On a cold Sunday in Maspeth, Queens, two long-time rivals faced off in the first open division qualifying round for the 2016 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The four-time champion New York Greek American SC hosted three-time champion New York Pancyprian Freedoms at the historic Metropolitan Oval in what is one of the longest-running rivalries in American soccer.
In a battle of two teams that have dominated the city of New York in Open Cup play since 2003, it was the Freedoms taking an early lead, only to lose it and force extra time where they beat the Greek American 4-2.
A steady back and forth opened the match. While the Freedoms initially had more chances available to them, the Greek Americans had several dangerous opportunities of their own. An element of chippiness came into play near the end of the first half with a Freedoms player going studs first into an opposing player’s ankle. Shortly after, another Freedoms player was upended in the corner by a Greek American defender and tempers flared again.
The Freedoms took advantage in the moments that followed, getting on the scoreboard first through a Chris Megaloudis goal in the 38th minute. Megaloudis was quick to pounce on a ball as the keeper came off his line and made a mistake, bobbling the ball away.
The Greek Americans would start the second half with a bang. Dele Akinyode beat the keeper on his left side, putting the sides back level on the board just two minutes in. The Greeks increased the pressure in the second half and only strong play from the Freedoms’ goalkeeper kept his club in it.
The home side took the lead in the 66th minute when Omar Edwards made a run down the left side before cutting in behind his defenders a ripping a shot from about 27 yards out to beat the Freedoms keeper with a spectacular goal.
With six minutes remaining in the half, the Freedoms managed to tie it up at two with a Nick Katsanos header coming off a corner kick sending the game into extra time.
Stoppage time would go to the visitors as the Freedoms scored one in the first half, courtesy of Panagiotis Halkidis. Chris Megaloudis would take away any hope for penalties by burying another in the second half, sending the Freedoms into the second round.
Despite the win, Freedoms captain Nick Katsanos was not satisfied with his team’s performance.
“We looked sloppy out there, especially in those first ten minutes,” Katsanos stated.
While he was happy with the victory, he also said the tight, physical game was what they expected.
“Yeah, we know these guys,” the defender said with a laugh. “This game comes as no surprise.”
With the victory, the Freedoms move on to the second round of qualifying and will host Jersey Shore Boca of the Garden State Soccer Association on Nov. 14 at Belson Stadium on the campus of St. John’s University. The Freedoms are now two wins away from qualifying for the US Open Cup for the first time since 2011.