HOLMDEL, N.J. — For the second year in a row, New Jersey Copa FC’s National Premier Soccer League season ended in the playoffs against its archrival.
The Clarkstown SC Eagles defeated Copa, 3-1, in the Northeast Region Keystone Conference championship game at Saint John Vianney High School Saturday night.
Clarkstown (8-2-2), the No. 2 seed in the Keystone playoffs, advanced to the Northeast Region semifinals next Saturday and will host Kingston Stockade FC, the top seed from the NPSL Atlantic-White Conference.
NJCFC, which fell to Clarkstown, 2-0, in the 2016 Northeast Region championship game on the road, saw its campaign end at 8-2-2, losing for the first time at home in an NPSL match in seven outings this year (5-1-1).
Howell, N.J. native Christopher Katona scored twice on set pieces for Clarkstown, putting the visitors ahead 1-0 in the 19th minute before adding a back-breaking insurance goal in the 62nd minute after Emerson Lawrence finished a penalty kick in the 54th minute.
Ryan Campbell returned after missing the previous two games, coming off the bench for NJCFC’s lone tally in second half stoppage time—his seventh goal of the season — with Michael Moreno contributing the assist.
Raphael Araujo scored what appeared to be the game-tying goal in the 22nd minute but it was negated by an offside flag. NJCFC never recovered.
Clarkstown outshot New Jersey Copa 12-3 in the first half and added nine attempts in the second half, finishing with a 21-9 margin in shots in the game. Clarkstown also had 10 of the 12 corner kicks. Matt Perrella made five saves for New Jersey. Abdoukarim Danso had two stops for Clarkstown.
The visitors tallied their first goal late in the 19th minute. On a free kick into the box, Marcus Hackett assisted with a chip from the right side of the box to Katona at the top of the six for a one-timer to the near post.
NJCFC appeared to tie it less than two and a half minutes later when Kevin Veliz slipped a thru ball to Araujo who turned and unleashed a top-shelf blast. The goal was waved off.
Perrella kept New Jersey Copa in the game with three quality stops. In the 26th minute, Clarkstown played a long ball upfield to Katona who settled it and one-timed a shot that was smothered. Martin Lukaschik shedded several defenders in the box in the 34th minute and took a shot from the left side, forcing Perrella to make a diving stop towards the far post. He also leaped to stop a ball from Daryl Kavanagh in the 36th minute.
Less than 10 minutes into the second half it remained a one-goal game after Perrella made a brilliant save on the far post to block Kavanagh from point-blank range. But Kavanagh was fouled on the rebound, giving Clarkstown the penalty kick. Lawrence, a former NJ Copa FC midfielder, finished the attempt into the upper right corner.
In the 62nd minute, Clarkstown took advantage of a handball outside the box along the right endline. On the restart ball played into the box, Kavanagh received it and sent a heel flick to Katona in front for the easy finish.
Campbell thwarted the shutout bid when he received a pass from Moreno in stoppage time, dribbled past three defenders and finished to the far right post.