookie season as head coach.
Megaloudis lauded his side for their strong will. “They fought hard every game and never gave up. Lots of quality,” he said. Nassau CC play in the NJCAA Div III Conference.
The former MLS performer and Puerto Rican international has also coached Massapequa SC and is the Aurbandale SC technical director. He’s currently on the books of the Pancyprian Freedoms.