The shocker of the 2016 National Premier Soccer League postseason saw the NPSL’s newest playoff darling stun its defending national champion. Defender Dennis Correia scored midway through the second half and goalkeeper Matt Perrella chalked up a timely clean sheet as New Jersey Copa FC ousted New York Cosmos B, the defending NPSL champion, 1-0, in the NPSL Northeast Region semifinals on July 20.
Sixth-seeded NJCFC (7-1-6) advances to face Keystone Conference rival Clarkstown SC Eagles, the region’s top seed, in the Northeast Region championship game on Saturday, July 23 at 4 pm at Ramapo College in Mahwah, NJ. The winner will play in the national semifinals on July 30.
A season that began with 82 franchises on the pitch will see the rookie New Jersey Copa FC side among its final eight teams standing after a 65th minute tally.
Midfielder Emerson Lawrence fed Correia who beat a pair of defenders down the right sideline, slipped to the inside and finished a right-footed shot to the far post for the only goal of the night at Hofstra’s Mack Sports Complex.
Perrella’s strong goalkeeping made the lead hold up in front of a defensive unit that included Correia and Andrew Santos.
Correia, Perrella, and Santos were each tabbed the Jersey Mike’s Subs/New Jersey Copa FC co-Men of the Match.
Each team had its chances in a scoreless first half. In the final minute of the opening period, Cosmos keeper Hector Guerrero maintained the deadlock with two saves—tipping a rocket from midfielder and captain Daniel Mendoza over the crossbar, before smothering a blast on the ensuing corner by forward Andres Berriel.
The host’s best first half opportunity came in the 40th minute when an offsides call negated a Gaston Sanchez strike.
Looking for an equalizer, Franklin Castellanos’ hard, bouncing attempt was snuffed by Perrella. Castellanos again was denied by Perrella in the 89th minute and the defending champions could not threaten again in the four minutes of stoppage time.
The third meeting of the season between NJCFC and Clarkstown will be the most significant. The clubs played to a 1-1 draw in the last meeting on July 9 in Mahwah. Clarkstown (11-1-1), which advanced to the Northeast finals with an identical 1-0 decision against fourth-seeded Legacy 76, took the first matchup of the year on June 4 by a 2-1 outcome in West Windsor, NJ.
Roberto Aguas, New Jersey Copa FC head coach and team owner:
“Our unlikely journey continues with this historic win tonight. I’m not sure if this has ever happened before but to knock off the defending national champions—the New York Cosmos B—in our inaugural season, is indicative of the work and dedication these players, coaches and staff have put in. We can’t express to all our sponsors and fans how special the season has been so far because of them, but I can share with them that we are not done. Tomorrow we start our recovery and preparation for Northeast Region Final. Our confidence is high and we will enter the final with the same humbleness and hunger we have had all season. What really makes this run even more special is that this team is not only composed of a great group of future professionals but many are alumni from our FC Copa Academy. What an amazing group of role models they are to all of our youth players.”