Charlie Ledula: “Everyone in the car was ecstatic about it and really happy.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
Charlie Ledula wound up scoring the winning goal for the N.Y. Pancyprian Freedoms on Sunday but it took a good 20 minutes to discover that he and the team had won and qualified for the 2020 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
That’s because the game at Everett Memorial Stadium in Everett, Mass. was called in the 58th minute due to horrible weather conditions and a unplayable field.
The Pancyprian players bolted for their cars to either return home or to the team hotel to shower.
Ledula was on his way home to New York in a car with several teammates when he found out the good news, that the Pancyprians were 1-0 winners over Brockton United FC.
“It was a weird situation,” he said. “Thankfully, we got the text saying that we won and went onto the next round. We were really happy about that.
“Everyone in the car was ecstatic about it and really happy. I’m just happy we scored really early on in the game. So that way we never missed the chance of having to replay that game again.”
The match was played in a constant freezing rain that waterlogged the pitch.
“The conditions were really, really brutal,” Ledula said. “It was terrible. It was awful. It was really bad.”
Indeed, it was.
“It was the cold was just numbing and the rain was freezing, and the winds were so powerful,” team captain Andreas Chronis said.
The conditions were ridiculous for both teams.
“The ball would not roll on the field,” Chronis said. “There were patches of water on the field that weren’t going away so you couldn’t dribble. The ball would get stuck in the puddles and the whole left side of the field up to the thrown-in line on the bleacher side was three inches in water. So, the linesman had to run on the inside of the field. Whenever we took a throw-in, when the ball went out on that side, we would be stepping in three inches or four inches of water. Our shoes, everything was soaked and waterlogged.”
With the visitors leading in the second half, game officials stopped the game after a Brockton player left the game “because he was really freezing,” Chronis said.
“He was almost developing hypothermia. He was shaking,” he added. “That’s when the referee decided to stop and go speak with the linesmen and they made a call to whoever they had to call. When they blew the whistle initially, we didn’t know that we had won yet.”
The game was official because a half was completed with a team leading.
Eventually, the Pancyprians received word they were victors.
“We were ecstatic, management was ecstatic,” Chronis said. “They were happy we were able to safely get out of there with the win, especially since we came all this way. It’s just a thank you for the management, too, for everything that they did for us. The hotel rooms, the dinners, the breakfast. We were thrilled.”
The Pancyprians are no strangers to the U.S. Open, having captured the tournament three times in the 1980s.
“We’ve been in this position before,” Chronis said. “We know what it’s like to be in the Open Cup. The team has history, has been in it many times and has won it. The further we go, the more it legitimizes the efforts of everyone on the team, all the players and management. We were just really happy that we were happy to deliver that to everybody. The players, we owed it to ourselves to just get that win. To the management, we are really excited to give that gift to them.”
With the Pancyprians playing into the wind in the opening half, Ledula performed his goal-scoring heroics four minutes after kickoff. A pass from a teammate landed in a puddle in front of him at the top of the left side of the penalty area.
Ledula, who played with the New York Cosmos before joining the Pancyprians in October, was offside at first and then came back on.
“I remember turning around. The ball just stopped right in front of me,” he said. “I remember just glancing up and seeing the keeper coming out and hit the ball into the corner. I had to lift it a little bit, though because I knew, especially we had done the warm-up, the ball wasn’t going to travel really quickly. I just lifted it up a little bit and thankfully, it went in.”
Added Chronis: “It was really just a smart decision to one time it because you couldn’t dribble on that field. So, that gave us that energy to continue playing in those conditions and it deflated them as a team. We didn’t stop. We just kept on going, kept on fighting. It wasn’t one of the best goals, but it was a very effective goal.”
The Pancyprians dominated the match, especially at the beginning of the second half when they had the wind to their backs.
“The second half we were in their box the whole time,” Ledula said. “I felt we were going to win that game either way. I was really confident. They just kept on dropping back. We tried to make the most out of it. We tried to score another goal … because one-nil is a bit uncertain. There’s still a chance for them to come back.”
The Freedoms’ backline held off any attacks by Brockton. That included center backs Pantelis Konomis and Panicos Onisforou and outside backs Andrea Andreou and Chronis.
“Our back four was so focused, was so disciplined,” Chronis said. “We just didn’t allow them to have anything. We didn’t want to give them a glimpse of hope in the conditions especially. We wanted to show them we were there to hold that line and not make any mistakes defensively. The ball was slipping and sliding everywhere. It wasn’t the easiest conditions to play with defensively. Our back four is what won the game for us.”