The N.Y. Pancyprian Freedoms are one win away from qualifying for the 2020 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competition.
They will try to book a spot with a victory over Brockton FC United (Mass.) at Everett Memorial Stadium in Everett, Mass. on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Brockton FC United plays in the United Premier Soccer League, in the fourth division of the U.S. soccer pyramid.
After they were eliminated by Lansdowne Bhoys in the Eastern New York State Soccer Association Open Cup semifinals on penalty kicks last week, the Freedoms are hungry for a cup victory in another competition.
“Yes, definitely, now we’re knocked out of a cup that we expected to be the champions of,” team captain Andreas Chronis said. “The league is one thing; the league is great, and the league is long. So, you have the opportunity to make a misstep like we did at the beginning of the season and make up for it. But these knockout games, they really require a certain type of discipline and mentality. Losing that game last week has put the fire in our belly right now because we don’t want to be knocked out of this, too.
“We have to prove ourselves. We have to prove that we’re a great team. The management has been behind us 100 percent and they really want us to win. We have to show them that we’re there and we want it, too. So, we’re going to go out Sunday, we’re going to go out flying and try as hard as we could.”
Chronis admitted the Pancyprians did not know much about their foes but was confident the Cosmopolitan Soccer League side would win as long as it did not drift off course.
“What we know about them is that they have a couple of fast players, decent technical ability, but mostly strong and fast,” he said. “So, I have no doubt that we will be able to handle a team like that because we’re pretty fast and we’re going to have a couple of our guys back who were missing the last game. All we have to do is stick to our game plan and play for the win, play like we deserve to be there, put the ball on the ground, because that’s where we’re best — putting the ball on the ground, attacking through the sides. And if we do that, I’m sure we’re going to win.”
Midfielder Mackie Magoulas agreed and elaborated.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “We’ve been working hard all season. I’m just hoping that we can go down there and give our best and hopefully come back victorious.”
Magoulas realized Brockton will be a difficult foe but was more concerned about the Pancyprians. “I think they’re pretty high,” he said. “I don’t know the team, but I’m never worried about the opponent. I’m worried about how we play.”
Reaching the Open Cup is the goal and dream of just about every amateur and semi-pro side in this country. The Pancyprians won three national cup championships in the 1980’s.
“That’s why it’s so important for us,” Chronis said. “It proves that we’ve got some quality players and we do. We have players that have played at really high levels. We’ve got some real quality players. There’s no difference between them and the players playing in MLS. It’s just sometimes you need a break. You just need somebody to believe in you. And hopefully, if they can play and perform at a higher level with eyes watching, then they’ll get the opportunity to play in MLS.”
The Pancyprians will travel the day before and stay at a hotel in Massachusetts to get a proper night’s rest as opposed to coming in on the day of the game.
“Mentally, having to go to a game on the same day in general after being with your family or working, you’re tired,” Chronis said. “So, imagine having to drive three-four hours and playing in a game right away. Our management is so behind us. They understand that we need to focus, we need to be rested. It’s a huge expense for them to put us up in a hotel and pay for our food, for the night. But they want to put us in the right position to be able to succeed. So, there’s not going to be any excuses for Sunday. We have to go out flying.”
The players will go out to dinner and talk some tactics. Early Sunday morning they will take a look at the field, return to the hotel and go over the game plan before returning to the field around 10:30 a.m.
Staying at a hotel, which doesn’t happen at the amateur and semi-pro level often, is expected to bring the team together. Many teams in Europe and South America sequester players the night before an important match.
“There’s a reason why teams do that,” Chronis said. “Just the fact we’re going to be spending some time together, it will help us not only get our minds off our everyday lives, but also focus more on the game ahead and talk tactics with each other and also build that camaraderie that comes with spending some extratime together.”
The Pancyprians prepared for the match with a 1-0 victory over third-place Zum Schneider FC 03 at Belson Stadium on Sunday night. It might not have been the team’s prettiest win in its history, but three points is three points.
“We knew going into the game it was going to be a hard game,” Chronis said. “Zum Schneider has a really good team. We were coming off a game on Wednesday with a couple of injuries, a couple of losses of personnel. We knew what we had to do. We knew we had to get the three points. The first half was pretty much in our favor. We felt comfortable and luckily, we got a goal through a nice little play.”
That turned out to be a Adam Himeno converting a quick give-and-go with James Thristino before scoring on the right side of the penalty area in the 19th minute.
“Second half, they definitely took control, pressing and attacking as much as they could, trying to get the goal,” Chronis said. “We had to stay strong and we did. We’re happy we got the three points. Everyone was very happy. The team is finally starting to get the results we need to get to be back to where we were last year.”
The Pancyprians (5-1-2, 17 points) moved into second place in the First Division, trailing Lansdowne Bhoys (6-0-2, 20).
“We started off slow,” Chronis said. “Part of the reason was because we were coming off of a great season. Not that we weren’t ready, but everyone was out to get us. When everyone plays us, they’re playing like it’s a championship game. We didn’t have that killer mentality that we should have had in the beginning. So, we were taking it a little easy and we got penalized for it.
“We’re lucky it happened to us in the beginning. We got together and said that we really need to pick it up and start getting the results that we need, and we did. We started gelling as a team. We got some great new additions. We’re rolling. We feel really good.”