For the second time this month, the New York Pancyprian Freedoms and Newtown Pride SC met in Newtown, Conn. in the quarterfinals of the USASA Region I Open Cup tournament. After the Freedoms’ original 1-0 victory back on April 7, they were disqualified for using an ineligible player, only to have that decision overturned because New York’s roster was erroneously approved by their league. A full replay was ordered, and this time, Newtown came out on top, winning a penalty kick shootout 7-6 after a 120 minutes of scoreless soccer.
With the win, Newtown will travel to Massachusetts to take on Mass Premier Soccer on April 28 with the winner qualifying for the 100th edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Both teams are aiming for their first Open Cup berth, while a Connecticut-based club hasn’t made the cut since 2007 (Danbury United) and Massachusetts hasn’t had a USASA representative since 2009.
The replay was moved to Newtown High School where a harder artificial surface made for a game where ball control would be more difficult. The wind blowing behind New York in the first half and behind Newtown in the second half seemed to favor the team playing into the wind as it held the ball up for attacks which rolled over the end line playing in the opposite direction.
In the original match between the two sides, Pancyprian Freedoms kept greater control of the ball while Newtown played a strong defensive game attacking on the counter. In this replay, both sides started tentatively, looking like they did not want to concede an early goal. Two early chances for Newtown were called to a halt by the offside flag before New York had their first chance with a shot by Matia Damiani going wide of the post at the 10 minute mark.
The teams each created an additional scoring chance through the first 15 minutes when Newtown was awarded a free kick inside the New York half, which was cleared. Newtown retained possession and Jeffrey Swan put a shot narrowly over the crossbar.
New York took the ensuing goal kick down the field where a strong run resulted in a throw 10 yards from the Newtown goal line. Newtown cleared the incoming throw and the game settled back into a midfield battle.
Tempers began to flare in the 18th minute as contact to the face took down New York’s Julio Cesar dos Santos. Players and fans alike would spend the afternoon giving the officials a difficult day as both sides were unwilling to concede any ball without a challenge.
In the 27th minute, Mike Semedo almost broke the tie for Newtown, ringing the crossbar with a strong shot. The game then resumed its physical nature with a hard foul from New York leading to a midfield showing match highlighting the tension between the sides at the half hour mark. The battle for possession continued for the next 10 minutes with a New York corner being picked out of the air by Newtown keeper Bradley Jeeves being the only offensive threat.
In the 40th minute, New York’s Panayiotis Despotopolous came on as a substitute and turned the advantage to the Freedoms. A few minutes later, a Newtown turnover had to be cleared for a New York throw-in. New York retained possession and when a slow cross rolled across the face of the goal within a yard of the end line, a number of players for both sides missed the chance to either clear it or put it into the net before the halftime whistle.
Newtown took the first chance of the 2nd half with Mike Semedo putting a shot wide to the left of the New York keeper. New York then spent the next 5 minutes on the attack. Panayiotis Despotopolous took a dangerous free kick that was punched away from goal by Jeeves. Christian Iordanu and Pangiotis Iordanou connected on a nice play inside the Newtown box, but the shot was wide of the net.
Newtown countered with a number of attacking opportunities. A dangerous corner in the 55th minute was cleared, then a low free kick from 25 yards out to the left of the New York keeper dangerously crossed the box diagonally. No one was able to make contact with the ball and it rolled out for a goal kick.
New York then mounted sustained pressure on the Newtown goal and it looked like the Newtown defense might break. Jeeves was forced into a save in the 62nd minute. The play of the game came in the 70th minute as Jeeves was caught off his line by a chip over his head. Diego Orlandini kicked the ball right off the goal line keeping the score tied at zero.
The next 10 minutes were a tight battle as players on both sides began to wear down. In the 81st minute, Jeeves was forced into diving to his left for a brilliant one-handed save. The ensuing corner resulted in a foul to the right of the Newtown goal. The free kick missed on the short side for a goal kick. The remainder of regulation was contested tightly in the midfield.
Newtown had the best chances of the first extra period. Two free kicks followed by a corner were cleared by the strong Pancyprian defense. At the 100-minute mark, Diego Bohrer hit the crossbar for Newtown.
In the second extra period the players were clearly tiring. Multiple players cramped up while both sides fought for an advantage. A New York free kick was the highlight of the second overtime narrowly clearing the crossbar.
After 120 minutes, the match had to be decided at the penalty spot.
Christian Iordan (NY) and Tiago Ribeiro (NEW) scored to open the shootout, but Jeeves dove to his left to save the second New York attempt. Mike Semedo put Newtown ahead 2-1 after Round 2. After Jeff Matteo (NY) and Diego Orlandini (NEW) exchanged goals in Round 3, Freedoms goalkeeper Stelios Andreou leveled the tiebreaker by scoring on his attempt, and watching Newtown’s attempt sail over the crossbar.
After three rounds of successful kicks, it came down to Round 8, and Jeeves came up big for the home team. His dove to his left to make the save, then dusted himself off and took a PK of his own and buried it to send Newtown to the semifinals, 7-6.