On a day that featured six goals, a red card and lots of heat and sunshine, New York Athletic Club forward Robert Cabrera was the star of the day as NYAC defeated Chesterfield United FC 4-2 in a Northeast Regional quarterfinal of the NPSL Playoffs Powered by MITRE.
NYAC came out on the front foot right from the opening whistle, dominating possession and attacking the Chesterfield United defense down the flanks, particularly through the over-lapping runs of right back Nathaniel Bekoe.
Taking only two minutes to register their first shot on goal, NYAC would use this plan to great effect as Bekoe’s cutback found midfielder Ciaran McGuigan at the top of the penalty area with acres of space. McGuigan’s shot was saved by Chesterfield goalkeeper Joe Rice with NYAC unable to corral the inviting rebound.
Soon enough, NYAC would turn their dominant possession into a lead.
Coming through yet another bombing run from Bekoe, the NYAC right back was able to get behind the Chesterfield defense and played a perfect cutback to forward Chuong Tran, who with his back to goal, laid it off perfectly for the onrushing Cabrera who cooly placed his first-time shot into the roof of the net.
Cabrera was just getting started on this humid, 83 degree afternoon at New York Athletic Club’s Athletic Field on Travers Island.
Just two-and-a-half minutes after his 17th-minute opener, Cabrera found himself in a peculiar situation in the 19th minute. During one of the few times Tran dropped back into the midfield to receive the ball, the NYAC forward found Cabrera with yards of space between the Chesterfield center backs, playing a perfect through ball. Upon receiving the pass, Cabrera hesitated, looking towards assistant referee Emily Buse to see if he was onside. Once he realized that he was, Cabrera ripped a spectacular 25-yard strike that caromed high off the left post into the net, giving the hosts a 2-0 lead.
“Their defense was pretty wide open,” said Cabrera of his two first-half goals. “Their center backs were split up, so they gave me chances to get the ball and shoot or turn around and give the ball back to my midfielders as we tried to play the one-twos and get the goals.”
Following 30 minutes of pressing dominance, the heat seemed to take a little of out NYAC’s sails, allowing Chesterfield to finally get themselves into the game.
“It affected us a little bit,” said Cabrera. “For the first 30 minutes we had the ball completely. In the last 15 you could tell that everyone was really tired. It was really hot. It was a little difficult.”
Chesterfield got on the board in 39th minute as they were able to get the ball to midfielder Nick Rich down the right-hand side of the NYAC defense. With some time and space Rich played a perfect cross right onto the head of Dan Lauretano. The Chesterfield No. 9 made no mistake, cutting NYAC’s lead in half.
Chesterfield had a chance to even the game at the stroke of halftime as Lauretano was taken box in the penalty area by Bekoe. However, Benjy Slator pushed his effort wide left allowing NYAC to escape to halftime with its 2-1 lead in tact.
Both teams seemed to need more than the 15 minutes allotted for halftime as they game struggled to find a rhythm. “The heat is the same for both teams,” said NYAC coach Joseph Ruesgen. “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, you’re going to struggle in this heat. I do think it affected them more than it did us.”
The NYAC coach’s words would prove true as the men in red were able to pressure the Chesterfield’s blue-clad backline in finding their third goal.
In the 57th minute, Tran and midfielder Benjamin Barton converged on the Chesterfield defender causing a turnover. The ball found the feet of Cabrera in the 18-yard box whose shot hit the right post but rebounded directly back to him and the NYAC talisman was able to complete his hat-trick with the one-time effort.
While NYAC spent the first half attacking Chesterfield down the right side, New York changed tactics in the second half and focused their offense down the left through their left winger Barton.
The New York Athletic Club head man said that tactical switch was the call of players. “They figured out organically on their own,” Ruesgen said. “The credit goes to them for figuring out.”
In the 64th minute NYAC would make sure the outcome would not be in doubt over the last 25 minutes as midfielder Ciaran McGuigan capped a solid effort with NYAC’s fourth and final goal. It was another great team goal as Cabrera now played provider, playing the ball across the top of the penalty area where Tran executive a perfect dummy and pulled Chesterfield goalkeeper Joe Rice out of the net, allowing the on-rushing McGuigan the easy finish.
Chesterfield would close out the scoring on the afternoon as Dan Lauretano converted on a 70th-minute free kick form just outside the penalty area.
Any chance Chesterfield thought they have had in staging a comeback was extinguished in the 73rd-minute as forward Benjy Slator was shown a straight red card for an off-the-ball foul by referee Justin Lopez. Down to 10-men, Chesterfield could only muster a light run-around with NYAC over the final quarter of an hour.
The fourth-seeded New York Athletic Club now moves onto the Northeast Semifinals of the Payoffs Powered by MITRE where they will take on top-seeded New York Cosmos B on Wednesday, July 22 at Mitchel Field in Hempstead, NY.
With a short turn-around for their Semifinal match following a game on such and hot and humid afternoon, Ruesgen feels his men will be more than ready for their trip to Long Island.
“We are very fortunate that it was a home game for us,” the NYAC coach said. “The guys can go home right away and start their recovery immediately. I usually say 48 hours is enough and 72 is perfect for recovery. For our game on Wednesday, we should be fine. We should be able to get back to 100%. In regards to fatigue, I’m not worried or concerned fro Wednesday.”
“This is a tremendously talented group. We have the talent that can compete with anyone in the league. As long as we turn out and play our game, we can beat anyone on our day.”