FOUR KEY BATTLES IN THE COSMOS COPA FINAL
Harold Junior Charles (NYC Haiti) v. Teddy Niziolek (NYC Poland):
The winner of this Saturday’s Cosmos Copa Final will be the team that successfully controls the middle of the field. As both teams consistently use their central midfielders to orchestrate their attacks, Harold Junior Charles of NYC Haiti and Teddy Niziolek of NYC Poland will be the key factors in determining how their respective teams perform on Saturday. For NYC Haiti, Charles is a spark of energy who infuses imaginative play into his team's play. His fearlessness when taking on defenders adds to Haiti’s already daunting attack and his confidence on the ball allows his teammates more time to spread the field with lateral movement and get past the opponent's fullbacks. Whether he is pirouetting around a defender or spraying balls out to the flanks for his wingers, Charles will be the lynchpin of the Haitian midfield when they take the field against Poland on Saturday.
A bit dissimilar to Harold Junior Charles, Teddy Niziolek’s playing style is more elegant than flamboyant. His first touch never fails him, he always picks out the correct pass, and his clever movement off the ball allows him to orchestrate play anywhere on the pitch. While Charles is a free spirit on the field, always searching for the ball to either make a pass or take on a defender, Niziolek’s game is more calculated. With his clever movement, he is always either creating space for his teammates or putting himself in a position to recieve the ball. Also, his willingness to track back and take on a “libero” type of position, as he displayed in the USA quarterfinal match, allows him to break up opposing attacks and launch a counter attack from his own half. His ability to embrace the Beckenbauer-patented position gives him the power to manage every aspect of a match, a terrifying thought for the Haitians. As last year’s Golden Ball Winner, it is a safe bet that Niziolek will influence the Cosmos Copa Final in one way or another; the only question to ask is whether or not anyone can get close enough to him to slow down the tempo of his play.
When both players finally meet on Saturday, Niziolek’s height advantage will allow him to win aerial challenges, but Charles’ quickness and fearlessness in 50/50 challenges on the ground has the ability to fluster Niziolek’s graceful approach to the game. In contrast, if Charles fails to keep his work rate high and allows the Polish star time and space with the ball, Niziolek’s class will be on full display; which will likely lead to NYC Poland’s third consecutive Cosmos Copa title. If NYC Haiti wishes to be crowned champions, Charles will have to focus on staying true to his defensive duties. If he succeeds with the latter, Niziolek could be out of rhythm and unable to orchestrate as he usually does, thus, giving Charles more time with the ball, which lead to more opportunities to spark the Haitian attack.
Jean-Baptiste Fritzson (NYC Haiti) v. Christopher Karcz (NYC Poland):
NYC Haiti and NYC Poland are worthy Cosmos Copa finalists as both of their attacks have carved defenses apart all tournament long. Haiti have scored 13 goals while Poland have scored 11. Although they won’t be seeing much of each other on the field, as they will be attacking opposite goals, Christopher Karcz and Jean-Baptiste Fritzson are the keys to their team's attacks.
Karcz is a veteran of Cosmos Copa as he was both the Golden Boot and Golden Ball Award winner at the 2010 tournament before being forced out of last year’s competition due to injury. The Polish striker quickly made it clear that he was past his injury woes as he notched a brace against the USA in the quarterfinals, including a cracking strike that’s in the process of becoming a YouTube sensation, and a vital goal against Senegal in the semifinals. Karcz is also a former All-American at Rutgers University and has a wealth of technical ability to go along with top class finishing that will give the Haitian defense nightmares if he finds top form.
On the other end of the field, Jean-Baptiste Fritzson will be looking to give the Polish defense the same troubles that Karcz will be dishing out to the Haitians. Fritzson has appeared as a member of the Haitian national team 15 times, notching 7 goals. He also plays for Aigle Noir AC, a prominent Haitian club team, on top of trialing with the New York Red Bulls, Montreal Impact, and the New England Revolution. His invaluable experience at the professional level will be vital as he faces off against a Polish defense that has the ability to be as disciplined as a professional side. Although Karcz is the man with Copa history on his side, the class Fritzon showed in his dazzling performance against Bolivia in last weekend's Semifinal should give the Haitians belief that Fritzson will be the player to take over Saturday’s final. He absolutely tormented the Bolivian defense on his way to an assist and two goals in a display that earned him Man of the Match honors. It was one of the most dominating displays of this year’s competition. So, heading into the Final, Fritzson’s combination of speed and strength, along with his creativity in and around the 18-yard box sould test a Polish defense that has looked vulnerable at times in the run-up to this year’s final.
Poland and Haiti are the tournament's two top scoring teams so this match could come turn become a high scoring affair. Whatever striker is in better form could go along way to deciding who lifts the Cosmos Cup.
Yvener Guerrier (NYC Haiti) v. Marcin Czwerinski (NYC Poland):
This is a classic battle between striker and goalkeeper. Yvenner Guerrier, the top scorer at Cosmos Copa thus far, has notched six goals in five matches; although he failed to find the back of the net in Haiti’s Quarterfinal and Semifinal matches. On the other hand, Marcin Czwerinski was selected as the best goalkeeper of the 2011 tournament. Although he has conceded more goals this year than last, he has made some impressive saves and has dutifully dealt with oddly sporadic defensive performances from his backline.
Whether or not the Poles experience defensive woes, Czwerinski will have to be in top form on Saturday as Guerrier has proven to be one of the most clinical strikers at Cosmos Copa. His six-goal borage during the group stages served as a perfect example of his exceptional eye for goal. Despite squandering a good number of opportunities in Haiti’s quarterfinal and semifinal matches, the fact that Guerrier was able to sneak into dangerous areas has to be a positive for an NYC Haiti team that relies heavily on their striker’s movement.
Although Czwerinski is capable of making a game defining save, Guerrier has the upper hand going into Saturday’s match for the simple fact that the goalkeeper is always at a disadvantage when forced to make a save. Guerrier will find himself with an opportunity to get on the score sheet at least once when Poland and Haiti take the field at Macombs Dam Park this Saturday, we’ll all have to wait and see if he takes advantage of the opportunity when it comes his way.
Elysee Vilsaint (NYC Haiti) v. Lukasz Bielen (NYC Poland):
Elysee Vilsaint is the prime example of NYC Haiti’s attacking philosophy. Vilsaint is a speedy winger with quick feet and an ability to beat his defender with ease. Throughout every one of Haiti’s matches, the backline would send looping long balls in the winger’s vicinity that he would control with ease before running at the nearest defender. Vilsaint’s ability to sneak in behind the backline and attack with pace is one of the main reasons why Haiti have found so much success offensively. With three goals, an assist, and a bag of tricks, Vilsaint is heading into the Cosmos Copa Final poised to lead his team to glory.
Elysee Vilsaint may be the most dangerous wing player that will be on display on Saturday, but if there is one man that has the ability to slow the Haitian down, it’s Lukasz Bielen. Bielen is Poland’s sturdy right back and most complete defender as his versatility allows him to mark any type of offensive player while also joining the Polish attack himself. In Poland’s quarterfinal clash with the USA, Bielen was suspended due to a red card he received in Poland’s last group stage match against Uruguay. The right back’s presence was definitely missed as his team conceded three goals for the first time in over a year. It’s no surprise that once Bielen returned, the Poles only conceded once in their semifinal match against Senegal, in the last minute of play, no less.
While a majority of Saturday’s match will be played in the center of the park, the importance of the flanks must be stressed as Vilsaint has the ability to use the width of the field to the Haitian's advantage. Bielen is one of the few men on the pitch who has the ability to cancel out Haiti’s treacherous wing play, so it should be interesting to see how the winger and full back battle it out.