NPSL Weekly: For Pride in the Playoffs

A look at the playoffs beginning around the regions
by Daniel Casey   |   Friday, July 12, 2013

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

The teams are set for this year’s NPSL playoffs. Although there is still a week or so of play for some teams, these matches are more for pride than anything else. What matters now is what teams will emerge from the conference playoffs – upsets, blow-outs and beatings are in the cards.

The playoffs

The South Conference will have a marquee match-up as Tulsa Athletics host Chattanooga FC this Friday. Tulsa has been dogged all season with the criticism that it’s in a weak division and it will be looking to show the entire NPSL that it is the real deal.

The semifinal clash will pit a team that has scored 44 goals in the regular season (Tulsa) against a team that has only allowed 4. The league’s best defense and the league’s most potent offense, it will be difficult not seeing the winner of this game as the favorite to become conference champion.

Expansion side RVA FC will be facing Jacksonville United, a team that is familiar with the playoff process and expects success. Jacksonville and RVA are remarkably even stats-wise: both ended with 20 points and a record of 6-2-0, Jacksonville gave up 1 goal less and RVA score 3 goals more. The teams also faced similar quality opponents, so it’s difficult to say who will emerge.

The advantage Jacksonville may have from being a past playoff team is mitigated by RVA’s passion to be a 1st year club that makes a deep run. It’s possible that the South Conference final, scheduled for this Sunday, could be between 2 expansion teams, bringing an entirely new face into the NPSL elite.

Also determining its final this weekend will be the Midwest Conference. And while it couldn’t manage a perfect season but came very close, favorites Detroit City FC ended its regular season 11-1-0 (currently, the best record in the entire league).

This weekend will see the Great Lakes Flight determine its division winner through a final 4playoff. Detroit will host AFC Cleveland and FC Buffalo will host the Erie Admirals. Cleveland clawed its way into the playoff picture by battling hard to hand Detroit its one draw this last weekend. It will be brutal match this weekend and if Detroit doesn’t come out the victory, Cleveland will have orchestrated a major upset.

Between Buffalo and Erie, one has to feel Buffalo has the better quality yet Erie somehow always comes alive during the playoffs. The Great Lakes semis will be on Saturday and the final on Sunday. The quick turnaround could see an unexpected conference final foe for the Central Flight winner Quad City Eagles the following week.

The West Conference experienced some drama last weekend as it solidified its playoff teams. The match between the San Diego Flash and FC Santa Clarita would determine which team won the final playoff spot, and the match was plagued by questionable officiating going against both sides.

At the end the day, Santa Clarita filed a protest over a penalty kick that was called back due to encroachment, which the NPSL Executive Committee quickly ruled upon saying “the result from the game, under appeal, will stand. The game will not be replayed nor will the result be overturned.”

However, Santa Clarita will have a moral victory of sorts as the Executive Committee also stated that with were disappointed with the officials’ decisions and plan sanctions.

What this boils down to is that this Saturday the San Diego Flash is heading upstate to face Northern Flight winners Sonoma County Sol while Southern Flight winners FC Hasental host Sacramento Gold. The winners will square off in the conference final on July 20th.

It’s difficult to say what team is the favorite in these match-ups. Sonoma’s last real competition was against Sacramento 3 weeks ago, so they very well may be rusty. FC Hasental has gone through fits of massive goal scoring and Sacramento has had only a so-so last 5 games.

Although Northeast Conference still has a week of regular season play scheduled, it’s a safe bet on what teams will make the playoffs: New York Red Bulls U23, Brooklyn Italians, Greater Binghamton FC and FC Lehigh Valley United Sonic. This conference’s playoffs won’t get underway until July 17th.

Predictions:  What a great penultimate week, going 18-9 made last week’s predictions my best of the season and bringing my total to 117-117. Breaking even isn’t glorious but given the resources available to me, I’m quite happy with how it all hashed out.

With the playoffs set this week’s matches are essentially moot for many teams and to do a prediction for these games a bit of a waste. Instead, I will present to you my first round playoff predictions.

SOUTH REGION

Semifinals July 12th

Tulsa Athletics vs. Chattanooga FC; Jacksonville United vs RVA FC

Finals July 14th

Tulsa Athletics vs. Jacksonville United

 

MIDWEST REGION

Great Lakes Conference Final Four

Semifinal July 13th

Detroit City FC vs. AFC Cleveland; FC Buffalo vs. Erie Admirals

Final July 14th

Detroit City FC vs. Erie Admirals

 

WEST REGION

Semifinals on July 13

FC Hasental vs. Sacramento Gold; Sonoma County Sol vs. San Diego Flash

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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