Dilly Duka

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FC Motown isn’t an ordinary NPSL side, and it shows in Year 1

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To get a full understanding of one of the country’s most exciting clubs, you have to meet Dan Karosen and Scott Kindzierski — co-founders of FC Motown. Those two are only the beginning of what is quickly developing into a rich soccer culture in the heart of New Jersey, though.

[ MORE: USMNT to host Colombia in October friendly ]

The team name likely sounds familiar, as Motown has quickly risen amongst the ranks of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) elite in just its first season of existence.

Roughly 30 miles from New York City and in the epicenter of the soccer-potent state of New Jersey, FC Motown was founded back in 2012, however, the club’s presence was significantly different than what currently lies before us.

Six years ago, Karosen and Kindzierski — who had previously grown up together and attended Delbarton High School as classmates — found themselves on a local pitch playing in a co-ed sports league.

That was where the the idea for Motown was officially concocted.

The club began competing in the Garden State Soccer League (GSSL), a competitive outlet for a number of top amateur teams in New Jersey. However, it wasn’t long before the duo got the idea to take another leap forward into the realm of competitive soccer, one that the team has managed to conquer in a very short period of time.

Motown merged with the Clarkstown Eagles only this year, after having competed in conjunction with the club in 2017 in the NPSL, to form a side that is on the brink of capturing the league’s title in just its first year.

“The club was generated out of the No-Idea Sports Co-Ed League,” Karosen told Pro Soccer Talk. “We played in that recreation league to have fun and ended up having a really strong team. We wanted to test ourselves at a higher level and joined the Garden State Soccer League.  

“We used their promotion/relegation structure to work up their pyramid and started adding more talent. When we conquered the GSSL we joined the NPSL to test ourselves in a national league, and take another step up the U.S. Soccer pyramid.”

Courtesy: FC Motown

The current Motown squad is led by Dilly Duka and Julius James — two former MLS professionals — who have been cogs for Motown all season as they aim to capture an NPSL title on Saturday. They’re joined by a healthy mix of current and former collegiate standouts that are also complimented by players that previously played in Poland and Uruguay.

That group includes midfielder Matt Nigro, who was recently named NPSL Golden Ball winner (Player of the Year), as well as

Meanwhile, the club’s manager — Sacir Hot — has a professional background of his own after briefly playing for the New York Red Bulls and coming up through the ranks of the U.S. Soccer youth national team system.

That’s what makes Motown such a unique setup. They aren’t the traditional “amateur” club and that’s what makes them so special.

And while NPSL boasts a number of clubs with significant professionals in their squads, most notably New York Cosmos B, Jacksonville Armada U-23 and Miami FC 2, Motown is proving to many other clubs across the league that even the new kids on the block can make noise when competing against the upper echelon.

“This first year has to be considered a smashing success for the club on the field,” Karosen said. “Expectations were very high given our talent level, but beating the Cosmos and making the national final four stamped the season.

“Our primary goal as owners is to give our players a good experience with our club.  Hopefully our talented players enjoyed the season and they certainly all gave the blood, sweat and tears that we asked for them.”

Hot has had to orchestrate how the club balances a compact schedule that features a full NPSL and GSSL schedule, on top of playing several matches in the 2018 U.S. Open Cup.

Without much time to work in training sessions, and the majority of the club working other jobs on the side, like any other lower-level team Hot has somehow found a way to get his club to buy into Motown’s winning mentality, which has propelled them through the entire season.

The diverse mix of talent in the Motown squad is undeniable, ranging from former professionals to a fourth-year medical student.

“Yes, it was only a matter of getting the group of players to buy-in and sacrifice some of their normal 9-5 life tendencies to give us the best chance to win the NPSL title,” Hot told PST. “Hani Nasr (a fourth year medical student) has been able to balance both, and that exemplifies how committed all of our guys are.”

2018 appears to be just the beginning for Motown’s ambitions though. With a club that already features several former professional players, a professional atmosphere is what the organization is seeking.

Courtesy: FC Motown

Motown has already knocked off a New York Cosmos B side that features many players that previously competed with the club’s NASL side in the NPSL playoffs, and now faces another NASL-generated club in Miami FC 2 in their first-ever NPSL final.

Club president Oliver Papraniku has already begun discussions about a potential opening in a league being explored in 2019, which would run through NPSL at a professional level.

While the details of the league are still a bit murky due to the U.S. Soccer Federation’s distinct laws on division classification, which currently constitutes professional clubs as ones in the top three tiers of the American soccer pyramid, Pro Soccer Talk has learned through multiple sources that an NPSL professional league is very much in the works.

“We are currently working on the possibility of joining the new NPSL Pro League in 2019 and also the possibility of working with David Villa’s ‘DV7 group’ on future soccer-related projects,” Papraniku told PST. “We know that FC Motown is in a great area with lots of youth soccer and passionate fans of domestic and international soccer.

“We want to grow FC Motown as a way to help develop talent but also inspire the next generation of young players who come to our games and see a pathway to the pros.”

For now though, Motown benefits from boasting a team that has players that have experience in big matches, with Duka, in particular, playing a key role in the club’s 56 goals scored this season across 17 matches in all competitions.

Before Duka was orchestrating goals for Motown’s potent attack, he was in MLS with a number of top clubs, including Columbus Crew and the New York Red Bulls.

An ankle injury derailed his opportunity to continue in MLS for the current season though, and that’s when Motown became the ideal choice for a player that was born and raised not too far up the road.

“FC Motown’s story is great because we’re a group of players looking for competitive leagues to stay fit and we’re out here competing in a local league making it more competitive,” Duka said.

For any lower-level team, sustainability is the name of the game. And while Motown has a ways to go before it can really establish itself on the U.S. soccer scene, a victory in Saturday’s NPSL final would go a long way towards achieving that goal.

MLS Cup Playoffs: Columbus Crew SC 3-1 AET (4-3 agg.) Montreal Impact

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The game in 100 words (or less): It took 180 minutes, then it took 30 minutes more, but Columbus Crew SC are through to the Eastern Conference finals where they’ll face the top-seeded New York Red Bulls in two weeks’ time, after knocking off the Montreal Impact, 3-1 (4-3 on aggregate) Sunday night at MAPFRE Stadium. The two-legged triumph erases a nightmare of a playoff appearance in the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs, in which Gregg Berhalter’s side was hammered by the New England Revolution, 7-3 over two legs. Kei Kamara scored twice on the night — a pair of headers, of course — to go along with Ethan Finlay’s late equalizer in regular time. Dilly Duka, playing against his first professional team, scored a goal that for a period of time had the Impact in front with as few as 12 minutes of regular time to be played.

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of the weekend’s playoff action ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Kamara heads home from close range — Get the ball wide, get the ball into the box and watch Kamara head it home — that’s been roughly 86.7 percent of Crew SC’s gameplan in 2015, and to devastating effect. Federico Higuain sprang Waylon Francis down the left wing and the Sierra Leonean striker did the rest.

40′ — Duka puts Montreal back up on aggregate — Chaos inside the penalty area, a failure to clearance and a badly missed offside infraction — that’s all it took for Montreal to equalize on the day and reclaim the aggregate lead through Dilly Duka’s close-range finish.

68′ — Bush saves Kamara’s PK to preserve lead — It would have re-tied the series on aggregate, but it was a very soft penalty decision in the first place. Kamara hadn’t taken a penalty all season long, but he talked Higuain out of the responsibility nonetheless. It was a poor penalty, saved rather easily by Bush as long as he goes the right way.

78′ — Finlay puts home the rebound, 3-3 on aggregate — Duka was offside on his goal in the first half, and Jack McInerney was offside during the build-up to Finlay’s goal late in the second half, so we’re even now. To extra time we go.

111′ — Kamara heads home again late in extra time — Kei Kamara, expert header of soccer balls. The man is brilliant when it comes to finish chances with his head, as evidenced in his late winner to send Cedrick Mabwati’s header home from an incredibly tough angle, from a fair distance out.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Kei Kamara

Goalscorers: Kamara (4′, 111′), Duka (40′), Finlay (78′)

CCL final: Montreal Impact very much alive after 1-1 draw with Club America in first leg

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The Montreal Impact were not supposed to be here. After finishing 19th (out of 19 teams) in Major League Soccer during the 2014 season, Frank Klopas’s side were supposed to get blown out of the CONCACAF Champions League knockout rounds and serve as an afterthought to the teams with a real chance of winning the competition.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage | CCL ]

Someone forget to tell the Impact, because here they are, 90 minutes away from being crowned CONCACAF champions following a 1-1 draw with Mexican side Club America in the first leg of the CCL final on Wednesday night. Forget about winning or even drawing the first leg — they were supposed to get run out of the building, totally embarrassed and effectively defeated before the second leg was even played on their home turf.

The Impact nabbed an early lead (16th minute), and so very nearly did the unthinkable. Dominic Oduro made a darting run into the right channel, played a clever through ball to the top of the box, where Dilly Duka’s dummy attracted the attention of America’s defense just enough to free up Ignacio Piatti near the penalty spot. The Argentine midfielder made no mistake with his finish and Montreal were in dreamland (below video).

Over the next 20 minutes, the Impact saw wave after wave of America pressure come their way, including a great goal being wrongly ruled out for offside in the 26th minute and Miguel Samudio’s stunning full volley clanging off the outside of Evan Bush’s near post in the 33rd minute.

The game’s most controversial moment came just before the halftime whistle when Oduro broke behind the entire America defense and bore down on goalkeeper Moises Munoz. Osvaldo Martinez, who was chasing Oduro down from behind, got a handful of Oduro’s shirt and pulled the Ghanaian speedster down. Criminally, Martinez was only shown yellow for the clear denial of an obvious goalscoring opportunity.

[ MORE: UEFA CL roundup: Real Madrid, Juventus join Barcelona, Bayern Munich in the semis ]

Samudio picked out Dario Benedetto at the penalty spot with a floating cross in the 60th minute, a golden opportunity to equalize, but Benedetto’s subsequent header was right at Bush and an easy save in the end. Either side of the ‘keeper and it was in the back of the net.

America continued to chase an equalizer and came inches from claiming one in the 68th minute, when Rubens Sambueza unleashed a powerful blast from 25 yards out, but the Argentine midfielder’s shot found only the crossbar.

It wasn’t until the 89th minute that America finally broke through, breaking Montreal hearts and planting a further seed of doubt ahead of the second leg. Sambueza whipped in a curling corner kick to the top of the six-yard box where Oribe Peralta was waiting and leapt over the Impact defense to head past Bush and level the game and series at 1-1.

The second leg of this year’s CCL final will be played next Wednesday (8 pm ET) in Montreal, in front of 65,000 at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

LINEUPS

Club America: Munoz, Samudio, Aguilar, Pimentel, Aguilar, Pellerano (Guerrero 70′), Sambueza, Martinez (Peralta 46′), Quintero, Arroyo, Benedetto (Zuniga 80′)

Goals: Peralta (89′)

Montreal Impact: Bush, Toia, Ciman, Soumare, Camara (Miller 66′), Mallace, Reo-Coker (Bernier 76′), Romero, Piatti, Duka (Tissot 71′), Oduro

Goals: Piatti (16′)

CCL roundup: Montreal Impact pick up surprise draw, two away goals vs. Pachuca

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The Montreal Impact weren’t supposed to be here, and they sure as heck weren’t supposed to be showing so well in the quarterfinals of the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League (CCL).

Pachuca 2-2 Montreal Impact

The Impact, who finished dead last in points won in MLS 2014, shocked the CONCACAF region once again on Tuesday night as the Frank Klopas’s side went into Estadio Hidalgo and nabbed two away goals in a 2-2 draw with heavily favored Mexican side Pachuca.

What’s even more unbelievable about Tuesday night, the Impact were unlucky to draw 2-2, not to win 2-0.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage | CONCACAF CL | UEFA CL ]

Dilly Duka scored both Impact goals (25th and 53rd minutes) to give his side a 2-0 lead shortly after halftime. The first was a well-worked bit of play from the Impact, which ended with Duka sending Pachuca goalkeeper Oscar Perez one way and calmly rolling the ball the other, into the back of the net. The second came off the rebound of Justin Mapp shot, which Duka was first to and hit home.

The two-goal lead was short-lived, though, as Pachuca pulled one back through Heriberto Olvera’s free kick in the 56th minute. Olvera skipped the ball off the top of the Impact wall, creating lots of top spin and movement that Evan Bush couldn’t quite reach. Pachuca’s second was the result of a lightning-fast counter attack that finished with Ariel Nahuelpan bundling the ball over the line with his midsection.

After winning Group 3, which featured the New York Red Bulls and C.D. FAS (Honduras), in the fall, the Impact are one of two MLS teams still alive in CCL (D.C. United). Each quarterfinal tie’s second leg will be played next week.

CD Olimpia (El Salvador) 1-1 Herediano (Costa Rica)

Tuesday night’s other CCL quarterfinals matchup saw CD Olimpia, winners of Group 5 over the Portland Timbers and Alpha United (Guyana), draw 1-1 with Herediano, winners of Group 7, over Leon (Mexico) and Isidro Metapan (El Salvador).

Javier Estupinan gave the hosts a 1-0 lead on the stroke of halftime with a shot from just outside the penalty area, but Cristhian Lagos pulled the Costa Ricans level and grabbed a vital away goal in the 58th minute.

Wednesday’s CCL schedule

Saprissa (Costa Rica) vs. Club America (Club America) — 9 pm ET

Thursday’s CCL schedule

Alajuelense (Costa Rica) vs. D.C. United — 8 pm ET

Stalemate sees Chicago drop needed points in Toronto (Video)

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMyeo1dYMXE]

When is a point on the road in MLS not enough? When we’re past the three-quarter mark of the campaign, you’re on the road in Toronto, and you’re trying to track down two teams to claim a playoff spot.

That’s exactly the situation Chicago found themselves in prior to kickoff at BMO tonight, and at the onset, thinks looked good. A looking cross from Dilly Duka found its way into the back of the net after Mike Magee threw off Joe Bednik, giving the Fire a 1-0 lead. Hold on to the result, and Chicago would sit fifth in the East at night’s end, vaulting New England and Houston to temporarily occupy the conference’s last playoff spot.

Against a team with only four wins this season, you’d think their odds were good, especially with the expectations of a playoff race sure to be on Chicago’s minds. But Toronto’s also managed to get 10 draws out of the season, and before halftime, thanks to some help from the Fire defense, they equalized. Robert Earnshaw saw a ball played through Bakary Soumaré to him in the right of Sean Johnson’s area. Cutting back across goal as Gonzalo Segares’s block slide aside, Earnshaw left Johnson little chance to prevent the equalizer.

It was also the last goal of the match. Though Chicago slowly brought on more attack-minded players and Ryan Nelsen, while making up for Earnshaw’s early exist, looked to counter Frank Klopas’s moves, neither side could distinguished itself from the other. The match ended 1-1.

For Toronto, it was their 11th draw of the year, one that saw newly acquired Bright Dike make his Reds debut. But it was also nothing different from what we’ve seen all year from Toronto. The team just can’t score enough goals to find the win column.

For Chicago, the result has to be a disappointment, particularly given they were up after 20 minutes. Unfortunately, they can’t really claim they deserved much better. Against one of the league’s struggling teams, they failed to show themselves better. As a result, they remain in seventh in the East.

You can see Duka’s 20th minute opener, above. Earnshaw’s 23rd minute response is here:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7hHzU4czE0]