Photo Credit: Mark Smith/NPSL.com
Elm City Express completed a story-book first-year in the NPSL when it defeated the Midland-Odessa FC Sockers 5-0 at Reese Stadium in New Haven, CT before an ecstatic crowd of 3,112 Saturday night.
Two goals apiece by All NPSL third team forward Tavoy Morgan and Quenton Swift led the Express to the victory. Morgan finished the playoffs with six goals and was selected as the Mitre Man of the Match. The Sockers, playing under an extremely challenging set of circumstances, fell behind 2-0 at halftime and it remained close until late in the match when the quality of the Express side finally broke the game open. Regardless of the challenges for the Sockers leading up to the match, the Express were deserved Champions. In the Midland Reporter-Telegram game story (link below), Sockers head coach Matt Barnes talked about Elm City’s quality: “Elm City is the best team we’ve seen in a long time,” Barnes said. “They’re a very good team.”
The Express, who joined USL on January 9 of this year, was founded by K2 Soccer USA, a sister company of K2 Soccer SA which owns and operates Clube Atlético Tubarão, which is based in the State of Santa Catarina in the southern part of Brazil.
The clubs first season was wildly successful. A 9-1-2 regular season record resulted in the Atlantic Blue Conference Division championship and a #5 finish in the NPSL National Regular Season Power Rankings. This was followed by five dominating postseason victories, including Saturday night’s Championship game.
The Sockers, who moved from the USL PDL to the NPSL this year, also had a tremendous season. A 7-3-0 regular season record produced a plus-12 goal differential, which was the best in the Lonestar Conference. Midland-Odessa then peaked at the right time and won 4 straight playoff games until the loss in the final. The team overcame significant obstacles even to complete the regular season and defeated a number of playoff teams, including Detroit City FC in the semifinal round, with much more experienced players. Two players, midfielder Alex VonHolle and forward Jamie O’Grady, received All NPSL recognition. For the second consecutive year, the Sockers made the National semifinal round in its league and also secured a place in the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competition. Coach Matt Barnes, his staff and the roster of players that stuck to the end should be commended for a season to remember.
For Midland-Odessa to even put a team on the field for the Championship game was remarkable. It accomplishes little to go over the issues again. At least, in its worldwide search for eligible players, the team was able to find a real goalkeeper before Saturday night! In any event, the links to the game stories below talk in detail about the sequence of events last week that produced the roster that played in the Championship game if any readers are interested.
If college players will continue to play a key role in league rosters going forward, it would seem to be in the NPSL’s best interest to find a way to finish future seasons before the NCAA mandated dates for eligibility kicks in. A repeat of what happened to the Sockers this year would be a shame, both for any future team involved and especially the credibility of the league.