For the fifth time this year Saturday night, FC Motown raised and celebrated yet another championship trophy.
The New Jersey club enjoyed its latest accomplishment after besting New York Cosmos B, 3-2, to secure the Northeast Region crown in the NPSL playoffs.
It wasn’t necessary the piece of hardware the side ultimately is aiming for, but for the time being it certainly will do after upending Cosmos B on its home turf at Rocco B. Commisso Stadium.
“This is our biggest victory since we’ve been FC Motown,” said head coach Sacir Hot, whose team reached next week’s national semifinals.
Forward Christopher Katona, who scored one goal and set up another, was a member of the Clarkstown side that lost in Northeast Region final to eventual NPSL champion Elm City Express last year. So, winning was a monumental achievement, especially against a previously unbeaten team
“It’s huge,” he said. “The Cosmos are a well-structured and organized team. We just had that motto: come out to a game plan, just stick to it and just let the game fall to where it should come to.”
FC Motown (12-1-1), a new organization in the league after merging with Clarkstown after last season, enjoyed an excellent regular season by winning the Keystone Conference with a 9-1 mark. The team won the conference playoff crown and now this.
Competing in the Garden State Soccer League, FC Motown won the league and playoff titles, plus the New Jersey State Cup. The side also won the Keystone Conference playoff championship trophy last week.
“Man, when you see an ownership like we have and how invested emotionally and financially they are, you play for them,” said Northeast Region XI selection and midfielder Dilly Duka, who converted a penalty kick. “We could raise trophies — and we’ve raised a couple of trophies on Twitter this year — raising something like this is awesome. These guys are so happy. You’re just happy for them. We just came out here and gave it our all. We played a good team. They made one or two mistakes and we capitalized. It’s awesome.”
On Saturday night, FC Motown broke open a scoreless draw by scoring three times within a 19-minute span in the second half.
First, Katona, on the left flank, found Walter Calderon on the right side of the penalty area and the midfielder scored in the 53rd minute. Seven minutes later, Katona latched onto a long ball by Matt Nigro, beat his man and eventually goalkeeper Kevin Tenjo for a two-goal advantage.
Duka increased the lead to 3-0 by converting a penalty kick in the 72nd minute after center back Alejandro Penzini fouled Daryl Kavanagh in the penalty area.
The visitors looked like they were in the driver’s’ seat, although Cosmos B (12-1-1) had some other ideas. Ivan Berterame, who came on for Cosmos B playoff scoring hero Zaire Bartley (four goals in as many games) in the 86th minute. Berterame made the visitors sweat by scoring twice in stoppage time, the first on a brilliant shot from distance, the next one from close range. Deep into added time, Cosmos B had one last opportunity to equalize, but goalkeeper Abdoukarim Danso dove to his left to deny Darwin Espinal’s free kick.
“Three-zero would have been a satisfying result,” Hot said. “The two goals that we conceded in stoppage time really put a damper on things. We did win, but to give up two goals in extra time really kind of killed the enjoyment of it. But at the end of the day, we won, so I have to realize I have to be happy for that.”
On the flip side, the hosts exited the stadium quite unhappy and disappointed. They were kicking themselves for failing to convert opening-half opportunities.
“You’re playing a good team and you have opportunities and you have to finish or else it’ll come back to bite you,” head coach Carlos Mendes said. “Tonight was one of those nights. Even the way we gave up the goals, too. It wasn’t our best night overall. Credit to them. Wish them the best. A disappointing end to the season. Still proud of the group. For me it’s a big honor to be coaching the group.”
Team captain and midfielder Danny Szetela, who played on three New York Cosmos championship sides in the North American Soccer League, agreed.
“In the first half, we had our opportunities and we didn’t finish,” he said. “The second half, they came out and finished opportunities and they won the game. There’s nothing much more to say. They played a better second half.
“Big props to Motown and good luck in the next match.”
As the top-seeded team of the final four, FC Motown will welcome fourth-seeded FCM Portland in the national semifinals at Ranger Stadium at Drew University in Madison, NJ on Saturday, July 28.
The team was hopeful it can add yet a sixth trophy to its burgeoning collection.
“Getting here after last year not winning the regional finals, we saw that we are capable of it,” Katona said before he rattled off the names of several newcomers, including former Trinidad & Tobago international defender Julius James, ex-MLS defender Hunter, defender Hani Nasr, and Duka. “The list just keeps going on and on. We’re just confident with the abilities of the players that we have. We just stick to the game plan that the coaches put out in front of us. Everything else just works its way to us.”
Added Duka: “We’re not going in it with our heads in the clouds. We’re going in it to have fun, compete and just see what happens.”
Cpntributor: Michael Lewis/NPSL.com
Photo Credit: Matthew Levine/New York Cosmos and Michael Lewis/NPSL.com