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Freedoms drop fourth straight to New Jersey

WAYNE, N.J. — At times Friday night the New York Freedoms looked good. Real good.

So good that it was hard to believe this was the same soccer team that dropped three straight USL Pro Select League games.

But then there were the other 70 minutes, when the Freedoms were disorganized and frustrated and the New Jersey Stallions capitalized, beating New York 2-1 in a double US Open Cup qualifier at DePaul Catholic High School.

The game was a double qualifier because an earlier game between the two teams — a postponed May 3 contest at St. John’s University — couldn’t be rescheduled in time for qualification deadline.

“We can play so well, that’s the frustrating part of it all,” said Freedoms coach David Price. “But it’s not consistent. We go from one entity to another where we can either be brilliant or other times be awful.”

The first entity dominated the opening moments of the game and went ahead 1-0 when former Stallion standout Julio Cesar slotted home Georges Haba’s rebound at the far post in the seventh minute.

But New Jersey (3-2) netted the equalizer a minute before halftime on almost a carbon copy of the Freedoms goal, as Roger Kennedy pounced on Marcelo Fracchia’s rebound in front of the net.

“I think scoring the goal with one minute left in the first half was a big difference, and we came out in the second half strong,” said Stallions coach Luis Carlos Mendoza. “I think they have a very good team, but today we deserve the result.”

The Stallions went ahead for good in the 70th minute when second-half substitute Lona Ozrek, who entered the game five minutes earlier, ran onto goalkeeper Carlos DeBrito’s long punt. Ozrek headed the ball and ran past defender Steve Franski into the box and beat Freedoms keeper Peter Zaratin low inside the near post from 14 yards out.

“It’s a lack of concentration at the back, a lack of communication,” Price said. “We’ve done something similar in previous games and it’s not good enough right now. These are grown men, they’re pros, and they have to learn from mistakes.”

Ozrek’s goal seemed to serve as a wake-up call for the Freedoms (1-4), who stepped up their game and nearly netted the equalizer twice in stoppage time.

But Franski missed an open net from 14 yards out, and Ranford Champagne chipped the ball over the crossbar from the top of the 18-yard box.

The game was marred by a pair of ugly incidents late in the second half. The first saw Freedoms midfielder Rich Bradley and Stallions midfielder Wojtek Krakowiak — each former St. John’s standouts, although they played several years apart — sent off by referee Don White in the 83rd minute.

Both teams were reduced to nine men five minutes into stoppage time when Freedoms substitute Hemir Niebles and Leeban McGregor from the Stallions, who entered the game two minutes earlier, were both red carded as a result of a spitting incident at the far corner flag.

The two teams combined for 35 fouls and 11 total bookings.

“As soon as they score, we turn it up again and that’s too late. We need to start putting those performances in from the start and carrying them through the game,” said Freedoms defender Kevin Daly. “Everyone says we do have the talent, but as far as I’m concerned people can keep talking about that, but until we prove it, it means nothing.”

New York Freedoms 2, Northern Virginia Royals 0. Haba scored a pair of first-half goals for the Freedoms, who snapped a four-game losing streak at St. John’s DaSilva Field Saturday night. After hosting local rival and defending national champion Long Island Rough Riders Wednesday night, the Freedoms play at the Reading Rage Friday at 7:30 p.m.

South Jersey Barons 2, Brooklyn Knights 1. Andre Borges scored the lone goal for the Knights, who dropped their second straight Premier Development League match at Mercer County Community College Saturday. The Knights (2-2-1) host the Vermont Voltage at the Metropolitan Oval Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

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

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