490 days. That’s how long Lansdowne Yonkers FC went without losing a game in any competition (league, state, or national). The team from just north of New York City won nine trophies in that span including two national titles. Last August, the team defeated legacy amateur side Cal FC in the shadow of SeatGeek Stadium, 2-1, to win its second National Amateur Cup.
In the process, Yonkers became the third team to secure a US Open Cup qualification as the amateur champions.
Note: Newtown Pride FC qualified for the 2020 tournament as champions but never participated due to its cancellation.
Despite that streak coming to an end last week against the New York Greek Americans, coincidentally in the Eastern New York Amateur Cup final, Lansdowne can still be considered the front-runner in the group of open division locals. The team is the most experienced out of the group with two previous qualifications (2016 & 2018). Each of those runs included wins as well, including a Second Round road upset against the professional Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (USL).
Club president William McGrory is quick to note that this Lansdowne team is a completely different unit than ones of the past. The team has grown into a full organization with youth development which has drastically changed the look of the eleven players on the field at any given time.
“Compared to it’s a younger coaching setup. Obviously a hungrier team. There’s a good dynamic, a good will to wanting it,” McGrory said in an interview with TheCup.us.
While this squad might be younger, those two previous Open Cup teams were “Bhoys”. Lansdowne Yonkers was originally founded at Bronx Bhoys SC in 1997, a pub team offshoot of the still existing Bronx Bhoys Celtic SC, which originally met at The Lansdowne Bar on Broadway in the Bronx. After the bar’s closure in the early 2000s, the group moved to playing more in Yonkers. The team changed to its more iconic name, “Lansdowne Bhoys FC”, to reflect the original pub and “Bhoys” to reflect the Celtic SC roots.
After nearly two decades, the Lansdowne organization decided its future hinged on building a youth academy. The growth of other academies in the city and surrounding area meant not only would it be better competitively but also for the local area too. An agreement was made in 2017 to acquire the well-known Yonkers United program and start from there.
With a new program dedicated to girls soccer, the tough decision was made to drop the “Bhoys” name. Lansdowne Yonkers FC came not long after and in only a few short years the name has become synonymous with amateur soccer in the northeast.
The focus on youth hasn’t meant completely losing experienced talent. Striker Shamir Mulling joined the club in late 2020 and has since became a director in the youth program. His first game with team was a 2-0 loss on November 15, 2020 against Eastern Premier Soccer League counterpart Doxa SC. Two days later, the team started it’s year long undefeated run.
“We have such a great squad, such a great management team, a great board that all believes in what we want to do. I think going into the first round we’re going to take Ocean City very seriously and put our all into it.”
The team’s success has come with drawbacks. Two players who played critical roles during the successful run have left the team for other opportunities. Stephen Elias (a player who also spent time with the Ocean City Nor’easters), who had been with the club since 2019, signed with first year National Independent Soccer Association club Valley United FC in January. More recently Jack Beer, one of the team’s younger stars, moved across the river to join New York City FC’s new MLS Next Pro team.
This isn’t even including the three to four possible injuries the team is dealing with ahead of the First Round. McGrory noted that the team has been trying to “replace quality with quality” whenever it can. This includes bringing back former League of Ireland player Dean Dillon, who last played for the group during 2020 tournament qualifying.
“Sean Kelly and Craig Purcell have a very good eye for talent,” McGrory said. “They have a system that they play. If they find a player that can play within that system, he doesn’t have to be the best player but they can get the best out of each one of them. It’s one of the reasons we’re successful. We can have a squad of 30 players and each of them would have participated at some stage of the season. It keeps everyone on their toes.”
McGrory and Mullings both admit the biggest challenge of the tournament is getting players ready for it who can commit. With nearly all of them having a full time job outside the club it makes consistency a challenge. However, after a year of playing competitive matches McGrory almost welcomes the the tournament as a way to change pace.
“It’s very difficult to keep that up week in and week out. So we’re actually looking forward to the Open Cup as a different challenge.
On a final note, a few members of the team noted that it was ironic that the winner of this game will travel to play Rochester New York FC in the Second Round. The former Rochester Rhinos knocked the Bhoys out of the tournament in 2016 at Rochester Rhinos Stadium. In the half decade since, both teams have gone in totally different directions. Lansdowne has done everything mentioned above while Rochester went on hiatus following the 2017 United Soccer League season. The team that won the 1999 US Open Cup, under the moniker “If you can’t join ’em, beat ’em”, is now playing in MLS Next Pro – a reserve league to Major League Soccer.
If given the chance, Lansdowne would love the opportunity to play Rochester again and show just how much things have changed since 2016.