Thursday, July 28, 2011

NPSL Semifinals Tonight!

First, I must apologize to my loyal readers (all three of you, not including my mom) for my lack of posting recently.  I was out of town and on my way back into town I caught a bug of some sort and have been "laid low" for nearly two weeks.  In the meantime, RCU finished up it's regular season, and Jacob and the guys over at Southern Soccer hosted another wildly successful Rocket City Invitational tournament.  

And I have to give a special thanks to an outstanding young writer and friend, Drew Wooley, who stepped in and kept you all up to date on the all things RCU.  Thanks, Drew.  We'll miss you when you move on to bigger and better things.  

NPSL Semi-finals Tonight

It's a great time to be a soccer fan in Huntsville-Madison.  The NPSL Championships area upon us again.  This is the second straight year that the championships of the nation wide league in the fourth division of the US soccer pyramid will be hosted by Rocket City United at the Madison City Schools Stadium.  Last year, we were treated to five fantastic games including a great all-star match, a tremendous NPSL Final won by Sacramento, and appearances by some US soccer celebrities.  This year's championships are looking to live up to last years event.

Semifinal 1 at 5:30PM:  Hollywood United (2) v. Milwaukee Bavarians (3).

Hollywood United (not to be confused with FC Hollywood as German giant FC Bayern Munich is often called), is a first year NPSL team.  Hollywood United has had an impressive Western Region season going 14W-1D-2L in their first year after switching over from the USL-PDL.  The Hollywood in the name is also well deserved since the club was founded by several musicians, actors, and Hollywood celebrity types.  One of my favorite actors, Donal Logue, is part owner of the club and was spotted in Madison today documenting the club's time here at the championships.  Hopefully, I'll get to sit down with him sometime this weekend and discuss his club and his views on soccer in America.

HU's opponent is no slouch either.  Midwest Region champions Milwaukee Bavarians are one of the most storied clubs in American soccer, and I'll be honest.  They will be my sentimental favorite in the tournament, because they were founded in 1929 as FC Bayern, a similar name to my favorite European club (the previously mentioned "FC Hollywood").  Like their German namesakes, they have really come into their own as a soccer power in the last 30 years and are only slightly less decorated by silverware.  The club holds 6 National Amateur and Open Cup trophies, and dominated this year's NPSL Midwest Region with a record of 8W, 2D, 2L. 

Semifinal 2 at 8PM:  Erie Admirals (1) v. Jacksonville United (4)

Northeast region champion Erie Admirals are making their 2nd appearance in the NPSL championships in three years.  You might recall it was this same side that dashed Rocket City United's 2009 NPSL Championship hopes in Madison, WI by handing RCU a solid 4:2 drubbing in the semifinal.  Erie is coming into the finals as the number one seed due to Points-per-game.  They will be without one of their top players in Afrim Latifi who had a personal commitment out of the country and could not travel with the team.

Jacksonville United is the surprise of the tournament.  A 2011 NPSL newcomer, the Florida team had trouble adjusting to the league initially, dropping their first four matches in the NPSL Southeast Region. JaxU then performed a remarkable about-face and reeled off six straight victories to pull level on points at 6W-0D-4L with fellow Region leader Georgia Revolution and qualified for the Championships based on number of wins.  Despite the rough start Jacksonville is an experienced side in American soccer with many team members gaining US Open Cup experience with Lynch's Pub FC.

Sad Note:

The NPSL lost a member of its family as NPSL Board Member Charles Billings was found dead of what appears to be natural causes in his home this week.  Billings was the Midwest Region Commissioner and GM of the Madison 56ers and was scheduled to travel to Madison, AL for this weekend's festivities.

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