NPSL Weekly: Flights Take Off

Supporters groups take center stage as all conferences start their seasons
by Daniel Casey   |   Friday, May 10, 2013

NPSL Weekly – column on the NPSL and the league's clubs, players and owners

After this weekend, all of the NPSL conferences will be underway, though not all of the Conference Flights (divisions). But what it means is that the warm season soccer is off to a brilliant start.

Two of the biggest teams in the league will open their season and 2 new expansion teams will make their debut, while the rest of the league finalizes its rosters and schedules ahead of next weekend.

Weather forced cancellation of several matches and a dubious forfeit made last weekend not the best for the NPSL.

Scheduling is a hurdle in the league for a myriad of banal reasons and can lead an unconcerned fan or neutral follower into a bit of confusion or contempt. What needs to be kept in mind is that there is always soccer played and to be played; things will work themselves out.

Forfeit for OC

The biggest disappointment of last week was the Orange County Pateadores being forced into a forfeit by the lowly Las Vegas Stallions.

Orange County needed to reschedule the time of the match by 4 hours, which Las Vegas could not accommodate, thus awarding Las Vegas 3 points.

Las Vegas has been the worst team in the league and may very well continue to be. This forfeit gives the team their first “win” and prevents them from being as awful as last year’s Phoenix Monsoon (a team that is now all but defunct).

Orange County is now in a tie with FC Santa Clarita for the top spot in the Southern Flight of the West Conference. No one is happy with this result, certainly not the Pateadores or Las Vegas, which desperately wants to win on their own merits, and definitely not San Diego Boca who now hold down last place due to Las Vegas’ faux-victory.

West’s weekend of draws

For the rest of the West Conference, it was a weekend of draws. Boca held its own against Santa Clarita, earning a point with a 1-1 result as did middling Real San Jose and floundering CD Aguiluchos USA.

A 2-2 draw between the 2 top teams in the Northern Flight, Sonoma County and Sacramento, saw Sonoma County keep its first place standing by a single point.

Looking at the weekend

This weekend the San Francisco Stompers are back in action against local rival San Jose. The winless Stompers are well rested and facing an opponent that is underperforming, so San Francisco stand a good chance of getting their first point of the season.

Santa Clarita will host Las Vegas and most likely put yet another beating on the sole non-California team of the conference.

Orange County will travel to face the San Diego Flash; it will be interesting to see if OC bounces back from its forfeited loss and can get right back to its winning ways.

The Flash’s neighbor, San Diego Boca will face FC Hasental, a team riding the high of having successfully made it through the first stage of the US Open Cup on Tuesday.

Finally, the Sacramento Gold will wander into CD Aguiluchos turf and will most likely walk away with 3 points.

Midwest Conference kicks off

But this weekend will also see the Midwest Conference get underway, and Friday will see 2 expansion sides make their debuts. The tiny central Ohio town of Zanesville will send its team to face FC Buffalo, and FC Sparta Michigan will drive along Lake Erie to face AFC Cleveland.

FC Sparta like to think of themselves as another Detroit team, but don’t let anyone from Detroit City FC hear you say that. Perhaps the team with the most ferocious supporters, Detroit City has become one of the most savvy and strong NPSL clubs.

Northern Guard Facebook

Supporters groups

The team’s supporter group, the Northern Guard, have made brilliant use of social media and since last season made perhaps the most creative series of PSAs (public service announcements) intended to infuriate the opposition. The fans of Detroit City are loud, colorful and plentiful making every home match for them a truly hostile environment for the opposing team.

This Sunday on a day’s rest, FC Sparta will host Detroit City. It will definitely be the most heated match of the weekend and could become the most bitter intra-city rivalry of the league.

Perhaps the only other supporter's group that can hope to match the commitment of the Northern Guard is Chattanooga FC’s Chattahooligans.

This Saturday the Southeast Flight of the South Conference will begin its season. Chattanooga will host Rocket City United of Huntsville, Alamba.

Just as Detroit has become an anchor club for the league, so has Chattanooga, as its supporters have backed the team to success and to sponsorship. Both Detroit and Chattanooga have inspired local breweries to create official beers for them, MIP Beer’s City Red IPA and Big River’s Chattahooligan Ale.

The teetotalers of the family-friendly soccer crowd might not approve, but the Free Beer Movement and the supporters across the country certainly will. Chattanooga will be looking to put in a strong display in its home opener and there will probably be a good sized crowd for it since the team and supporters have been promoting the team to no end.

Southwest contenders battle

And while the South Conference’s Sunshine Flight suffered a weather shortened debut last week, it will pick up again this weekend with Miami United traveling to face the Tampa Marauders FC. Miami could open a big early season lead in their Flight if they can keep up their scoring against Tampa.

Meanwhile, fellow Southeast Flight contenders the Knoxville Force will host the Mississippi Storm.

Northeast picks up

Finally, the Northeast Conference will truly get underway.

Last weekend, Atlantic Flight powerhouse the Brooklyn Italians saw off the Rhode Island Reds 4-3.

On Saturday, the Keystone Flight opens, a Flight made up mostly of Pennsylvania and New Jersey teams. An exception being Greater Binghamton FC, which has moved for this season from out the Midwest Conference’s Great Lakes Flight and will host Junior Lone Star FC out of Philadelphia. FC Reading Revolution (perhaps a pre-season favorite to win the Flight) will host Hershey FC. 

Daniel CASEY

Nationality:
USA
College:
Carthage College Univ. of Notre Dame
Club Domestic:
Chicago Fire & Minnesota Stars
Club Foreign:
Manchester United
Founder/editor of the literary magazine Gently Read Literature, active but barely read poet and literary critic, and an occasional English professor. Never got to play soccer until his mid-30s, so he is routinely schooled by U10 crowd at pick-up games.
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