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New York Freedoms open season with 4-1 win

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It was just game one of 20, but the New York Freedoms’ season-opening 4-1 win over rival Westchester Flames Saturday night showcased what may be the best and most opportunistic strike force in the United Soccer Leagues’ Pro Select League.

Freedoms top returning scorer Rocky Bojovic and top newcomer Julio Cesar combined to score three of New York’s four goals — all coming off Westchester defensive miscues — in the Atlantic Region and U.S. Open Cup qualifier victory at Belson Stadium on the St. John’s University campus.

“I thought having Rocky and Julio on the field, their strength is in and around the goal,” said Freedoms head coach and general manager David Price. “They’re probably the best two forwards in the Pro Select League. The shots they had, they capitalized on, and it made a big difference in the game.”

It didn’t take long for Cesar, a two-time Pro Select League Player of the Year with the New Jersey Stallions, to make a difference in his Freedoms debut, as the Brazilian-born striker settled a bad clearance by the Flames and beat Westchester keeper Mike Mellis low from the penalty spot in the 42nd minute.

In the 55th minute, Bojovic, who led New York with 11 goals and 5 assists last year, netted his first of the season when he blocked Mellis’ punt up field and slotted the ball into the open net to give the Freedoms a 2-0 lead.

One minute after Kwame Richardson brought Westchester within one, tapping Julian Kapaj’s cross along the goal line into the net, the Freedoms made the most out of yet another Flames defensive blunder.

Mellis came out of the 18-yard box to field the ball and passed diagonally to Freddy Nava. But Nava’s poor clearing ball was intercepted by veteran Georges Haba, and with Mellis still off his line, the former Long Island Rough Riders standout blasted it into the upper left-hand corner of the net from 30 yards out to put New York in front, 3-1, in the 76th minute.

“For the first game, it was very good,” said Cesar, who had a league-best 22 goals and 51 points last year and capped the scoring with his second of the game in the 82nd minute. “They made mistakes and we got our chances and put them in. It was the key to the game.”

The Freedoms continue their three-game home stand Saturday when they host the Reading Rage at 8 p.m.

“We’re still pretty rusty and we didn’t get a good flow going, but the guys’ attitude was good,” Price said. “We have a long way to go, to get where we want to be, to become a better team than last year.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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