Dilly Duka (left) and his brother Donny hold the NPSL Northeast Region trophy. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
NEW YORK — After getting past Cosmos B in the Northeast Region final Saturday night, FC Motown players are hopeful and confident they can win the National Premier Soccer League title.
The first-year team is only two wins away from its first NPSL championship.
“We we’re not going in it with our heads in the clouds,” midfielder Dilly Duka said after he converted a penalty kick in the 3-2 victory at Rocco B. Commisso Stadium. “We’re going in it to have fun, compete and just see what happens.
“We played a really good game. They’re the best team we’ve played against and we beat them. So this is our No. 1 goal throughout the year and we’re extremely excited.”
Ditto for forward Christopher Katona, who remembered that the team, playing as Clarkstown last year, was eliminated in the regional final by eventual champion Elm City Express.
“Getting here after last year not winning the regional finals, we saw that we are capable of it,” Katona said before he rattled off the names of several newcomers, including former Trinidad & Tobago international defender Julius James, ex-MLS defender Hunter, defender Hani Nasr and Duka. “The list just keeps going on and on. We’re just confident with the abilities of the players that we have. We just stick to the game plan that the coaches put out in front of us. Everything else just works its way to us.”
As the top-seeded semifinal team, FC Motown will host No. 4 FCM Portland in the national semifinals at Ranger Stadium at Drew University in Madison, N.J. Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
“This is our biggest victory since we’ve been FC Motown,” head coach Sacir Hot said.
“It’s huge,” said Katona, who set up the first goal and scored the second during the final half.
If FC Motown manages to get through its final two games, it will secure its sixth trophy of the season and might have to buy a new trophy case. The New Jersey side already has added the Garden State Soccer League regular-season and playoff titles, the New Jersey State Cup and the NPSL’s Keystone Conference and Northeast Region crowns to its growing collection.
“Man, when you see an ownership like we have and how invested emotionally and financially they are, you play for them,” Duka said. “We could raise trophies — and we’ve raised a couple of trophies on Twitter this year — raising something like this is awesome. These guys are so happy. You’re just happy for them. We just came out here and gave it our all. We played a good team. They made one or two mistakes and we capitalized. It’s awesome.”
The visitors cruised to a 3-0 advantage by the 72nd minute but made life difficult for themselves by allowing Cosmos B to strike twice during injury time. Reserve Ivan Berterame scored twice, and the hosts nearly equalized on Darwin Espinal’s free kick just before the final whistle.
“Our guys knew [that] as long as the game stayed 0-0, the Cosmos would have gotten frustrated and as long as we would have defended well, we would have our opportunities in the first half,” Hot said. “We had two on goal. in the second half we came out we finished those chances. When you push a team forward you’re always vulnerable to counterattacks and chances and we took them.”
Hot was happy with the win, but not the last part of the journey, which included the Cosmos B rally.
“Three-zero would have been a satisfying result,” he said. “The two goals that we conceded in stoppage time really put a damper on things. We did win, but to give up two goals in extratime really kind of killed the enjoyment of it. But at the end of the day, we won, so I have to realize I have to be happy for that.”
It turned into a nail-biter for FC Motown.
“It was unfortunate because when you’re up goals, you can’t take your foot off the pedal and we did,” he said. “They could have tied it and we had all our attackers off the field and they could have won it. It’s tough, but we’re moving on.”