Two newcomers to the NPSL will kick off Saturday night to crown a national champion. The match-up will be the second year in a row that the champions of the West and Southeast regions meet to determine a national champion. Hollywood United will be looking to be the third West Region team in a row to be crowned champion (Sonoma '09, Sacramento '10). While Jacksonville United is attempting to bring home the winners medals to the Southeast for the first time in NPSL history. Atlanta FC, Rocket City United, and Chattanooga FC have all failed to raise the Cup for the Southeast region in years past.
If they are to buck the trend, the odds will be stacked against the Florida eleven. Jacksonville United is undoubtedly the underdog in this match. The first year club scraped into the post season by the slimmest of margins. However, coach Eric Dade is not concerned with the early season sluggishness, and has seen his team grow into a side capable of good things, "I think a lot of guys were on a very good men's adult team, and then all of a sudden, we're pros." He explained that as the season wore on the JUFC's professionalism and consistency took hold and the good results followed.
JUFC is certainly riding a wave of moment while on a 7 game winning streak and Dade is looking forward to the final on Saturday night, "I think it'll be a good game. I think you'll see two teams play with similarity. Hopefully, we'll find a way to be there at the end of it."
Hollywood United is also in its first year in the NPSL having moved over from the USL PDL, but is loaded with professional and international experience. For instance, both of Hollywood's goalscorers in the semifinals came to the squad with experience in top global professional divisions. The Hitmen's first scorer, Emmanuel Bentil was captain for the U-17 Ghana team that captured the World Youth Cup winner's medal. That experience led to three years on the books at Bayern Munich, before injuries led to time with other teams around Europe. Not to be outdone, two goal scorer Brent Whitfield spent time in the USA's Major League Soccer with Chivas USA.
Coach Jose Botello will be looking to use that experience against a JUFC side that he thinks plays an attractive game, "Jacksonville looks to knock it, looks to play, and get behind through short passes." Botello urges that a possession style game is also key to Hollywood's success, "It's something we stress. We want to keep the ball, and possession moving forward. At times, we struggled moving forward [in the semifinal]. That final pass wasn't there in the beginning of the game, but toward the end, we were much better."
NPSL Commissioner Is Excited About 2011 and Beyond
Dan Trainor has seen his league grow from a provincial outfit to a nationwide developmental league in a very short time and he is excited about the future. The twinkle in his eye is fully evident when speaking of the "continued steady growth" of the future of the 4th division circuit.