The College of Staten Island survived a feverish John Jay College comeback to score a 5-2 victory as part of the CUNYAC Postseason Tournament Semifinals today in a match played at Brooklyn College. CSI lost a 2-0 lead midway through the second half as the Bloodhounds came back to tie, but then responded with three unanswered goals to pull away late in a game that was closer than what the final score would indicate. CSI improved to 10-8-2 with the win, gaining their first Final appearance since 2007, while the Bloodhounds saw their season end with a 7-12 record.
The game could not have started any better for the Dolphins, as CSI rode an adrenaline rush to an early goal in the opening moments. CSI leading scorer Marcin Klim did the honors, turning on a pass from Brayan Evo and tucking in a goal on the short side against JJC keeper Sehad Mujovic to put CSI up 1-0 just 3:47 into the game. The game settled from there with both teams working up runs up and down the field, trying to string together quality chances.
CSI had the better of the set pieces during the remainder of half, and on their fifth corner kick of the half in the 33rd minute, CSI doubled-up their lead when an Evo corner touched down on to the waiting head of Horatio Reid, who threaded the ball in to make it 2-0 at 33:16. CSI seemed well on their way, but a headstrong John Jay unit had other plans. Almost immediately after the goal, John Jay put enormous pressure on the CSI goal. JJC leading scorer Grayson Carlson came open and rocketed a ball on net that got past CSI goalkeeper John Gioeli but was headed off of the goal line by CSI defender Ilir Papraniku at 34:37. Then, second later, a rocketed shot from nearly 30 yards away by Abdul Malik Muftau sent Gioeli sprawling to make a save. Gioeli got a fingertip on it but the ball hit the crossbar and went on to the foot of Alexis Bustillo, who knocked the rebound home to cut the CSI lead to just one, 2-1, with 9:48 left in the first half.
Neither team was able to register in the first half from there, and the teams strategized for the final 45 at intermission with CSI holding a 2-1 lead.
Both teams then picked up where they left off in the second half and the game played out about even. Both teams tried their best to counterattack and although both defenses bent, neither broke. That is, until the 67th minute. There, once again after some feverish play in the CSI end, a Bustillo cross ended up bouncing in the box, and a Justin Osorio header escaped past Gioeli to knot the game even at 2-2. Osorio had checked into the game just moments before.
John Jay seemingly had all the momentum now, but like the Bloodhounds in the first half, this time it was the Dolphins that responded with an enormous jolt of action. Right on the ensuing kickoff, CSI seemingly took the lead when an Evo pass down the wing found a sprinting Emmanuel Agboola, who shed a defender and tucked a header into the net, but a foul whistled against Agboola negated the goal. On the ensuing play however, JJC would end up turning the ball over at midfield, and then Evo took matters into his own hands, grasping a pass from Lefkowitz, then splitting two defenders and lacing a cutting rocket from 25 yards out that blazed passed Mujovic into the net for a 3-2 CSI lead, just 1:32 after JJC had tied it.
From there, the Bloodhounds were in desperation mode to tie it, and nearly did in the 78th minute, when a Carlson shot one-on-one with Gioeli hit high off of the crossbar to keep CSI in front. Again, CSI capitalized on the mistake. First, in the 81st minute, CSI’s Tarek Emam missed a wide-open chance when his ball sailed high over the crossbar, but three minutes later, Emam would indeed connect, this time on an Agboola feeder to put the game seemingly out of reach, 4-2, with just 5:41 to play. Just one minute later, Gioeli would rob Carlson of another goal with a point-blank save, and when CSI cleared the ball from danger, Agboola gave it a long, healthy run, shedding two defenders on the way in and lacing a beautiful crossing pass on to the waiting boot of Emam, who paused, eyed a target, and gently pushed in another goal with 4:04 to play to make it 5-2.
“When John Jay tied it, we were able to respond very well,” said head coach John Tardy. “I’m very proud of them. They stuck to the gameplan and we were able to stay focused and put more balls in the net. It was a big win for us having lost in the semifinals three years in a row. It’s quite an accomplishment for us.”
CSI owned the final shot advantage, 20-11 (11-5 on goal), and tallied seven corner kicks to JJC’s five. Emam led the squad with six shots, followed by Evo’s four. CSI’s John Gioeli made just three saves in victory, but was incredibly active in net all game, thwarting would be scoring chances with effective clearances. Carlson led all Bloodhounds with four shots, while Mujovic made six saves in defeat.
CSI will next play the winner of CCNY and Brooklyn in the CUNYAC Final, scheduled for next Saturday, November 7, at 4:30pm, at Brooklyn College.