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.
Game action at Keyworth Stadium Saturday night: (Photo Credit: Fletcher Sharpe/NPSL.com)
Overcoming obstacles seems to be in the DNA of the Midland-Odessa FC (MOFC) Sockers. Saturday night in Hamtramck, Michigan the Sockers silenced a large and raucous announced crowd of 7,533 at Keyworth stadium by defeating Detroit City FC (DCFC) 0-0 (4-2 on penalties) when Elliott Bentley converted in the fifth round of the shootout.
The Sockers now advance to the NPSL Championship game against Elm City Express this Saturday at Reese Stadium on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.
The game had ebbs and flows as happens in many playoff games. Newspaper stories below discuss the chances both teams had throughout the match. During regulation, the Sockers outshot Detroit City 18-8 and DCFC’s goalkeeper, former Houston Dynamo Academy player, Fernando Pina was forced to make 10 saves. The Sockers had the better chances in the first half, both teams dueled in the second half and Detroit City was unfortunate to not win in added extra-time, hitting the woodwork twice and having a ball cleared off the line.
In the 3rd minute of the first overtime, DCFC had two excellent opportunities to score off a corner-kick. The first clanked off the post and the follow on was cleared off the line by Socker’s forward Andrew Moullin. Late in the second overtime, former Major League Soccer defender Greg Janicki smashed a header off the crossbar during a run of play that began with a DCFC corner-kick.
Penalty shootouts and the word “crap-shoot” seem to always go together and this was no different. MOFC converted 4 of 5 penalty chances (Alvaro Rubio, Andrew Moullin, Isaac Sanchez and Bentley) and goalkeeper Braulio Linares-Ortiz saved two of the Detroit City penalties. The Socker’s Jamie O’Grady could have ended the shoot-out a round earlier, but was unlucky as his penalty hit the crossbar.
In the Detroit News game story by Larry O’Connor, Sockers head coach Matt Barnes talked about the changes in momentum as the game progressed:
“It was an interesting match because I thought we were clearly the better team in regulation,” Midland-Odessa coach Matt Barnes said. “We weren’t sweating much. We created a lot. Our game plan was really solid. I just thought we should have put the ball in early in the first half. In overtime, I thought they were better than us. We dodged a couple of bullets in overtime.”
In the same article, Detroit City FC coach Ben Pirmann only seemed to quibble with who controlled the game in the second half: “In the last 75 minutes we really took it to them”.
Both teams had obstacles to overcome. Le Rouge, Detroit City’s nickname, played without any of its NCAA Division 1 players, including Tyrone Mondi, the hero of last weeks win over AFC Ann Arbor that allowed Detroit City to progress to the semifinals. The Sockers obstacles are at a different level however. MOFC has been playing with 16 players for the last two weeks and according to the teams Twitter feed it is the youngest team in the NPSL. Midland-Odessa coach Jim Robbins discussed this in post-match comments to Fletcher Sharpe on npsl.com: “Since the NPSL/NCAA cut off, we’ve lost 14 rotation players, so it has been tough, but to get to a semifinal in back-to-back years is a testament to this program.”
Primarily because of the excellent quality of Detroit FC’s streaming service, impressive fan support and social media strategy, Saturday’s game drew staggering live streaming numbers for a semi-professional soccer game. According to the Detroit News, the game drew 30,000 viewers from live stream and social media. In a testament to the world-wide reach of the Internet, viewers from Northern Ireland made up more than 8% of the live stream audience Saturday. Midland-Odessa soccer is now global!
One splash of cold water on the celebration came from MOFC’s Matt Barnes who told the Detroit News after the match that the NCAA might not let the remaining collegiate players take part in the NPSL final. “We have to figure out that out with the league in a couple of days.”
Links to game stories:
Midland-Odessa CBS-7 segment (includes video of winning penalty):
You Tube of Penalty shoot-out from mlive.com:
Inter Nashville FC Twitter
The Midland-Odessa Sockers playoff run continued at Grande Communications Stadium in Midland when they defeated Inter Nashville FC 1-0 Saturday in front of more than 1,000 fans to advance to the national NPSL semifinal round. This will be the second consecutive trip to the semifinal round for the Sockers (though in different leagues).
On a hot night in West Texas (see picture above) Zach Penner scored the game winner off an assist from Ricardo Palomino in the 71st minute for the only score of the match. Palomino received a pass just inside the Sockers attacking area and was able to run uncontested through the Inter Nashville defense. Just before reaching the 18 yard box, Palomino threaded a perfectly weighted pass thorough four defenders to Penner, who received the ball with his back to goal, turned and blasted the shot past Nashville goalkeeper Hayden Coffman, who had no chance to stop what turned out to be the game winning goal.
The game was generally even with both sides having chances. Inter Nashville hit the post midway through the first half, but otherwise the Sockers organized team defense and goalkeeper Braulio Linares-Ortiz kept the game scoreless until they were able to break through.
In the game article from Eric Blum in the Odessa American, Sockers head coach Matt Barnes talked about the challenge involved in making it to the semifinal round with a different roster than the one that went to the semifinal round last year:
“I don’t think people realize how hard this is to do in Midland. We don’t get returners ever. It’s a new group every year and for us to take a whole new group in a whole new league with no experience back to the final four — I’m so proud of these boys. It’s really emotional for me.”
The challenge was further complicated because, due to a variety of factors, the Sockers only have 16 remaining players on the roster.
The Sockers now travel to Hamtramck, Michigan to play Detroit City FC (DCFC) (13-3-2). “Le Rouge” as they are known are one of the NPSL golden children because they are the only soccer team playing in one of the largest markets in the country and their large (6,400+ in attendance last night) and boisterous fan base. Detroit City rolled in early playoff games, scoring 5 goals twice against Dakota Fusion FC and Duluth FC (Friday night) before running into a local nemesis, AFC Ann Arbor Saturday night.
Detroit City’s playoff run also continued as a stoppage time goal allowed them to defeat Ann Arbor 3-2 to win the Midwest Region. Playing the second game in two nights, Detroit City went up 2-0 in the first half on the higher seeded Ann Arbor, who had won the two previous meetings with Detroit City FC. Things were looking even better when Ann Arbor had a player sent off with a straight red card in the 66th minute. Despite playing a man down, Ann Arbor scored twice to tie the game. A second Ann Arbor player was ejected after picking up his second caution in the 90th minute. Then four minutes into stoppage time, Tyrone Mondi scored the game winner.
Detroit City FC game winner (amazing photo!) courtesy of DCFC photographer Jon DeBoer (@jondeboerphoto):
Detroit City FC will host its 2017 National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) National Semifinal against the Sockers at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck, Michigan this Saturday,-August 5. Game time will be at 6:30 C.D.T.
Game Summary from Odessa American
Detroit City FC Game Summary from the Detroit Free Press (including link to game winner video):
The playoffs start a new season. Regular season records go out the window when the playoffs begin. The playoffs give every team a chance to start over. There are a number of ways to express the same thought….when the playoffs start, especially in lower division soccer in North America, excitement and surprise are sure to follow.
Midland-Odessa FC provided another example of this phenomenon last Saturday in Wichita, Kansas. The Sockers overcame an 8+ hour bus ride, lightning delays, 50 MPH winds and a team that had not lost a home game all season to defeat FC Wichita 1-0 in dramatic fashion on a goal from Zach Penner and earned the right to play next weekend. This will be the second consecutive year that the Sockers have made it to the final 8 of the NPSL playoffs.
The goal sequence started in the 90th minute off a turnover from a Wichita player in his own half of the field. The ball eventually found its way to Isaac Sanchez and then Jamie O’Grady whose cross to Zach Penner resulted in the only goal of the night-the only one needed thanks to a well organized Sockers defensive game plan. The goal did come with some controversy as some on the Wichita side felt that O’Grady was offside when he played the ball into Penner. Regardless, the AR didn’t see it that way and the Sockers move on to next round of the NPSL playoffs.
Sockers Head Coach Matt Barnes had this to say in the game report from the Midland Reporter-Telegram after the game:
“Sometimes you’ve got a hold of a team that finds a way to get it done,” said Barnes, who is now among the final eight teams in the country for the second straight summer with MOFC. “It’s like nothing fazes us. I know (FC Wichita) overlooked us, but we are a tough team to beat. We came out of a really good conference and that helped us.
The Sockers now advance to play Inter Nashville FC at home Saturday night at 7:30 at Grande Communications Stadium in Midland in the South Region Final. The Sockers might be a bit surprised to be playing this game at home, because Inter Nashville shockingly upset the team that was rated number 1 in the 96 team nationwide NPSL prior to Saturday night, Miami Fusion, in Florida via a 22nd minute goal from Gregory Warden.
The winner of Saturday night’s match will advance to the National NPSL semifinals to be played on August 5th against the winner of the Northeast Region Final, either Elm City Express (New Haven, CT.) or Clarkstown SC Eagles (Clarkstown, NY).
Game stories in the Odessa American and Midland Reporter-Telegram below:
The winning Midland-Odessa side celebrates the victory: (MOFC Twitter
The crowd at Stryker Soccer Complex in Wichita Saturday night (FC Wichita Twitter)
KMID-Local 2 video attached here:
KOSA-CBS 7 video attached here:
The Opposition this Saturday Night in Midland: (Inter Nashville FC Twitter)
Midland-Odessa FC Sockers (MOFC) advanced to the NPSL South Region semifinals after defeating Shreveport Rafters FC 2-1 last night in the Lonestar Conference finals at Grand Communications Stadium in Midland.
The second goal came from a penalty kick in extra-time that was awarded as a result of a handball in the box in the third minute of added extra-time. Midfielder Isaac Sanchez, who rejoined the team earlier this week, converted the penalty that eventually ended up as the game winner. In the game story in the Midland Reporter-Telegram by Will Korn, Sanchez described his feelings about his contribution to the victory:
“I really wanted to take (the penalty shot) and I was confident and thank God it went in,” Sanchez said. “The keeper was close, but this organization has given me a lot in the past three or four years and this is the way I wanted to give back. It was really special and I’m really humbled. I know a lot of guys are fighting for a place to be here and for me to be called up at the last minute, it means a lot.”
After a scoreless first half, the start of which was delayed 30 minutes by the referees late arrival, MOFC’s Ricardo Palomino opened the scoring in the 51st minute off an assist by Midland-native Darius Strambler. The Rafters Che Walcott scored on a breakaway in the 79th minute to tie the game before the dramatic extra-time winner.
Midland-Odessa now travel to Wichita next Saturday at 7:15 p.m. to play one-loss Wichita FC at Stryker Soccer Complex. Wichita defeated Tulsa Athletic 5-1 in Kansas last night to win the Heartland Conference championship. The winner of that game will play the winner of the Miami Fusion FC vs. Inter Nashville FC game in the South Region Final at the site of the highest remaining seed on July 29.
The link to the Midland Reporter-Telegram’s story by Will Korn (@Will_MRT) is below:
NPSL logo courtesy of ChrisCreamer’sSportsLogos.Net
Soccer playoffs are, take your pick, a roll of the dice, a crap shoot, a roller coaster or any other like description one can imagine. We had ample evidence of this in the United Soccer League (USL) Western Conference last year when the #4 seeded Swope Park Rangers made it all the way to USL Cup. Because the top 3 western seeds, including Rio Grande Valley FC, lost in the opening round, Swope Park not only became the top remaining seed but was the beneficiary of two unexpected additional home matches against the 8th and 6th seeded western teams.
Last night in the Lonestar Conference of the NPSL, essentially the same scenario transpired as the two top seeds lost first round games and Midland-Odessa Sockers now are the beneficiary of an unexpected home match against Shreveport Rafters, who will have plenty of time to think about the task at hand on its 500+ mile and 8 hour trip to West Texas for Saturday night’s Lonestar Conference final.
Ft. Worth Vaqueros-2 Shreveport Rafters-3
After playing two games over the weekend and taking a 2-0 lead into the halftime break, the Vaqueros essentially ran out of gas and allowed 3 unanswered Rafters goals in the second half, including the game winner in added extra-time.
Here are two links, first, the game results on the Vaqueros website and, second, a story in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram that discussed the impact the winning season has had on the fan base and the continuing search to find an appropriate soccer venue in the area:
Dutch Lions FC (HDLFC)-1 Midland-Odessa FC (MOFC)-3
MOFC scored two shock goals in the first three minutes and went on to win 3-1 against Dutch Lions FC in Conroe last night. Apparently the 9-hour bus ride from Midland to the northern Houston suburbs was not enough to slow the Sockers down, as Ricardo Palomino and Jamie O’Grady came out of the starting blocks flying and scored enough goals to eventually win the match before the game had time to settle in.
After the match head coach Matt Barnes discussed the fast start in the match summary article in oaoa.com:
“It wasn’t something that I expected but we wanted to come out and punch them in the chin,” Midland-Odessa FC head coach Matt Barnes said about his team’s start. “All week we’ve been talking about getting off to a good start. The guys were absolutely clinical in front of net.”
Below is the link to the OAOA game story:
FC Wichita-3 Dallas City FC-2
Things held to form in the Heartland Conference as one loss-#1 seeded FC Wichita held off a determined Dallas City FC side for a 3-2 win last night. Dallas City experienced quite an interesting last few weeks. Travel all over the Midwest to play “home games”, end of game controversies that resulted in multiple ejections and the need to play a postponed game last Sunday while their opponents were resting. Nevertheless, it took an 86th minute goal by Wichita to finally subdue Dallas City. Unfortunately, on the game winning goal Dallas City’s Mikey Paniagua fractured tibia and fibula. According to the game story on Wichita’s website his injury necessitated a 45-minute delay and required an ambulance to transport him to a nearby hospital. You Tube videos were posted of the Kansas crowd chanting Mikey’s name as he was stretchered off the field.
Dallas FC will be disappointed in the final game result, but the season can be considered an overall success for a team that stepped in as a replacement for Dallas area club Liverpool Warriors and did not put a roster together until a few weeks before the season.
Here is a link to the game story on FC Wichita’s website:
Conference Finals/South Region with TX teams:
Midland-Odessa FC vs. Shreveport Rafters-7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 15, 2017-Grande Communications Stadium, Midland, TX
Wichita FC vs. Tulsa Athletic-7:15 p.m., Saturday, July 15, 2017-Stryker Soccer Complex, Wichita, KS
NPSL logo courtesy of ChrisCreamer’sSportsLogos.Net
The NPSL South Region first-round playoffs are set. Ft. Worth Vaqueros, on the heels of two wins this week and a Dutch Lions FC draw in Shreveport, were able to jump the table from third to first and are the Lonestar Conference regular season champions.
Wednesday night the Vaqueros will play their first ever home playoff game at Martin Field against Shreveport Rafters. In the other first round Lonestar Conference match Dutch Lions FC will host Midland-Odessa FC in Conroe, also on Wednesday night.
In the Heartland Conference, Dallas FC, forced to play two games in 24 hours last weekend including a makeup “home” match in Springfield, MO, travels to Wichita for the second time in less than a week to play a first round Heartland Conference playoff game against FC Wichita.
The winners of both the Lonestar and Heartland Conference first round playoff games will meet in the finals at the highest remaining seed on Saturday.
Further playoff details are provided in the link below
Three Vaquero teammates will be attending Tulsa University next year.
Week 10 Game Results:
Friday, July 7
Midland-Odessa FC (MOFC)-5 Tyler FC-1
James O’Grady scored a first half hat trick in an astonishing 15 minutes to lead MOFC to a 5-1 blowout victory against winless Tyler FC in Midland. Additional second half goals were scored by Henrik Mueller and Darius Strambler to complete the rout. The lone Tyler FC goal was scored by Tony Bravo.
In the match report from Midland Reporter-Telegram’s Will Korn, MOFC head coach Matt Barnes was obviously pleased with the outcome:
“It’s exactly what we wanted,” Barnes said. “I was hoping we could come out (Friday) and put a full game together, a full 90 (minutes). It’s the first time we’ve done it the entire season, so for me it was really rewarding to see the guys come out (like they did). We moved the ball well (Friday), defended well and Jamie was incredible in the first half with the hat trick.”
Game reports from Midland media are in the links below:
Saturday, July 8
Shreveport Rafters FC-1 Dutch Lions FC (HDLFC)-1
Shreveport Rafters FC Steven Bush’s goal in the 76th minute helped secure a trip to the NPSL playoffs for his club when it tied Dutch Lions FC 1-1 in Shreveport. HDLFC had taken a lead 5 minutes earlier when Matheus Goveia scored to give Dutch Lions the lead, and temporarily put them on track to win the Lonestar Conference. The Dutch Lions were somewhat unfortunate to be only level at halftime as they generated 12 shots and hit the woodwork twice according to accounts on HDLFC’s Twitter feed.
Halftime photo showing part of a crowd of 2,400 in Shreveport (Rafters FC Twitter)
FC Wichita-3 Dallas City FC-0
FC Wichita closed out the regular season in style, defeating Dallas City FC 3-0 at Stryker Soccer Complex in Wichita. Diego Serfaty’s 5 minute header was all that was needed to send Wichita into the post-season on a four game winning streak.
Home Crowd in Wichita before match: (FC Wichita Twitter)
Ft. Worth Vaqueros-4 Houston Regals SCA-0
Ft. Worth put themselves in the drivers seat to win the Lonestar Conference championship when they defeated Regals SCA 4-0 in Ft. Worth in a game delayed multiple times due to weather. A first half goal by Bobby Edet put the Vaqueros ahead at the half and three second half goals, by Jesse Miralrio, Hilton Ngwa and Matthew Rochowski blew the game wide open. The Regals played shorthanded from the 68th minute when Rolando Matute was ejected from the match for abusive language or gestures. Regals SCA needed to win and for Dutch Lions FC to win in Shreveport to secure a playoff spot. Neither happened, so Houston finished their season Saturday night.
Photo from Martin Field: (Fort Worth Vaqueros Twitter)
Sunday, July 9
Dallas City FC-2 Demize NPSL-5 (Makeup game from June 10)
After making a 250 mile trip from Wichita to Springfield, MO, and playing the second match in less than 24 hours, Dallas City FC certainly can be excused for a slow start. Unfortunately, Demize NPSL took advantage of the road weary by scoring 4 times in the first 25 minutes, leading to an eventual 5-2 win Sunday. Dallas City rebounded a bit when Papa Abdoulaye Faly and Hulver Sanchez scored first half goals, but were never able to catch up with, what must have been, tired legs. A link to the game story in the Joplin Globe is below:
FC Tyler-0 Ft. Worth Vaqueros-1 (Makeup game from June 24)
The Vaqueros completed an improbable leap up the standings this week and ended up as Lonestar Regular Season Division Champions when it was over. Kristian Quintana’s 28th minute goal was all that was needed to win the game and capture the Division crown. The day started out with good news for the Vaqueros as they ended up playing in Ft. Worth instead of traveling to East Texas for the Tyler FC makeup home game. According to the Vaqueros website, unplayable field conditions in Tyler necessitated the change in venue. At least that is what is to be surmised, because Tyler FC provided no explanation on their website or social media as to why the final home match had been switched to Ft. Worth. After the match Vaqueros head coach Nick Stavrou commented on the Vaqueros website:
“The team is heading into the playoffs on a high after securing first place in the regular season. With three wins on the bounce we hope to carry that momentum into a very tough game against a dogged Shreveport team,” coach Nick Stavrou said. “We are hoping the home field advantage of our 12th man will help carry the boys through as the intensity turns up as it is now playoffs time.”
Lonestar Conference Regular Season Champion Ft. Worth Vaqueros (Vaqueros Twitter)
FINAL REGULAR SEASON STANDINGS:
South Conference -Lonestar Division
|Rank||Lone Star Conference Division||GP||W||L||T||Pts||GF||GA||GD||Pts/GP|
|1||Fort Worth Vaqueros||10||7||2||1||22||17||8||9||2.2|
|3||Dutch Lions FC||10||6||1||3||21||27||18||9||2.1|
|4||Shreveport Rafters FC||10||3||5||2||11||14||14||0||1.1|
|5||Houston Regals SCA||10||2||6||2||8||11||21||-10||0.8|
South Conference-Heartland Division
|Rank||Heartland Conference Division||GP||W||L||T||Pts||GF||GA||GD||Pts/GP|
|3||Little Rock Rangers||10||4||2||4||16||17||14||3||1.6|
|4||Dallas City FC||10||4||5||1||13||16||18||-2||1.3|
First Round Playoff Game Schedule:
Ft. Worth Vaqueros vs. Shreveport Rafters-7:30 p.m.-Wednesday, July 12-Martin Field, Ft. Worth
Dutch Lions FC vs. Midland-Odessa FC-7:00 p.m.-Wednesday, July 12-HDLFC Soccer Facility, Conroe
NPSL logo courtesy of ChrisCreamer’sSportsLogos.Net