Friday, May 28, 2010
Rocket City United will now be in Group A where they will face Pumas tomorrow at 11AM and Lynch's FC at 8PM. On Sunday, RCU will play Legends FC at 3PM.
I better calm down a bit or I'm going to bust a gasket. The game is still two weeks away!
BTW, according to Sports Illustrated, the USA will play Brazil after the World Cup on August 10th in the USA. Perhaps we'll get to see a newly crowned World Cup champion team up close and I'm talking about the USA (wink, wink!).
Law Dogs secured their 12th Huntsville Adult Soccer League Premier Division championship last night when they beat Digium 2:0 at John Hunt Park. The race for the premiership was a close one as Law Dogs and Foot Clan were even points (25) after the 10 game season concluded. The victory insured that Law Dogs took home the title via goal difference (Law Dogs 28 to Foot Clan's 22).
Arsenal FC won the Division I title and promotion into next year's Premier League. Chivas USA claimed the Division II title. Juventus and One Man Wolfpack took the Divsion III and IV titles, respectively.
The HASL divisions will take on a new look for the Fall 2010 season as Division IV will be eliminated to make way for the new Over-35 division. Several teams plan to drop from the open divisions into the Over-35. The league is planning to shift teams "up" into the open slots to maintain the tiered structure and keep the total team numbers at 30. The league's Captain's Meeting is scheduled for June 27th. More information can be found at HASL.org.
This summer will be a busy one for soccer in the Tennessee Valley. Of course, there's the World Cup, Rocket City United games, the NPSL Final Four festivities taking place, and there are several tournaments being hosted in Huntsville/Madison area.
Stomp the Yard is a 5 v 5 futsal soccer tournament hosted by RCU at the new indoor facility at the new Soccer Village at Greenbrier. It will be held on June 25-27th and has divisions from U8 up to Adult, including a Women's division.
The Rocket City Invitational is the annual summer 6v6 outdoor adult soccer tournament put on by the guys at SouthernSoccer.net. It will be held in conjunction with the NPSL Final Four at Dublin Park in Madison on July 31-Aug 1. There will be Open, Rec, O-30, and Women's divisions.
Chattanooga FC v Atlas of Mexico Tomorrow Night
While RCU is participating in the US Open Cup qualifying tournament in Tuscaloosa, fellow NPSL Southeast Region team Chattanooga FC will host one of Mexican soccer's oldest clubs, FC Atlas, tomorrow night at Finley Stadium at 7PM. John Moran and I will be traveling up to Chattanooga to call the game for the team's radio broadcast. Tickets are still available.
D is for Death
Traditionally, the group in which is the hardest to get out of is coined the "Group of Death". In this edition of the World Cup, that designation is not so cut and dried. However, according to the latest and final FIFA rankings before the World Cup, Group D is the "Group of Death" (queue the scary movie music, dun-dun--duuuuuun)!!! The group with Germany, Serbia, Australia, and Ghana has the highest average ranking of 18.25. Incidentally, the USA's group is the second highest ranked with a group ranking of 19.25.
ESPN's World Cup Murals
As part of the world wide leader in sports' advertising blitz for the World Cup, ESPN had created murals of each team in the world cup. Some are very cool, while some look like really bad album covers. Check them out here.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Rocket City United will play CASL Elite and Brazil Soccer Academy in group play over the next two days at the University of Alabama Student Recreation Center. RCU will take on CASL Elite from North Carolina tomorrow at 5:30 PM . On Saturday morning, in the second game of group play, RCU will play Brazil Soccer Academy from Florida at 11 AM. With up to four games in as many days, RCU will have to dip deep into its player pool to keep legs fresh despite being without 4 expected starters.
The group winners from the three tournament groups and the top second place team will face each other in the semifinals. The finalists of the tournament qualify for the US Open Cup, while the winner of the tournament also qualifies for the USASA's National Cup to be hosted by the United German Hungarians in the Philadelphia, PA suburb of Oakford.
Should the team qualify for the US Open Cup, RCU has entered a bid to host the first round match to be held on June 15/16, likely versus a professional side in the USL or the NASL. That game would be included as part of the season ticket package which are still available at rocketcityunited.com.
Central attacking midfielder Alex Munro (South Africa), defensive midfielder Jacob Letsholo (Botswana), forward Andrew Nkurunungi (Uganda), and winger Calvin Mbatha (South Africa) are all awaiting international transfer clearances from their native soccer federations. The players are expected to cleared to play prior to the June 5th league match versus Atlanta FC, but RCU will have to play this weekend's matches with a shortened player roster.
After the withdrawal of South Texas club Justice from the US Open Cup qualifying tournament, RCU and the other teams in Region III will be grouped into 3 groups of 3. The three group winners and the top 2nd place team will move on to the semifinals where the winners will qualify for the US Open Cup knockout stages.
RCU hopes to be one of the teams to qualify out of Region III where they could be matched up against fully professional sides from USL, NASL and MLS. That kind of exposure is a great opportunity for players at the NPSL level looking to rise into the ranks of the professional game.
Monday, May 24, 2010
The Brilla sit second in the PDL's Southeast division. Willoughby scored his first goal of the season in a 5:0 romp over the New Orleans Jesters on May 11th.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
- Man of the Match: MOM has to be RCU's new goalkeeper Michael Gustavson. He registered 10 saves and organized he defense well. Gustavson had no chance on the only Pumas goal.
- The goals scorer for RCU, Tom Winspear, did really well on the goal. He fooled the defender by bringing a long ball from Sutton Shults down with a deft touch. Then, he patiently waited for the defender to give him space, carrying the ball across the top of the penalty area, and shooting back toward the far post. Nice effort.
- Former RCU midfielder, Michal Mravec, nearly buried his former team when he came on as a late substitute for Pumas. His acutely angled shot in the dying seconds of the match had beaten Gustavson only to rattle off the crossbar.
- With the draw, Pumas stay on top of the NPSL Southeast Region standings with 4 points from 2 games. Chattanooga FC (3 points, 1 game) moves to second place with a 1:0 victory over Atlanta FC. RCU (1 game) is in third with 1 point. Newcomer FC Tulsa (0 games) and Atlanta FC (2 games) round out the standings with zero points.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Master vs Pupil
Inter coach Jose Mourinho knows that he's not the only "special one" in this match. In fact, he may have picked up some of tips on being special from Bayern coach Louis Van Gaal when Mourinho served as Van Gaal's assistant during the pairs wildly successful time at Barcelona.
Ex-Real Dutch Duo
In an ironic twist of fate, both teams are propelled by Dutch attacking midfielders who were cast offs from Real Madrid, who has continued their European mediocrity by crashing out in the second round of the tournament for the fifth year in a row. Wesley Schneider pulls the strings for Inter while Arjen Robben has been tearing up the field for Bayern.
UEFA Coefficient Battle
The UEFA Coefficient is an algorthm that compares the top leagues in UEFA and assigns the better leagues more teams in European competitions. As it stands today, four teams from Italy's Serie A qualify for the Champions League each year based on its superior coefficient. However, Germany is set to overtake Italy and gain an additional automatic qualification spot to its three current. Italy would then be reduced to three. The only way it can be prevented is if Inter defeats Bayern in tomorrow's Final. There is yet another ironic twist to the story because the fate of Italy's fourth automatic qualification spot rests on the shoulders of Mourinho, who just happens to be public enemy number one with the Italian soccer media. Delicious!
All this juiciness is in addition to the actual fact that this should be a great match-up on the field. The Zonal Marking blog has the best preview of the game that I've read anywhere.
See you guys at the Smokehouse Restaurant tomorrow for the watch party! If you can't make it down there, remember the game is on FOX 54. So, there's no excuse for not watching.
Terrible Article Alert
In normal circumstances, any coverage is good coverage, but as Steve Davis notes in this article, sometimes you wish they didn't even bother. "Left tackle"?!! Are you serious?
What's With The Accents
I'm no jingoist, but I am in total agreement with Bruce from the DuNord blog when he says,
"Why are we going to have to put up with English announcers calling the USA v England World Cup game??? Did I move or something and don't know it yet? Am I the only one who cares about this? I am really pissed off about having to listen to these guys. I just might prefer Dave O'Brien.
If you have listened to this crew doing UEFA Champions League games all year long on Fox Soccer Channel you will have by now realized that they only know about player and coaches in the English Premier League or have been in that league in the past. During the Bayern Munich v Lyon semifinal it was obvious they knew nothing about either team except for Arjen Robben cuz he had been at Chelsea.
Mark my words, people in the USA are going to have a melt down when they realize what we have to put up with from the "Worldwide Leader in Sports.""
Those Silly Germans
Here's a silly little Southpark style World Cup video out of Germany. Enjoy!
Gimme Hope Joachim
The Portuguese have the best players; The Brazilians are pretty fast; The Spaniards have not lost three years; But we have the most beautiful hotel.
The Ronaldinho has the best technique; Ronaldo has the best physic; David Beckham has a foot of steel; But Jogi Löw has the most beautiful hairdo.
Gimme hope, Joachim gimme, hope, Joachim!; Gimme hope, Joachim, for the World Cup!; Gimme hope, Joachim gimme, hope, Joachim!; Hope for South Africa …
The Koreans have nimble legs; The Mexicans have a hard shot; The French have a good man in goal; But we have the largest bus …
The Danes strengthen with the protein; The Serbs toil half dead; The Argentinians torture in the jungle camp; But Jogi smears Nutella on his bread …
Gimme hope, Joachim gimme, hope, Joachim!; Gimme hope, Joachim, for the World Cup!; Gimme hope, Joachim gimme, hope, Joachim!; Hope for South Africa …
The Greeks are once again tip; And Switzerland wins outnumbered; The Dutchmen are back with it; But still brings us Jogi ‘Cup …
New OwnershipIn February, Bryan Boyd and his design company SCS purchased an ownership stake in the club. "Southern Convention Services is excited about partnering with Rocket City United in Madison to promote the highest level of soccer locally." As part of the deal, SCS has become the major jersey sponsor for the club. SCS's experience will be vital for the hosting of the league championship, as RCU has won the right to host the NPSL Final Four on the final weekend of July.
New Team Offices/Training Center
With the addition of SCS to the ownership group, the team moved their offices from downtown Huntsville to western Madison and into the corporate headquarters of SCS. Along with office space for the coaches and team staff, the club also announced that they will build a training facility for the team on land adjacent to the team offices. They hope to have the training facility ready for the 2011 season.
In December, the team announced that it had reached an agreement with the City of Madison to use the Madison City School Stadium as its venue for all home matches and the NPSL Final Four. The move to the 7 year old facility will make it one of the premier venues in the NPSL. Team president Andy Zorovich expects a bump in attendance with the relocation. "The corps of the people who were coming to our games last year live in the [Madison] area." He also expects the game day experience to improve. "It's a real stadium. It's got everything we need... I think it will be very, very nice having the games there."
New Coaching Staff
Also in December, the team announce the hiring of Desmond Armstrong as the new Technical Director of the club replacing Greg Petersen. Armstrong, a former professional player who has represented the USA in the 1990 World Cup, has been brought to lead the team and establish a more intricate player development program including the "RCU Heroes Academy of Excellence". Additionally, the RCU training staff has added Mike Lee and Ike Onyeador to assist Armstrong. Lee is an Armstrong acolyte from South Africa who played for the Armstrong at NAIA school Montreat College and brings a strong understanding of the world's game. Onyeador is an upcoming coaching talent who is also the assistant at NAIA power Union College.
Perhaps the biggest change in the team from last season is on the field. Of the team's roster from the NPSL semifinal match last year, only 8 players remain, with only 4 from that starting 11 expected to make an impact on this year's team. There has been an influx of talent from abroad and several additions from local programs UAH and Alabama A&M. The corps of the returners are on the defensive side of the field and it will be interesting to see if the attacking players that have been added to the squad can gel in time to lead to a successful NPSL Southeast Region season.
That's it for tearing off the wrapping of all the club's "newness". It's going to be a very exciting and interesting year for RCU. See you all Saturday night!
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
We'll be gathering at the Smokehouse Restaurant's inside/outside bar to watch the game on their 4 large flat-screen TVs. The Smokehouse Restaurant is located in the Bridge Street Town Center next to the Westin Hotel. This will be a great chance for us to rate the Smokehouse on the PWT-blog's Soccer Bar Review page.
Following the Champions League Final viewing, we'll be heading over to the Madison City Schools Stadium for the Rocket City United reserve match at 4:30 PM. Later that night, the first team will open up their NPSL Southeast Region play by hosting the Birmingham Pumas in an Alabama derby match at 7:30 PM. Then, it's back to the Smokehouse for a post match party.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
UAH announce today that veteran college soccer coach, Mike Mitchell, was tagged to the vacant head coaching position of both the Men's and Women's program. Mitchell, who has coaching experience at various programs around the south, will take over the position for Tafadzwa Ziyenge who left UAH to run the women's program at Arkansas State.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Birmingham Pumas 1: 0 Atlanta FC
Atlanta FC could not equalize.
Regals FC 2: 4 Tulsa FC
NPSL Southeast debutant FC Tulsa traveled down to Houston, TX to take on prospective NPSL squad Regals FC in preseason friendly that took place in a torrential downpour. Regals got off to a royal start with 2 goals in the first 35 minutes despite going down to 10 men with a sending off of Regals' player. After shaking off their road-weary legs, Tulsa responded with 3 goals in the final 10 minutes of the first half. Tulsa then added a second half goal for the 4:2 scoreline.
Chattanooga FC Holds Intrasquad Scrimmage
After the previous week's dominating victory 5:0 over the Nashville Metros, CFC held an open door intrasquad scrimmage. The team is preparing for their first match away to Atlanta FC next Saturday and the big match-up against Atlas of Guadalajara on May 29th.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
After driving down I-65 to scout next week's opponent Birmingham Pumas, who beat Atlanta FC 1:0 in the NPSL Southeast Region opener the night before, RCU head coach Desmond Armstrong was able to focus on his team. Perhaps understanding that this was the final chance to be named in the opening day 18, the players on both teams came out in the first half with a frantic pace. Each team played a high line, leaving little room to maneuver and less time to react, resulting in play that was more disjointed than sublime. The Reds struck first late in the first half on one of the few real chances for either team. Derek Pirtle pounced on a loose ball six yards from goal and left Jeffery Preston no chance in goal for the Blacks. Good work from Sutton Shults, who has been converted to a right back in recent days, thrilled the fans along the high fenced sideline, but the Red were not able to further capitalize, and the half ended with Red 1, Blacks 0.
In the second half, the high pace took its toll, and the game opened up as a result. It was the Blacks who got the better of the play early, as Stacy Terry hit a nice side volley from 10 yards after a scrum in the penalty area left the ball bounding his way. The Blacks nearly took the lead when Oscar Leon worked himself free and laced a dipping 20-yarder that Tyler Early just palmed over the bar. As the match drew to a close, the Reds dialed up the pressure and both sides were recipients of crunching tackles. Reds winger Andrew Nkurunungi found himself breaking into the area with a good look at goal with about ten minutes left. However, his near post shot was parried away by the lunging Paul Musoke who had replaced Preston in the Blacks' goal at halftime. Neither team would come closer than that and full time ended with both sides tallying once.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Round Up: World Cup on the Ump, FC Buffalo Blitzers?, H'ville Native Joins BUSA, and Funny Commercials
Good news for soccer fans in Huntsville! Sports Radio 730 The Ump and 103.9FM will be airing the ESPN Radio broadcast all of the USA World Cup Matches. ESPN's JP Dellacamara and Tommy Smith will call the action from South Africa.
Below is the full schedule of matches that The Ump will carry:
Saturday, June 12: England v. USA @ 1:00pm
Friday, June 18: Slovenia v. USA @ 8:30am
Wednesday, June 23: USA v. Algeria @ 8:30am
Round of 16
Saturday, June 26: 1C v. 2D @ 1:00pm
Sunday, June 27: 1D v. 2C @ 8:30am
Third Place and Final
NPSL's FC Buffalo On CNN
What started as a funny option in the club's "vote for the team's nickname" contest has exploded into a major story. The NPSL Northeast Region team's website gave fans the option to choose the (Wolf) Blitzers as the nickname. Blitzer is the host of CNN's Situation Room and a native of Buffalo. Word made it to Blitzer and he ran a feature on the club's contest on yesterday's Situation Room broadcast. "Go Blitzers!" may soon be the rallying cry at FC Buffalo matches.
Huntsville Native Joins BUSA Staff
The area's nearest US Soccer Developmental Club, Birmingham United Soccer Association, has named Huntsville native Monica (Hall) Brown the Director of Soccer Operations. Monica is a graduate of Lee High School and was a four year starter at NC State University.
There are some really funny soccer related commercials coming out now. Here are two of my favorite.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
RCU's Final Tune Up On Saturday
After announcing its partnership with Heroes FA to create the RCU Heroes Academy of Excellence earlier this week, Rocket City United will play in it's final tune-up this Saturday at Columbia High School at 7:30 PM. The format of this match will be a internal scrimmage within the team's roster. The "Red vs. Black" match is free and open to the public.
AHSAA Finals Revisited
Speaking of RCU, Steve Van Horn, the veteran RCU defender, coached the only local High School team to capture a state title this year, when he led Grissom to a 3:0 victory over Hoover in the Boys 6A finals. The Huntsville Times has a nice set of photos catching the action that took place at John Hunt Park last weekend.
Chattanooga FC will host Mexico's Atlas
Just up the road from Huntsville, RCU rivals Chattanooga FC have announced that they will host the Mexican power, FC Atlas of Guadalajara. ChatFC will play the Atlas U-23 squad on May 29th at 7PM. As Greg wrote in his NPSL Southeast preview, Finley Stadium is a special place to watch a match and we should expect a great atmosphere for this one.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
"We wuz robbed" – Grissom girls fall to Spain Park 2-1 in overtime.
From special PWT-blog correspondent, Doug - The Grissom-Spain Park girls final started out in windy conditions with Grissom benefiting from the wind in the first half. With Catherine Lumb pulling the strings from midfield, Grissom exploited Spain Park’s flanks to great effect. After some build up in the Spain Park box, a Grissom direct kick from 20 yards was beautifully parried by the Spain Park Keeper. Though they escaped the free kick, Spain Park could not escape the ensuing corner kick, which was converted by Isabel Shanteau and Grissom took a deserved 1-0 lead in the 19th minute.
As the first half progressed, pressure from Spain Park increased. The speedy Simonie Charley looked especially dangerous. Grissom’s keeper Katie Roberts came off her line to smother a couple of fine scoring chances. The half ended with Grissom clinging to their 1-0 lead.
The second half opened with some chances for both sides. Utilizing the wind, Spain Park increased their pressure as the half progressed. A free kick from just outside the box would be converted in the 33rd minute and the game was tied 1-1. That score held to the completion of regular time.
Two minutes into overtime Spain Park was awarded what has to be called a gift as the referee called a very soft foul in the top corner of the box and pointed to the penalty spot. The ensuing penalty was blasted up the middle and Spain Park took home their gift of a state title.
Grissom Boys dominate Hoover 3-0, Win State Championship
The Grissom boys took home their first state title of the millennium by beating the #1 ranked Hoover Pirates by a score of 3-0.
The game started with Grissom utilizing the winds at their back and their possession passing game to apply pressure to the pirates. Hoover responded with a more direct approach with neither team able to gain the advantage in the early moments of the match.
All this changed when Grissom took advantage of poor handling by the Hoover keeper. Mitch Wilson was able to poach the ball from the keeper and tuck the ball in at the near post giving Grissom the early 1-0 lead. Josh Konantz almost doubled the lead by holding off two Hoover defenders, only to see his ball cleared off the line.
The second half opened with Hoover taking advantage of the wind. They applied pressure which required some clean handling by Tiger’s keeper Josh Cook. Grissom absorbed the pressure and then took advantage of a quick counter in the 53rd minute. Mitch Wilson broke free down the left wing and teed up Jake Vayda with a cross across the goal mouth. Vayda punished the Hoover lapse and doubled Grissom lead 2-0.
Four minutes later it was Wilson again who gained possession at the Hoover 18, turned his man, and shot a beautiful ball to the far corner giving Grissom a 3-0 lead.
This lead proved insurmountable as the Grissom back four, led by Jonathon Ray and Justin Jong, repelled anything that Hoover threw at them and rode out the game to a well deserved 3-0 win.
Another thanks goes to PWT-blog special correspondent Doug for these great game reports.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
I am currently out of town, and thanks must go out to special correspondents Darrell and Doug who have written up the action over at John Hunt Park where the state high school play-offs are going on.
Randolf falls in 1-4A Boys Semis
From special PWT-blog correspondent Darrell- AHSAA 1-4A Boys Soccer Semi-final between Indian Hills and Randolph began with a shot at the Indian Hills goal in the first minute and a shot at the Randolph goal in the second minute. Both teams continued attacking both goals with Randolph playing its possession game and Indian Hills threatening on the counter attack. Soon thereafter in the 6th minute of the game Indian Hills player #11, Alex Jomroz, put the ball in the back of the net through outstanding individual effort (no assist). After the kickoff both teams continued playing with great strength, as boys of this age always do. Indian Hills thrilled the fans in the 23rd minute with a cross by player #24, Andrew Washburn, to a teammate who headed the ball toward the goal from close range but straight at the Randolph goalkeeper who was only able to deflect it back into play. Randolph's defense cleared the ball out. Pressure then shifted and Randolph player #6, Eric Ly, almost scored with a quick shot in the 34th minute and player #11, Clark Ingram, with an excellent header that was saved by the Indian Hills goalkeeper in the 40th minute of the game.
The second half began much like the first half with a shot at each team's goal within the first minute. Randolph player #6, Eric Ly, showed his value to his team with a shot that was just barely wide in the 3rd minute and then a bend-it-like-Beckam shot on a direct free kick in the 11th minute of the second half. But Indian Hills was the team who scored next when their player #15, George Smith, crossed the ball in front of the Randolph goal which was not immediately cleared out by the Randolph defense and ended up in the goal from a shot by Indian Hills player #12, Jake Shuford, in the 12th minute of the second half.
Down 2 to 0, Randolph did not let up. Randolph continued their controlled attacks, led frequently by their player #6, Eric Ly. At one point, he even attempted a bicycle kick/shot in the 21st minute, but still no goal. Indian Hills played out the game with just enough effort to preserve their two goal lead, but not without a price. One of their players was cautioned for faking a foul, i.e. a dive, in the 34th minute of the second half. Soon the game ended and Indian Hills advanced to the final with a win over Randolph, 2 to 0.
Grissom Girls Shut Out Prattville
From special PWT-blog correspondent, Doug - The Grissom girls took no prisoners in their state semi-final beating Prattville 4-0. The team started a little flat and could not beat the Prattville keeper from distance. Finally after 30 minutes Abby Phillips broke through and put a nice finish to open the scoring. A few minutes later she struck again and the girls cruised into half time with a 2-0 lead.
The second half started with Grissom holding possession and knocking the ball around the mid field. Prattville had no answers for Grissom’s dominance and rarely put together more than 2 passes. Any long balls they served were ably dispatched by Heather Jeziorski. It was only a matter of time when Isabel Shanteau was released through the disorganized Prattville backline to make the score 3-0. Katie Vallely finished the scoring line by practically walking the ball into the net for the final 4-0 scoreline.
The win puts Grissom through to the final against the arch-foe Spain Park (Saturday, 11AM, Field 2). An earlier meeting in the Lakeshore shootout ended with Spain Park winning in PK’s. The lady tigers are looking for revenge on the big stage.
Grissom Boys Convert Chances to Advance to Finals
From special PWT-blog correspondent, Doug - The Grissom boys put away a pesky Auburn team 3-1. The score line is a bit generous to Grissom as the game was evenly played until the last ten minutes when Grissom put the game away with 2 goals.
The game started out promisingly for Grissom and within 10 minutes some good link play in the middle put Bobby Copeland through to put the tigers up 1-0. In the 13th minute Auburn tied things up by taking advantage of a goal mouth scramble. Grissom failed to clear the ball past the 18 and the ball was played back in and calmly put away to tie things at 1-1.
The rest of the first half was evenly played in a battle of the midfields. Grissom had a couple of opportunities but lack of finishing left the game tied at half.
The second half started much the same way as the first ended with neither side looking particularly dangerous.
That ended in the 33rd minute of the second half when Josh Konantz played through Matt Volz in 1 on 1 with the keeper. Volz slipped the ball past the keeper but its pace put in doubt whether it would be cleared off the line. Bobby Copeland made sure that did not happen by slamming the ball home for his second. Three minutes later Josh Konantz took advantage of Auburn’s failure to clear the area and flicked past the keeper for the final score, 3-1.
The win puts Grissom against Alabama’s #1 ranked team, Hoover High (Saturday, 1PM, Field 2) . It is yet another Huntsville-Hoover battle to claim dominance of the state.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
First, whoever represents the Southeast Region in the NPSL’s 2010 National Championship (in Madison, Alabama on July 29-31) will deserve it. Getting there will be a very difficult task. Don’t think that Rocket City United, the host of the National Championships, will have a walk in the park to qualify for the tournament. They won’t, but in my opinion they will be one of the three teams fighting to get to the finals from the Southeast Region. I believe Atlanta FC and Chattanooga FC are the other teams are going to be in direct competition for that spot. This season, you have a Chattanooga FC with one season of experience underneath their belt. Atlanta FC will be looking to regain their fist place form, and Rocket City United will have some new and old faces trying to improve on the success of last season. This will all add up to quite a challenging competition!For those who are not aware, the overall level of play in the Southeast Region is very high and much more sophisticated than most college teams play. Some NPSL teams are better actually coached than a lot of professional teams around country. This is not to say these NPSL teams would have success at those levels, but the fans of the Southeast Region teams will have an opportunity to see some real quality soccer.
Before I analyze each team, I have to admit I not been making a lot of contacts to find out what has been going on with each team. Most of these observations are based on my experience within the region, a few e-mails, and reading all the news via internet like everyone else. The only conscious effort I made was to contact Tulsa University’s Men’s Soccer Head Coach Tom McIntosh for some background on the new Southeast Division club FC Tulsa, the club that will be replacing Saturn FC within the region.
FC TULSA: At this time there are no Tulsa University Men’s Soccer players currently playing for this club, but this could change. It will have to in order for Tulsa FC to have any chance of having any success this season. Let the inaugural season of the Birmingham Pumas be a lesson. A Sunday League Latin team thinking they will be have a walk in the park in this competition will be in for a rude awakening. Personally, unless they make some additional roster moves, this will be a very long season for FC Tulsa. The one factor that might benefit Tulsa is the long drive the opposition will have to make to Tulsa. Let’s hope this club acts professionally. The last thing they want is opposing teams driving long distance to perform in amateurish conditions. Quality, pissed off teams are no fun to play against!
BIRMINGHAM PUMAS FC : Even if I don’t have Pumas as contenders for the Southeast Regional title, they could be the surprise team of the 2010 season. In reality, this is not a bad team at all. They have a nice balance between their Sunday Latin Team and current and past UAB players. This is a team RCU had major success against last season, but other teams in the division did not. Now, with one season of experience behind, I expect the Pumas be an improved squad. They possess an attack that can be very dangerous, but sometimes not savvy. In both games last season RCU pulled the off-sides trap an average of 15 times each match.
CHATTANOOGA FC: I expect this club to be major contender for the regional title this season. They have a majority of last season’s squad returning, with some additional players that will probably upgrade their squad. Defensively, this is a very good team. The ability to collectively press teams up the field is exceptional and their giants in the back won’t lose too many duals in the air. Playing out of their pressure or getting behind them will be key for their opposition’s goal scoring success. This season they should not lose one point at home. Their stadium field is not easy surface for visiting teams to play on, but their biggest home field advantage is their fans. As I recently wrote, everyone should go see a Barca match at Camp Nou once in their life, the same could be said about this club’s home game experience. It is unique, loud, and the supporters are there in numbers. Where else can you watch a match and buy a beer at the same time? Still, to this day, I could not imagine what would of happen to the referee crew for the RCU match, if Chattanooga’s goalkeeper Masters did not stop Freddy Okello’s penalty kick in the last second of last season's match? Saying all of this, the big area the Chattanooga needs to improve on to be a serious contender is their ability to score goals. This might have improved at the end of last season, but it needs to be become more consistent throughout the whole season. In this preview, I am not trying address individual players, but if Omar Cookes just finishes 1/10th of his numerous missed goal-scoring opportunities, Chattanooga will be champions this upcoming season. I still don’t understand why Cookes doesn’t convert to a central defender. He actually could make a living doing it!
ROCKET CITY UNITED: Sometimes changes can be good for a club and sometimes it can work against you. This season RCU has a new Coach, a new home field, and will have new players; players who should not underestimate of level of play in this region. At this level, changes are the norm. It is just part of the environment, but the problem with this region is that there have been probably very few changes within the other clubs in the off season. They have the advantage of playing together for a longer period of time and they will have a good idea where they need to improve their teams. Saying this, Desmond Armstrong’s system of play is very similar to the way RCU played last season. Players from last year’s team should have an easy time adjusting. New players arriving this season will most likely have played under Desmond before and will understand what is expected. The question will be how long will it take for the new and old players to get on the same page? The other big questions are who is going to replace Rafa Barbosa’s ability to score goals and Paul Willouby’s ability to create utter chaos amongst opposition on the flanks? These are big shoes to fill for RCU. Knowing Desmond’s eye for talent, I expect the new players to be talented, but the level of play within the region might take a little time to adjust to. Remember, this season is very short. Starting slow can hurt you at the end. I believe the US Open Cup competition will be very useful for the upcoming season. Let’s also hope that RCU has plenty of players in reserve for this year’s qualification US Open Tournament which plays multiple matches over a very short time period.
I expect the matches in Madison will be well attended, but the one thing that concerns me is that the field is more like an American Football field. Like the opposition, RCU will be learning how to play on it themselves this season. I hope they can get some width on the field, something that is important for RCU. If not, Chattanooga and Atlanta might feel right at home during their visits to Madison.
Even with changes, I expect RCU will be very competitive, successful, and fighting for that top position to represent the Southeast Region in the NPSL Final Four. The competition will be very challenging this season. If they do make it to the finals, it will be an outstanding achievement. But again, IT WILL NOT BE EASY!
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Earlier in the day, it was feared that the game would be postponed due to tornadic weather conditions, but the weather held and a capacity crowd witnessed the action including a heard of cattle on the hill adjacent to the field. A strong gale played havoc with clearances and passes and it seemed Randolph did not know how to take advantage of the tailwind in the first half. When asked about the wind Randolph coach Sean Cooper said, "Our game is ball on the ground and we really don't look to play many long balls."
Catholic took a different tack by taking advantage of the tailwind in the second half with several shots from distance that troubled the Randolph nets but didn't break the deadlock, including a shot from the Falcon's foward Andrew Dunn 25 yards from goal that beat McDonald only to hit the upright. Tensions showed as several harsh challenges were exchanged between the teams and names were noted in the referee AJ Hick's notebook.
Perhaps they didn't know it was playoff game with overtime, or maybe it was feeding time, but as the teams lined up for the extra time periods, the cattle on the hill had moved on to better pastures. However, the fans were treated to exciting end to end action, but no decider would come and both five minute extra time periods ended without a golden goal.
In the dreaded PKs, McDonald stood to the fore with a vital save of Catholic's Raul Alonso after Cody Santos converted his spot kick for the Raiders. The teams then traded goals from Sanket Shah for Randolph and Americ Zuurhout for Catholic. After Randolph's Eric Ly scored from 12 yards, Nicco Libarios missed wide on his attempt for the Falcons. McDonald, himself, would then send his shot past Catholic keeper Brent DeSilva for the fourth and deciding kick, sending his team through to the semifinals and his teammates and fans into jubilation.
The Tigers controlled the ball for large portions of the match, but could not find the right magic in the attacking third to beat Drew Hannan in the Huntsville goal. Despite Grissom's holding the majority of the possession in the first half, it was Huntsville who had the better of the chances with several dangerous free kicks from Panther midfielder Jack Malone.
Hannan was the story of the second half as Grissom's attack gained confidence and sent several shots destined for the net only to be turned away by the Huntsville netminder. Early in the second half, Hannan parried a well struck shot only to have it fall to a Grissom foward on the doorstep. The Huntsville keeper used the quickness of a panther to deny the rebound shot and keep the game scoreless.
Grissom won the game with their first real chance in extra time, Michael "Juice" Gjudici received the ball deep in the corner, flicking the ball past the Huntsville defender to create space for a cross. His driven ball found Bradley Boyett waiting eight yards from goal. Boyett's header sent the capacity crowd into frenzied celebrations and Grissom into the semifinals.