Chris Katona: “We are a lot more organized than a typical amateur team, which I think gives us an advantage in regards for preparation.” (Photo courtesy of Chris Katona)
By Michael Lewis
It’s all about sticking the game plan, keeping organized and playing to one ability.
If FC Motown can accomplish that again against the Red Bulls Under-23 team in the first round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, says forward Chris Katona, the National Premier Soccer League side should be in decent shape.
The two teams will tussle at MSU Soccer Park in Montclair, N.J. Tuesday night.
“I had a feeling we would get paired against RBNY U-23 based off region pairing as last year,” Katona said in a recent interview. “We are a lot more organized than a typical amateur team, which I think gives us an advantage in regards for preparation and being the underdogs against any of our opponents. I think with our team having experienced professionals and coach it always gives us an advantage and the confidence to stick to our game plan, which if we do so, we can execute and be on the winning side.”
Even though FC Motown won last year’s Open Cup encounter against the same team, Katona hardly saw Tuesday’s game as a walk in the MSU Soccer Park.
“Flashing back to last years game RBNY is a professional organization, class, and have players that are currently starting for the first team in the MLS,” he said. “They aren’t a team to take lightly and will be prepared and look to avenge last year’s loss at our place. We stuck to our game plan and fortunately enough we were able to execute off their mistakes in the back to finish the game.”
There’s nothing like experience and FC Motown has plenty of it.
One advantage is that many of the players performed together in the NPSL offseason with Cedar Stars Academy in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League, one of the best amateur leagues in the USA.
Those players included 2018 NPSL MVP Matt Nigro, Jean Voltaire, Maxi Garcia and Hani Nasr. Two players come with pro experience – defenders R.J. Allen, who played with New York City FC and Orlando City SC, and Jimmy Mulligan, who performed with the New York Cosmos, Portland Timbers 2 and Swope Park Rangers. Former Trinidad & Tobago international defender Julius James is also on the team.
If Motown defeats the Red Bulls U-23’s, the club will host Memphis 901 FC (United Soccer League Championship) in a second-round encounter at Ranger Stadium on the campus of Drew University in Madison, N.J. May 15 at 7 p.m. ET.
“I think from an amateur level, the U.S. Open Cup is unique as even though it’s a single game knockout tournament, but it allows the opportunity to play professional teams in the MLS,” Katona said. “As we saw in the past, there are amateur teams that can hang and sometimes upset the MLS teams. It creates a fun story. In most situations, especially me personally. I have a fulltime job, then work two additional jobs, and then play for two teams having 1-2 games a week. There isn’t time to train, sessions, study film. It’s exciting to have the opportunity and to play in the Open Cup.
Katona, an assistant coach and team captain with Cedar Stars, leads all CSL goal-scorers (18).
“Playing for Cedar Stars year-round has helped me transform my game and be able to work on the little things I feel like I can grow to get better to help the team win,” he said. “Leading the CSL in goals and assists again this year is rewarding to know that’s I am contributing to our team’s success. Our goal is to win a title after receiving an unfortunate call that cost us the title last season. At the end of the day, they are just stats/numbers, but I prefer to be on the winning side; however, or whatever it takes.”