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.
- The Electric City Shock (Scranton, PA) have announced exhibition friendlies against the Pocono Snow, FC Sonic, and Hershey Wildcats and hope to use these matches to build towards league membership in 2014.
- Orange County Pateadores kicked off the regular season with a victory over the Santa Clarita Storm thanks to a pair of second half goals. The win extends the Orange County streak to 5 straight (includes pre-season and non-league matches). Final Score: OC Pateadores 2 Santa Clarita Storm 0.
- Real San Jose made a statement with a 5-1 home win over the San Francisco Stompers and have put the Soccer Magic Cup all but out of reach. A win over the Sonoma Sol next weekend would solidify San Jose’s position at the top of the table. Final Score: Real San Jose 5 San Francisco Stompers 1.
- The Sacramento Gold dispatched league newcomer CD Aguiluchos USA 3-0. With the victory, the Gold move to 1-1 on the season while Aguiluchos was held scoreless for the second consecutive match. Final Score: Sacramento 3 CD Aguiluchos USA 0.
- The San Diego Flash took the first leg of the San Diego Derby over San Diego Boca by a 3-1 scoreline. After a scoreless first half, the Flash offense erupted with a 3 goal performance to put the match beyond Boca reach. Final Score: SD Flash 3 SD Boca 1.
- Open Cup bound FC Hasental drubbed Las Vegas Stallions FC 13-0. Reminiscent of the late Phoenix Monsoon, Las Vegas was reportedly only able to field a 10 man squad due to paperwork and player ineligibility issues. Final Score: FC Hasental 13 Las Vegas 0.
- The Rhode Island Reds fell 1-0 to Massachusetts Premier in the US Open Cup Region 1 USASA final.
- The Tampa Marauders took the first leg of the Gulf Coast Cup 2-0 over the Cape Coral Hurricanes in the Sunshine Conference. Final Score: Tampa Marauders 2 Cape Coral 0.
This was to be the second installment of my pre-season power ranking series - however with 3 of the 5 teams in the conference being freshman clubs I don’t have any data to work with! But here is what we do know.
Jacksonville United FC was the 2011 NPSL champion and is an annual contender. They will be conference favorites just because they have that championship and will provide a benchmark for the new clubs to measure themselves against.
The Georgia Revolution are the club with the most pedigree (founded in 1972) and are coming off a strong 2012 season where they lost 1-0 to Chattanooga FC in postseason play. If they return their core squad they could very well repeat as conference champs. Any team that wants to raise the first Sunshine Conference banner will have to go through the Revolution to do so.
Though the Cape Coral Hurricanes will be playing their first season in the NPSL, they will no doubt be prepared. The club has been in operation for a couple of years and played a ‘pilot’ season of friendlies last summer including matches against some NPSL clubs. They may be the new kids on the block, but I don’t expect them to roll over for anyone.
Miami United hopes to change the attitude of Miami sports fans and become a team the the community will support. With the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers of NASL being so close this could prove difficult. But Miami does have a fair amount of quality local talent, and if United can harness it they could prove to be a handful on the field.
The Tampa Marauders have the distinction of entering one of the most crowded soccer markets in the country. In addition to the NPSL club, there is also the Tampa Bay Rowdies of NASL and VSI of USL Pro. Rumor has it that the Marauders could affiliate with the Rowdies at some point in the future, but at this point they seem to be on their own. It remains to be seen, but its possible that the Marauders could be a part of a future where Tampa Bay is known as one of the great soccer cities of the US.
The Sunshine Conference will also see the Gulf Coast Cup contested between Tampa/Cape Coral and the Everglades Cup between Cape Coral/Miami. This conference looks to be doing a lot of things right and I am excited to see how each of these clubs progress this season!