Lansdowne Bhoys celebrate winning the national championship. (Photo courtesy of the CSL)
By Jay Mwamba
Special to FrontRowSoccer.com
Lansdowne Bhoys upset local side and six-time national champions Bavaria SC 9-8 on penalties in Milwaukee Saturday to become the first Irish club to be crowned U.S. amateur kings.
Coach 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 kick in the marathon shootout with Bavaria. The final at the Bavarian soccer club complex had ended 2-2 after extratime.
“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 Cosmopolitan Soccer League, arguably America’s most competitive amateur league, to win the 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,” league president Mike Fitzgerald said. “Having won the CSL top flight three consecutive years in a row, we are well aware of the quality that the Bhoys possess pace.
“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.
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 in the 33rd minute.
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 1-0 in the semis.
“It was a game fitting of the occasion,” McGrory said. “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.”
The 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,” McGrory said. “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 U.S. 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, Aug. 18 in the Final Four of the Werner Fricker Cup in Michigan against the Region III winner.