With the Orange County Pateadores announcement that they would be forced to forfeit the last three matches of the season, we explore the impact this has on playoff qualifications for the West Region’s Southern Flight.
The clear winner is FC Hasental who will get a free three points - enough to almost assuredly hand them first place in the Southern Division. Orange County had kept Hasental from receiving full points in both previous matchups this season, which both ended in draws. If Orange County had managed another draw or dealt Hasental a defeat, this would have greatly aided their own title hopes as well as Santa Clarita’s.
Incidentally, Santa Clarita also pick three points from Orange County - whom they lost to twice earlier in the season. Santa Clarita currently trails Hasental by 4 points, and even though the three points are a boost, the fact that Hasental will get three free voids this contribution to Santa Clarita and in fact makes it impossible for the second place Storm to move into first place - even they manage to knock off Hasental and the San Diego Flash in their remaining two contests.
The real loser is the San Diego Flash who unlike Hasental and Santa Clarita defeated Orange County twice out of three meetings. Because of the free points being awarded to first place Hasental and second place Santa Clarita, the Flash now have no hope of taking over the title, even should they win each of their last two matches. Further, heading into last weekend the San Diego and Santa Clarita were tied on points, with the tie-breaker going to San Diego on goal differential. Santa Clarita leaped clear of the Flash with the forfeit victory while San Diego only managed a draw with last place San Diego Boca. The Flash will likely pick up three points this weekend against Las Vegas, but could find themselves still on the outside of a playoff spot if Santa Clarita defeats Hasental this weekend. This would take the playoff race down to the season finale in which the Flash will host the Storm in San Diego. Should that be the case, Santa Clarita could advance with win or draw while San Diego could only advance with a win.
Essentially, the Orange County forfeits have big playoff implications. Hasental suddenly finds that they have clinched the division (and a playoff spot) while the the Flash find themselves in a situation where they almost have to win each of their remaining matches. Santa Clarita will be disappointed that they don’t have a shot at the title, but have less pressure than San Diego to win both of their remaining matches and still claim the last playoff spot.
And while San Diego Boca will also pick up a forfeit victory, the extra points really only mean that Boca might be able to finish second to last instead of last.
In an unfortunate turn of circumstances Orange County Pateadores will be forced to forfeit their last three games of the season, and with them any hope of a playoff spot. The forfeits are being forced due to lack of a home field venue - a minimum club requirement according to NPSL standards.
At the start of the 2013 season Orange County partnered with existing youth club Pateadores in a move that was supposed to provide the NPSL side with both logistical support and an increased player pool; and based on early season results it looked to be a good move. As the season went on however, securing playing grounds became an issue and forced a forfeit to Las Vegas which was the first Orange County loss of the season. Orange County General Manager Albert Ochoa commented, “We had a fantastic start in the pitch, but since the beginning ran into the field issues, having fields that limited the ability to charge for the home games, and run a solid game-day operation. This condition took a terrible toll in our ability to generate revenue from ticket sales, and what was equally bad, was the fact that we lost our first game by default due to the lack of a home field.”
Ochoa went on to explain, “After several weeks, the issue was not resolved leaving us with last minute adjustments every week and no guarantee that we would be able to obtain a field to meet minimum league requirements. Thus we have opted to forfeit the last games of the season. I have contacted the League Administration and discussed the situation, including playing the remaining games as visitors. After reviewing all our options, we reached a decision to forfeit the games, start working in the re branding of the team, work independently in getting an official field and prepare for the 2014 season. This course of action should not affect the other teams in the division. That was something that was taken very seriously by all, out of respect for the league and the other competing teams.”
Brooklyn Italians 4 @ Rhode Island Reds FC 3 (NE Atlantic Flight): The Brooklyn Italians outscored the Rhode Island Reds in a high scoring and somewhat controversial thriller. The Reds showed dramatic improvement over last season, and could have stolen three points if it weren’t for giving up two goals off of penalty kicks. Despite the match drama, Rhode Island can feel good about playing the Italians so close and should feel confident that they have a team that can compete this year. Brooklyn can feel good about the three points, but will need to clean up their play if they want to separate themselves from the rest of the Atlantic Flight.
Miami United SC 3 @ Cape Coral Hurricanes 0 (S Sunshine Flight): Miami United SC took the lead in the Everglades Cup with a sound 3-0 win in the opening match of NPSL Sunshine Flight play. Miami now leads the four game series with 7 points to the Hurricanes 1. Miami scored the initial goal just two minutes in on a perfect through ball which Matthias Carizo easily punched pass the keeper. Miami added a second in the 31′ when Mario Gomez headed in a well placed corner. Cape Coral had a couple quality chances of their own, with Cody Antonini hitting the woodwork but the crossbar was as close as they were to get. R. Caciedo sealed the match with a third goal in the 55′. Each side picked up one yellow a piece.
Las Vegas Stallions 3 @ Orange County Pateadores 0 (W Southern Flight): Orange County Pateadores was forced to forfeit the match when a last minute agreement on a match time change could not be reached. This is the first loss for the Pateadores and the first win for Las Vegas.
FC Santa Clarita Storm 1 @ San Diego Boca 1 (W Southern Flight): Santa Clarita managed to extend their unbeaten streak to four straight games, while San Diego Boca will be glad to pick up a point and avoid another tick in the loss column. San Diego Boca brought a lot of pressure against the Storm and it seems to have paid off as they limited Santa Clarita to a single goal - the first time a team has been able to do that since OC Pateadores 2-0 victory. Santa Clarita’s lone goal came as the Boca keeper mishandled the ball and forward Andres Beun0 headed it in. Interestingly, the two clubs have played to a draw 5 times in the last three seasons.
Sonoma County Sol 2 @ Sacramento Gold 2 (W Northern Flight): Sacramento seemed to have the game safely in hand with a 2-1 lead and a man advantage as the clock ran down - until a masterful strike by Sol player Justin Ferriera from 25 yards out found its way home with only thirty seconds left in the match. Red cards and late game heroics seem to have become a story line in the Northern Flight, and with the draw the Sol managed to maintain a 1 point lead over the Gold in the standings.
CD Aguiluchos USA 1 @ Real San Jose 1 (W Northern Flight): After a scoreless first half, both teams found the back of the net once each as the match ended in a 1-1 draw. CD Aguiluchos will be happy to pick up another point, while the draw is a set back in San Jose’s attempt to chase down Sonoma and Sacramento. Forward Jorge Ruiz had the goal for the Aguiluchos while it was Jesse Kehoe who scored for Real San Jose.
Houston Dutch Lions 1 (PDL) v Houston Hurricanes 1 (Friendly): The Houston Hurricanes played the Houston Dutch Lions of the PDL to a 1-1 draw last week. The Lions won the possession battle solidly for the first 65 minutes of the match, but some fresh legs in the last 20 minutes of the match changed the tempo of the game and the Hurricanes broke through in the 88′ to score the equalizer. You can check out a video of the match highlights here.
Regals SCA 2 v Houston Dutch Lions 6 (PDL) (Friendly): Unlike their flight rivals, Regals SCA did not fair so well against the Dutch Lions. Despite scoring two goals, the Regals defense could not fend off the repeated Lions attacks and allowed 6 goals by the time the final whistle blew. If these two matches against a common opponent are any indication, Regals SCA will need to find a way to tighten up the defense before they open league play.
When I saw a match report on the NPSL website for a match that had yet to be played I thought it was some kind of joke. Curious about it, I tweeted at Las Vegas and Orange County. Orange County responded, “Las Vegas objected to a time change in today’s game… and made us forfeit.”
— OCPateadores (@OCPateadores) May 4, 2023
This is unfortunate on so many levels. Not only was OC Pateadores undefeated up until the forfeit, Las Vegas had yet to win a match. At the end of the season, Pateadores will most likely still qualify for the playoffs and Las Vegas most likely won’t. I understand that last minute time changes aren’t fair and that’s the reason why there are forfeit provisions. But beyond the immediate win/loss ramifications, these kinds of issues undermine the legitimacy of the league. NPSL desperately wants to be viewed as an equal to the PDL. But as long as we have teams that play with 10 men because of eligibility issues, scheduling issues forcing forfeits, and clubs that serve beer instead of water to players (let alone minors), the image of the league will suffer. At this point many of the ‘standards’ criticisms leveled at the league are real. Not all clubs have these problems, probably not even most. But the fact that there ARE such problems betrays the leagues best intentions to establish minimum standards.
Today’s forfeit aside, there are still clubs that have yet to finalize schedules despite most flights kicking off next weekend. The Rhode Island Reds website still shows Lowell FC on the schedule, who is known to be waiting until at least 2014 to compete. (To be fair, I have since learned that Rhode Island has kept this match on the schedule as a friendly).
As a member owned league, club owners and representatives need to band together and establish some real league standards. Not just because it will make scheduling easier and eliminate forfeits, but because if they want the league to grow and their clubs to prosper they need to raise the level of professionalism across the board. Having twenty or thirty success stories would be far better than four or five flagship clubs. I believe the potential is there, and I think there is a movement among many of the ownership groups to improve. I hope they can navigate the democratic process and convince the rest quickly enough that change really is necessary - before we end up with two or three more league splits.
Brooklyn Italians @ Rhode Island Reds FC (NE Atlantic Flight): The storied Brooklyn Italians will travel north to Providence to open the season against sophomore club Rhode Island Reds FC. Brooklyn is a flight contender every year, and there is no reason to think this season will be any different. Rhode Island finished respectably in the middle of the table for their first season and saw twin brothers Paulo and Pedro Mendes sign contracts with the Atlanta Silverbacks of NASL - with Pedro even being named NASL Player of the Week after a 2 goal performance led the Silverbacks to a victory over the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. The Reds lost a US Open Cup qualifying match to Mass Premier Soccer Men’s Open team 1-0 earlier this year. Without many pre-season results to draw from, I predict Brooklyn wins 2-1.
Miami United SC @ Cape Coral Hurricanes (S Sunshine Flight): Miami United will travel to Cape Coral for the 3rd leg of the Everglades Cup and the opening match of Sunshine Flight play. After a blowout in the first leg Cape Coral managed a well played draw last weekend in the 2nd leg with a boost from signings just heading home from college. It’s always tough to play the same team so many times, and I give a slight edge to Miami as the home side - Miami 2-1, though I wouldn’t be surprised if that scoreline ended the other way around.
Las Vegas Stallions @ Orange County Pateadores (W Southern Flight): A languishing Stallions side will travel to Orange County to face a superior foe in Pateadores. The best Las Vegas can hope for is to garnish a point from a draw, but if past scorelines are any indication this match is tilted heavily in favor of the Pats. OC Pateadores win by a wide margin, 5-0.
FC Santa Clarita Storm @ San Diego Boca (W Southern Flight): Santa Clarita will look to continue their winning ways with a fourth in a row since a season opening loss to OC Pateadores. San Diego Boca has no wins and only 1 point so far from a tie with the Las Vegas Stallions. Santa Clarita wins 3-2.
Sonoma County Sol @ Sacramento Gold (W Northern Flight): Sonoma County will travel to Sacramento for a match with serious implications for the flight title race. These teams have traded wallopings this season, and there is a good chance this match could be another entertaining and high scoring affair. I think the Gold edge this one, 3-2.
CD Aguiluchos USA @ Real San Jose (W Northern Flight): After a great start, Real San Jose has had some unfortunate luck and finds themselves in a must win situation if they want to make a flight title run. Aguiluchos continue to struggle, scoring only 5 goals so far this season. The teams have met once already this season with San Jose winning 2-0. I expect a similar result for this match.
Georgia Revolution @ Colorado Rovers (USSSA): Georgia will travel to Denver to face the Colorado Rovers of the USSSA in a US Open Cup play-in game. The travel and altitude will certainly be factors in this match, but the Revolution proved last year they could hang with tough competition after a close 1-0 loss to NASL club Atlanta Silverbacks.
San Francisco Stompers v San Ramon Soccer: San Francisco has a bye week in NPSL play but will play a friendly against San Ramon Soccer. San Francisco is winless in league play, and a win in this friendly could be the confidence booster the club needs to take the next step.
Regals SCA v Houston Dutch Lions (PDL): The Houston Dutch Lions played the Houston Hurricanes to a 1-1 draw last week, and this week will take on Regals SCA in a friendly.
Regular season action continued in the West Regions while several South and Northeast Region clubs continue to finalize rosters and hold pre-season friendlies in anticipation of their May start.
The Sunshine Flight (South Region) saw the second leg of the Gulf Coast Cup as hosts Tampa Marauders defeated the Cape Coral Hurricanes by the same 2 - 0 margin as the first leg. Cape Coral has now been held scoreless in three consecutive matches versus NPSL opponents (vs. Tampa 2-0, 2-0, and vs. Miami United 6-0).
The West Region slate was full and the action intense as every match ended with only a goal difference or less. In the Southern Flight the Santa Clarita Storm soured the home opener of San Diego Flash and leapfrogged them in the standings to claim sole possession of third place. The West region also saw a battle of the undefeated as FC Hasental hosted OC Pateadores in a thrilling 2 - 2 draw. OC Pateadores proved their mettle by going ahead 2 - 1 late in the game and playing with only 10 men, but the high octane Hasental offense wasn’t to be held to one goal and scored the equalizer deep into stoppage time to salvage the draw. The teams remain tied atop the Flight, though Hasental leads in goal differential by a significant margin. At the other end of the table the Las Vegas Stallions notched their first league point holding visitors San Diego Boca FC to a scoreless draw. After a blowout in their opening match the Stallions have have progressively improved, though the point is also the first for a SD Boca side that has a long way to go to live up to pre-season expectations.
In the Northern Flight (Golden Gate Conference) table leaders Real San Jose suffered their first loss away at Sacramento Gold in a hotly contested match which is being protested by Real San Jose. Blood was drawn after a reckless Sacramento challenge only minutes into the match, which set the stage for the rest of the game. With the win, Sacramento creeps into third place only one point behind Real San Jose and Sonoma County with a game in hand over San Jose. Rounding out the Golden Gate action the Sonoma County Sol hosted the San Francisco Stompers. Having been outscored in their first two matches 9-1, San Francisco had significant work to do on both ends of the field to come away with a victory. The Stompers did well until the 44th minute when Sonoma tallied their first to take a 1 - 0 lead into halftime. San Francisco returned from the break and equalized early in the 50th minute only to to give up an own goal and a penalty kick within the next five minutes to give Sonoma a 3-1 lead. San Francisco kept pressing and pulled one goal back in the 82nd, but couldn’t get any closer as the match finished with a final score of San Francisco 2 Sonoma County 3.
Back on the East Coast, Junior Lone Star FC played friendlies away at Mid-Atlantic expansion club Chesterfield United and to aspiring NPSL club Electric City in Scranton, PA. Junior Lone Star scored the only goal of the match vs. Chesterfield in the 15th minute and held off several quality attacks and a penalty kick to seal the victory 1 - 0. The match versus Electric City proved a bit more exciting with a flurry of second half action. Lone Star took the lead just before the break in the 44th minute. Electric City came back from half time and equalized, only to go down again after another Lone Star goal. JLSFC’s lead was short lived however as Electric City capitalized on a poorly handled back pass to make it a 2 - 2 game. Lone Star was finished, and scored the final goal of the match in the 85th minute to clinch the game 3 - 2.
Junior Lone Star returns to pre-season action next weekend with a pair of friendlies against Hosa FC before they travel to Greater Binghamton FC on May 11th for their season opener.
In other news around the league:
- Mark Lavery of the Georgia Revolution signed a professional contract with the Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL.
- Daniel Casey has a new NPSL Weekly column at Soccer Newsday.
- Jersey City Eagles have relocated and re-branded as the Clarkstown SC Eagles. Click the link for the full story published last week.
Weekend scores from around the league:
- Tampa Marauders bounced back from a 2 - 4 loss to Warner University by defeating the University of Tampa 2 - 1.
- Junior Lone Star FC played to a thrilling 3 - 3 draw against Debamu FC in a pre-season friendly match that saw two stoppage time goals.
- Real San Jose stays atop the Northern Flight of the West Region with a 2 - 2 draw against Sonoma County Sol. Both teams remain undefeated, and Sonoma has a game in hand.
- Orange County Pateadores continues to impress with a 2 - 0 victory over the San Diego Flash in what is being billed as game one of the Freeway Series. Pateadores is currently tied for 1st with FC Hasental in the Southern Flight of the West Region.
- Reports are in and the word on the street is that Miami United has managed to sign a number of ex-professionals to their squad. Miami United reportedly dispatched the Cape Coral Hurricanes by a final score of 6 - 0 in the first leg of the Everglades Cup.
- Santa Clarita Storm outgunned the Las Vegas Stallions 5 - 4 in a goal fest. Coming off of an embarrassing double digit loss, Las Vegas put in a respectable showing despite another loss.
- San Francisco Stompers 0 - 4 CD Aguiluchos USA: Aguiluchos crammed all four goals into the first half of play to notch their first win of the season against San Francisco. San Francisco will need to make some adjustments in order to avoid finishing bottom of the table for another season.
- FC Hasental continued an undefeated streak started during Open Cup qualifying with a 5 - 4 win over San Diego Boca FC. The win keeps FC Hasental tied for first with OC Pateadores in the Southern Flight of the West Region, though Hasental currently holds the tie-breaker on goal differential.
- Electric City FC add home match vs. Junior Lone Star FC for summer program
- The NPSL has renamed its ‘divisions’ as ‘flights’. This is a much welcomed change that will hopefully clarify some of the past confusion over what constitutes regions/divisions/conferences. Thus a team will play in a flight which is in turn a part of a region (for example, the Sunshine Flight is a part of the South Region).
- Armando Gaitan of FC Hasental has received the NPSL Player of the Week award for the week ending April 7th.