By Jay Mwamba
It’s crack CSL coach Austin Friel versus Eric Wynalda – scorer of the first ever MLS goal — when Lansdowne Bhoys meet the former United States legend’s LA Wolves in the Final Four of the United States Amateur Soccer Association Cup in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this Friday.
A former Finn Harps player in the League of Ireland top flight, Friel steered Lansdowne past six clubs to take the Yonkers Irish to the semifinals of the USASA competition.
Against Wolves, his three-time CSL champs face a de facto professional side coached by an American Hall of Famer and one of the best U.S. strikers ever. Wolves compete in the United Premier Soccer League.
“Austy is looking forward to pitting his wits against Eric and will, as usual, respect the opposition but not fear them,” said Lansdowne president William McGrory, hailing Friel as the youngest and most talented coach in the country.
The Bhoys blanked Philadelphia-based Lone Stars 3-0 in the USASA Region 1 final in Horsham, Penn., last June to reach the Final Four. The Lansdowne-Wolves winner meets either Kickers FC or Bavarian SC for the USASA national amateur title.
Friday’s clash is the first of two national semi-finals Lansdowne play this month. The second is in the Werner Fricker Cup on August 18 in Michigan against the Region 3 winner.
“It has been a goal of ours for several seasons now to compete for national honors so to win both Region 1 titles giving us two cracks at it is very exciting and well deserved with the hard work that has gone before,” said McGrory.
Despite being denied a fourth consecutive Cosmopolitan Soccer League [CSL] championship last June, the Bhoys continue their national quest on a high.
Said McGrory: “We’ve had another trophy laden season with our firsts winning the CSL division [regular season] title, the Manning State Cup; New York and Region 1 U.S. amateur cups; New York and Region 1 Werner Fricker cups — not forgetting the Irish Consulate Cup.
“Our reserves, who were managed by Keith St. Ledger and Sean Kelly, brilliantly, I might add, won the New York [D’Arpino] state cup and were runners-up in their division and in the league cup final. This was their third state cup final won on the trot and they also won the Irish Consulate Cup.”
Additional Lansdowne success was recorded by the club’s Metro Division team that went 7-0 in in the second half of the season. They lifted the Strumpf Cup, a New York State competition.
“Again, a massive effort from joint managers Dave Brady and Gene O’Driscoll and the players,” McGrory lauded the thirds.
Lansdowne rolled out an Over-30 side for the first time, with coach Damian Mescall bringing the team close to making the playoffs.
“On top of all that we have continued to build our youth program with 22 teams currently,” said McGrory.
Lansdowne’s partnership with Scottish giants Celtic FC sees them sending their Under-12 side and four coaches to Glasgow on August 11 to the 20th for games against Celtic and Scottish academy teams.
On the home front, the club has renewed sponsorship deals with Emerald Tile and marble, Webster Bank, Coyle Contracting, MC Electric, Concept Mechanical, Rosemount Painting and Irelands 32.
“It simply would not be possible to achieve the things we have without the above sponsors and all the other people who contribute to our fundraisers throughout the year, big and small,” noted McGrory. “The local community is very good to us and hopefully we are giving some payback with the youth coaching and maybe a national title for Yonkers.”
McGrory had kudos for volunteers that have gone above and beyond the call of duty for the club. He mentioned Aiden Corr, Paul Doherty, Shay Furlong, Colm Morrissey, Con McCormick, Cathal Kenny, Ray Layden, Donal Sutton and Seamus McDaid.