January 11, 2013
STATE-SIDE SPANISH DOMINANCE
Iberia's perfect 9-0 record dominates CSL Metro Division One
By Jay Mwamba
Spanish dominance of the beautiful game has never been more complete.
Long-time footballing masters at the club level with a succession of fine sides from Barcelona and Real Madrid, the Spaniards have in recent years extended their domination full spectrum with triumphs at the World Cup and European Championship.
State-side, on the East Coast to be specific, CD Iberia is proudly flying the “La Rojigualda” in America’s premier amateur league. At the halfway mark in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League’s 2012-2013 season, the club formed 45 years ago by immigrants from Galicia in the northwestern part of Spain reigns supreme atop the Metro Division One [East].
Iberia’s flawless 9-0 record is the best among the 100 teams in the CSL. And at the pace the club is going, it may well equal Manhattan Celtic’s perfect run last season when the Pier 40 denizens won promotion to the top flight with a 16-0 record.
“A couple of factors go into this [season’s] success,” Iberia coach David Lago said. “After the 2010-2011 season our core group of players decided to bring Iberia back to what it was; a team of friends and family comprised of Spaniards as it was when it was formed 45 years ago. We voluntarily dropped from [the] First Division to Metro One and haven’t looked back.”
Eleven players on the roster played for the Iberia first team that finished joint second in the top flight in the 2010-2011 season, which, Lago pointed out, helps in the talent department.
“The majority of our roster hails from Spain and more concretely, Galicia,” he said.
Not surprisingly, Iberia was the pick of the litter in its first year in Metro One [2011-2012], scooping the East division title by a runaway nine points. However, something came unhinged in the championship match against Korabi and the team lost on penalties.
The Spaniards’ inability to score from 12 yards also cost them dearly in the Livio D’Arpino Cup quarterfinals, where they succumbed to eventual Cup winners Central Park Rangers reserves.
“A good transition but not good enough,” Lago said.
Although they had clinched promotion to the Second Division, Iberia opted to continue rebuilding in the Metro ranks.
“We decided not to move up to solidify our project and not until we won the Metro One Championship and State Cup,” he said.
“During [the] off season, we addressed our key needs: additional goal scorers, goalkeeping and [adding] depth to the bench. Last season the prolific Carlos 'Chiki' Vasquez scored 17 goals in 12 games but our next goal-scorer had six. This season we have five to six guys who come off the bench and we don’t miss a beat when they come on.”
Iberia’s 43 goals in nine league outings in the fall was the highest in the top three tiers of the CSL. Shooting the lights out for the Spaniards Barca style was a core of players with some of the most exotic nicknames in the league.
There’s the veteran Steve “El Caballo” Nyarady, who also doubles as assistant coach, back in his First Division form with a club-high 11 goals; Andrew “El Dragon” Rodriguez and Antonio Trillo with eight strikes apiece and Vasquez, whose new midfield role has restricted him to only five goals this campaign.
“Our success this year is team based," Lago said. "Every game we have had somebody different step up where last year we were mainly reliant on Chiki -- who is still our most talented player and probably most talented in Metro Division One.”
At the back, Iberia is buoyed by its seasoned captain, and second assistant coach, Diego Monteagudo, along with Christian “El Machete” Sande. Chiki, “El Dragon” Rodriguez and Dani “Fuera Chorizos” Soberon provide cover in midfield.
Lago also had kudos for goalkeeper Augie Shkreli.
According to the coach, losing the championship match and bowing out of the D’Arpino Cup at the quarterfinal stage last time around were wake-up calls for his players.
“Our goal this year is to win the league and State Cup and we built the team with that in mind,” said Lago, who gets the odd run out when Iberia is short handed due to injuries or scheduling conflicts.
Luckily, as he put its, this only happened twice last year.
CD Iberia can claim the best record in both the CSL and Metro Division One, but not too far off the pace in the latter is a bunch of fun loving footballers sponsored by an Irish bar in Manhattan’s West Village.
Mr. Dennehy’s FC is top dogs in Metro One West with a 7-1-1 ledger and chances are that the team is on a collision course with Iberia in the Metro One championship match come June.
“We have always joked about ourselves being a “drinking team with a soccer problem,” coach Ronan Gardiner said. “Friends first, teammates second, we play for the love of the game and try to display that spirit on and off the field every week.”
Dennehy’s first place in Metro West at the start of the winter break and qualification to the third round of the new Division 3 Cup means this has been the club's most successful start to a season since its founding in 2005.
“It is hard to put my finger on what is different about the team this season. We only brought in a couple of new players and the backbone of the squad has really not changed,” Gardner said.
“I remain player-coach, J.P. Loize is captain – roles that we have occupied since the start of the club – and we still don’t train!
“I think that we possess more self belief than in seasons past and there are goals coming from everywhere. To single out individual players would almost be unfair, as every man on our squad has contributed equally at this point.
"We are incredibly excited about the second half of the season, but are also aware that we have many hard games ahead. I believe that the two against our friends and rivals, Korabi, will go along way to deciding our ultimate fate bur rest assured that win or lose, we are going to enjoy every game … and the drinks that follow them!”