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.
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)
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
Week 19 brings the final games for FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo prior to a two week break (July 6-19) for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. The Dynamo will resume play on the road when they begin a two-game road trip against Minnesota on the 19th. FC Dallas, on the other hand, will play a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal against Sporting Kansas City in Kansas next Tuesday (July 11). Its next MLS regular season match will be on July 22 when they travel to Montreal to play the Impact.
FC Dallas vs. DC United
Toyota Field-Frisco-7:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 4, 2017
- DC United, on a terrible run of form that has seen it drop to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, will be playing its fourth consecutive road match in 11 days. Interestingly though, D.C. has only earned three fewer points (18) than they did through the first 18 games of 2016 (21), before picking up 25 points over their last 16 matches to finish fourth in the East.
- Because of injuries and international call-ups, FCD will be missing 4 of its first choice starters, including 3 defenders. This has not seemed to present an issue lately as the team has been able to showcase its depth throughout the roster. Most importantly creative midfielder and difference maker Mauro Diaz is rounding into form for a trophy run when all of the pieces return.
Houston Dynamo vs. Montreal Impact
BBVA Compass Stadium-Houston-7:30 p.m, Wednesday, July 5, 2017
- The Dynamo have scored a boat-load of goals at home this season, leading to a 7-0-2 home record. This run of form will be tested as three key attacking players will be missing on international duty. Leading goal scorer (12) Cubo Torres, who received a surprise call-up to the Mexican Gold Cup squad as an injury replacement, will be available for this match.
- Montreal has never won in Houston (0-5-1). The Impact’s best player Ignacio Piatti is questionable with a groin strain.
Major League Soccer (MLS):
Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas
BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston-8:00 p.m, Friday, June 23, 2017
The second iteration of the 2017 Texas Derby is tonight in Houston. FCD and Houston played to a draw in Dallas a few weeks ago in Round 1. The Dynamo are projecting the first sellout at BBVA Compass Stadium since 2015 tonight. The historical results of the Derby are about as even as it gets, though Dallas has dominated the rivalry recently.
All-time: Dallas 9 wins (40 goals)…Houston 10 wins (40 goals)…Ties 9
At Houston: Dynamo 7 wins, 25 goals…FC Dallas 4 wins, 23 goals…Ties 3
Match preview on mlssoccer.com:
United Soccer League (USL):
Colorado Springs Switchbacks vs. San Antonio FC (SAFC)
Weidner Field-Colorado Springs, CO-9:00 p.m., CDT, Saturday, June 24, 2017
Can San Antonio keep the undefeated streak alive for another week?
Rio Grande Valley FC, after getting demolished in a midweek game in Sacramento, is off until next Saturday when they also travel to Colorado Springs.
Match preview in San Antonio Soccer News:
Richard Farley (@richardfarley), who is the Deputy Editor of FourFourTwo USA published a piece on the magazine’s online site discussing the recent departure of Houston Dash head coach Randy Waldrum. FourFourTwo is an English magazine that has recruited some of the best soccer writers in the U.S. as part of their expansion into our market. This article is very well researched and demonstrates a level of knowledge and coverage about the Dash and NWSL that is lacking in any local publication. Not surprising, given that the Houston Chronicle doesn’t have a full-time staff reporter to cover the two professional teams in their city. Much of the most perceptive coverage of Texas soccer, especially in South Texas, comes from National or International media like FourFourTwo. The link to the complete article is below, but from my perspective the most interesting observations Farley made in the article were:
- How the college success Waldrum had at Notre Dame did not translate to the NWSL. As an example, Farley pointed to the challenge Waldrum faced with the different communications strategies needed for a college athlete, who will not be there for more than four years, and a more mature professional soccer player who doesn’t “graduate”.
- Despite the new responsibilities Waldrum inherited when Managing Director Brian Ching moved on and the fresh talent brought in during the offseason, the Dash made little progress this year and that is the main reason Waldrum is no longer in Houston.
- That Dynamo and Dash President Chris Canetti hopes to replace Waldrum within 3 weeks. This is the third coaching change Canetti has encountered in the last year. In the article Canetti commented on how the lessons he learned with the Dynamo coaching changes can be applied to the Dash coach search.
“I can say that without a doubt. I will say this: I did learn quite a bit from that process last year, of how things played out with [former Dynamo coaches] Owen [Coyle] and Wade [Barrett] and so forth, and will take, and have already taken away, my learning from that challenging situation and unfortunate situation and apply it to the Dash, here. They’re not connected, there are no ties there, but there’s definitely experience [to] take from it that can be learned and used.”
- In the article Farley pointed out that the Dash may not have the right mix of players to thrive in a competitive NWSL and that another offseason may be needed to rebuild the roster, especially establishing the right balance between the defense and midfield mix of players.
Seattle Sounders 2 (S2)-2 San Antonio FC (SAFC)-3
SEA: Sam Rogers-55 (Brian Nana-Sinkham), Zach Mathers-75 (penalty) SA: A.J. Ajeakwa-13 (Ben Newnam), Billy Forbes-24, Devin Vega-69 (Pecka)
Seattle owned just about every statistic last night, except the one that mattered….shooting accuracy. SAFC had only 5 shots on target, but scored three goals. That efficiency in front of goal, combined with 19 defensive clearances, was enough to win the second game of the three game Cascadia trip against S2.
Matt Cardone’s absence caused some nervous moments
Early on in the game it was apparent that SAFC backup goalie Diego Restrepo was a little rusty. There were numerous unforced errors that easily could have resulted in going down in the first 10 minutes.
With the possible exception of Billy Forbes, no SAFC player has the raw talent and creates as much excitement as Devin Vega. Vega was substituted on at half time for Forbes, and scored a second-half goal that demonstrated clearly why there is so much enthusiasm about his potential. I imagine his stay in San Antonio could be short as MLS clubs will likely be calling soon. Check out the goal below.
Seattle Sounders Academy well represented