By Ray Kingsbury
The Third Rail came up big for the 2016 Pepito Cup hosted by Italian national teamer, and New Jersey native, Giuseppe Rossi. Rossi, though arriving late due to a delayed flight from Lisbon, was greeted warmly by fans and journalists alike at the event at Chelsea Piers Sports Center. In an interview with Sky Sports Italy, Rossi seemed pleased with the turnout, and the Third Rail was the center of the party with TR New Jersey Chapter’s Connor Lloyd and his drum being featured during the exit scene for the segment. The event, which took place on Friday, December 23rd, was done to benefit the Kick 4 Life charity to which Giuseppe Rossi is a brand ambassador.
The squad, which consisted of an eclectic group of Third Rail members from different chapters, went on to have the second best record in the tournament, besting the Red Bulls' 1 win and 2 losses. Despite placing fifth of six teams, it was evident that the squad was one of the better teams at the tournament and received compliments from competitors – even the Red Bulls. If you want to take a look at the team’s performance, you can watch video streamed to the Third Rail public facebook page by Rox Fontaine.
The format of the tournament allowed for each team to play exactly three games. The teams were split into two groups by random draw. Group A consisted of Napoli supports, Bologna supporters, and the Giuseppe Rossi Fan Club (which included one Third Rail member). The second group was filled out by The Third Rail, Red Bull supporters, and AC Milan supporters.
The first game of our group kicked off with AC Milan supporters edging out an impressive victory over the Red Bulls. Next up was the Third Rail versus AC Milan, which saw the Third Rail team come together in quick interplay to take a stout victory. Immediately following this the team went up against the Red Bulls, and due to a combination of fatigue and mistakes, we fell 1-0 early before clawing back level and conceding again. Though it looked as if the team could reclaim the lead with a late resurgence, some colorful calls by the referee combined with a challenge of the century by John Hayducky sealed the deal. Due to the way that the bracket fell, seeding was decided by two games, and with each team in our group tied on wins, it fell to goal difference, which we lost out on. This saw us turn out for a third consecutive game against the Bologna supporters. Though hampered by a series of knocks from the previous two games, all players on the roster got out on the pitch for this game and took a dominating win. Though placing fifth, we take pride in the fact that we won two of our three games, and bested the Red Bulls record, who fell unceremoniously in the championship game to the Giuseppe Rossi Fan Club. Ironically, they were wearing blue and rostering a Third Rail member so it was nice to see that New York is indeed still blue!
Though tournament organizers intended for The Rail to wear orange, upon unveiling the jerseys it was quickly realized a huge mistake had been made. "Oh well, it’s almost Christmas, and looking like Santa Claus isn’t that bad…. right?" Yeah, having to wear red jerseys sucked, and to make matters even worse the Red Bulls were present! Following the tournament, The Third Rail’s supporters had the opportunity to mill around on the pitches and meet Giuseppe Rossi as well as shoot some penalties against Light Railer and budding keeper Sam Perman. All in all, the support shown for the team by other TR members and the teamwork, friendship, and sportsmanship between The Third Rail and the other groups was the biggest positive of the night. Scarves were swapped and fun was had. It was quite a good start to a holiday weekend.