The N.Y. Pancyprian Freedoms closed out the year in fashion, finishing atop the Cosmopolitan Soccer League First Division and capturing the Eastern New York State Soccer Association title of the Amateur Cup.
On Wednesday, Dec. 11, the Pancyprians edged rival Lansdowne Bhoys, 1-0, in the Amateur Cup.
Four days later on Sunday, Dec. 15, the club defeated Sporting SC, 7-1. The Freedoms completed the fall season with a 7-1-2 record and 23 points, outscoring its foes, 33-11, for a plus 22 goal differential. Lansdowne had the same record but a lower goal differential (plus 11).
All in all, it has been quite a year for the club as it secured the Dr. Manning Cup, CSL First Division title and the Rapaglia Cup.
The Pancyprians are on track for four more titles — the Manning Cup (ENYSSA), Amateur Cup (U.S. Amateur Soccer Association), Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (U.S. Soccer) and another CSL crown.
“From the beginning of last season, we’ve been unstoppable,” captain and left back Andreas Chronis said. “We’ve won pretty much everything we’ve been a part of.”
“We’re going into the second half of the season in 2020 in the best possible scenario that we can be in. The team has not been this successful in seven or eight years. We’ve been in finals, but we’ve lost. We’ve lost almost everything in the past seven years. Last year is the really the first time we began to be successful. It could be attributed to a lot, not just to one or two things.
“But the fact that we have depth in our squad is one of the main things. We’re just gelling as a team. Everyone respects each other. Everyone has good quality. Everything is working for us. so hopefully, we continue to do that. I don’t remember the last time they won two consecutive league titles in a row. So, this can be great.”
The Freedoms, who were eliminated by Lansdowne in the Fricker Cup via penalty kicks earlier in the fall, avenged that defeat with a 1-0 goal win at Belson Stadium in Queens, N.Y.
“This to us and to the club is more important than anything,” Chronis said. “We went into the game feeling that we needed to avenge our loss against them because penalties, anything can happen. We definitely didn’t want to go to penalties because it’s a coin toss at that point. We knew we had to go out there and really perform. We knew we didn’t want to go to penalties. So, the coach set up the team in a way where we were more solid in the back, we were more attack minded.”
St. Lucia international striker Bradley Nestor gave the hosts all the scoring they needed some 15 minutes into the game.
“We came out in the first half really strong,” Chronis said. “We were pressing them. Bradley again had an opportunity in the box. He’s just really good at turning quickly and shooting.”
His shot nestled into the corner of the net.
Several minutes later, the Pancyprians had another opportunity on a breakaway when James Thristino drilled a shot from the penalty spot, but his attempt was saved.
“We were pressing the whole first half,” Chronis said. “They didn’t have any opportunities to score, but we couldn’t get another goal. The second half, a little different. they began to press and began to have possession of the ball more than we did, whereas in the first half we were really dominating.”
The Pancyprians’ back four shut down Lansdowne behind Chronis and right outside back Andrea Andreou and center backs Jimmy Nealis and Panicos Onisforou, the club technical director. Late in the match Onisforou a vital save as he came in front behind of a Lansdowne player and hooked the ball out of harm’s way.
“It was clean,” Chronis said. “Nobody argued for a penalty. That was probably their lone chance to tie the game up.”
The addition of Nealis, who usually plays at central midfielder or on the right wing, strengthened the defense.
“He did really well,” Chronis said. “Him partnering with Panicos in the back, Andrea on the right and me on the left, they really had trouble penetrating. Jimmy really stepped up when he needed to because we needed him to fill that role.”
In last Sunday’s encounter, the Pancyprians rolled to that 7-1 win at Belson. Charlie Ledula and Nestor had two goals apiece with Shavon John-Brown, Bernd Schulter and Chronis adding single tallies. The Freedoms had beaten Sporting SC in the Dr. Manning Cup a couple of weeks prior, 3-2.
“We played this team before. We knew what they had. We knew what we had to do that we didn’t do the game before,” Chronis said. Piggybacking on the game against Lansdowne, we were very confident. When a team has players that are capable and are confident, that’s deadly. There was no match for us. We were on fire. We scored seven. We could have scored 15.
“We really wanted to finish the season the way we did, getting into the Open Cup, beating every team and finishing up in first place. That’s the cherry on top of the cake. There’s nothing better for us right now. We are proving to everyone that we are the defending champions.”
While every league match and cup encounter is important, the Pancyprians are eyeing the Open Cup. They won three Open Cup titles in the 1980s and they would love to go far in the 2020 competition. The first round is set for the weekend of March 24-25, followed the second round the weekend of April 7-9.
“Seeing how far we can go in the Open Cup is really something that excites all of us because the next round means that we could be playing professional teams,” Chronis said. “That’s exciting, especially for the younger players that are 23 and 24. It’s an opportunity for them to highlight themselves, hopefully, go a step further in their career. Maybe they can get signed with a USL team or a professional team like other players have that came through.”