Port Jefferson will take on the N.Y. Pancyprian Freedoms in the Rapaglia Cup semifinals Sunday. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. — Port Jefferson SC has won so many championships over the years that Elysee Vilsaint admits it has been difficult to keep up with how many the Long Island Soccer Football League team has secured.
“I can’t even count how many trophies we have won,” he said. “Almost every year we are used to winning it. But things are getting tough. We’re getting older. But hey, we’re still playing.”
And of course, winning, which Port Jeff so aptly demonstrated Sunday night as it defended its crown with a 3-0 triumph over NY Serbia in the LISFL Cangero Supercup at John J. Burns Park.
That added to the spoils of Port Jeff, which also captured the recent LISFL Ryder-Vass Under-23 summer tournament.
Vilsaint, along Akeem Morris and Mosiah Whyte found the net for Port Jefferson in the annual match, which pits the defending Premier Division winner against the cup champion. The competition is named after former LISFL president Tony Cangero, who passed away in 2004.
“This is our first game back,” Vilsaint said. “I haven’t touched the ball in three months. We’ve still got it. I’m going to feel it in the morning. But for now, I’m good.”
Port Jefferson’s prize for is Sunday’s Rapaglia Cup at the Verrazano Sports Complex in Brooklyn, N.Y. The club will square off with the N.Y. Pancyprian Freedoms, who drooped an epic 6-5 goalfest with the N.Y. Greek Americans in both club’s Cosmopolitan Soccer League fall season opener Sunday night.
“It means everything,” Vilsaint said. “We get to play the top teams. It’s always good to have a challenge. We get to play the Pancyprians. Those guys are on a payroll. They get paid to play. They train every single day. We might be out of shape but we’re not playing every single day anymore. We still got it in us. We can still beat them. We’ll just see, next Sunday.”
Whyte said the Rapaglia cup would be a “statement week.”
“We’re basically we’re going to be a little fish among sharks,” he added. “We don’t make it there that often and when we do, we don’t go that far. Hopefully, when we do get there, we can make a statement. … Hopefully we’re in the final and once you’re in the final, anything can happen.”
The LISFL side hopes to have a full complement for Sunday’s competition. Port Jeff started last Sunday’s game with no substitutes, although two players arrived later to give some players a little relief.
“A lot of guys were worrying about minutes,” Morris said. “We were trying to be smart about it and not to press as much in the beginning. Wait until the guys come. But it’s always like that for Port Jeff, guys scrambling. But we got the result we needed.”
Minutes after the game, some Port Jefferson players were trying to make sure they could secure a Starting XI and then some for Verrazano.
“It’s going to be a challenge for us,” Morris said. “We’re trying to figure out running up the guys now and see how many guys we can get for that game. Hopefully, we get a good group of guys out there and get the result.”
Given that these were the top two Premier Division teams, the competition was physical and a rough verbal battle as well. Some of the words spoken cannot be used on this website.
“Well, this is typical with this team, but it’s fun to play to play them because they always give us a fight,” Whyte said. “Not as technical as us, but they’re always strong, big, fast. And they’ll do anything they can to win. So, its always a good game to play against them.
Added Vilsaint: “We play them every year the same way/ They’re physical. They battle. It’s never an easy game. We’ve got to be smart about it. … There were a lot of exchanges. players get out of hand and stuff. I told them that they have to keep calm. Whatever they say against them, just play. Let the ball do the talking and that’s what we did.”
The defending champions drew first blood in the ninth minute when Vilsaint powered a shot home from the right side past goalkeeper Alex Matovic.
Morris doubled the lead in the 81st minute when he drilled a shot from distance off a cleared corner nick.
“The corner was about to be taken and Mo told me to get in the box,” Morris said. “I told him, I’m going to stay out here in case the ball comes out.’ It came out, took a touch and I just hit it.”
Only two minutes after he sent a penalty kick wide right of its target, Whyte had another chance to get on the scoreboard with yet another PK in the 87th minute. This time he had his chance saved by Matovic, but Whyte slotted the rebound home for the final score.
“As a forward, you need to have amnesia,” Whyte said. “When you miss a chance, you need to forget it and worry about the next chance. Even when you score, you need to forget it because you’re only as good as your last goal.
“My adrenaline was high, I figured I would put it away. It’s just one of those things. The soccer gods were on my side. It bounced back to me and I got the rebound. On the scores heet it’s not going to say I missed two PKs, it will just say a goal.”
On the other end of the ball, the Port Jefferson defense, led by Zaccchious Ogoo and Nolan Defour, helped goalkeeper Raul Bonilla record the clean sheet.
“Nolan made some pretty important tackles, Zach, too,” Morris said. “Zach is an older dude, so he’s pretty smart. He knows how to defend. Nolan also is an older dude, so they know how to play defense and read the game properly.”
NY Serbia won’t have another shot at Port Jefferson until the teams tussle again at The Wedge in Heritage Park in Port Jefferson, N.Y. Nov. 3 at 11 a.m.
“This is perfect. This is good preparation,” Whyte said of Sunday’s encounter. We’re going to play them. It’s a type of team you want to play early on. Either it’s a wakeup call or you can use it as momentum. Hopefully, we can use the momentum for next week and go right into the season and hit the ground running.”