Four teams are left in the 2016 PDL season, with the semifinals set to kick off for this weekend.
A format change from previous years means that the final three games of the season won’t be played in one weekend. After this weekend’s semifinals, the championship game is scheduled to take place next week on August 6 at a site to be determined.
That will give plenty of time for the two teams to prepare for the final clash of the 2016 campaign. In the meantime, here’s a brief overview of the PDL Semifinals.
Saturday, July 30/All times EST
Calgary Foothills FC at Ocean City Nor’easters, 5 p.m. (Ocean City, N.J.) - Watch here
How They Got Here: After posting an 8-3-3 mark in the regular season, Calgary has rattled off three straight playoff wins. First up, a 3-1 win against Seattle Sounders U23. Next, they edged FC Golden State Force 1-0, and then beat FC Tucson 2-1 in Arizona. The Nor’easters (9-5-0) also won three straight, defeating GPS Portland Phoenix 2-1 in the play-in game, before beating Charlotte Eagles (1-0) and Reading United (4-1).
Keys to Success: Strength in the spine has been crucial for Calgary, a team comprised mostly of Canadian talent that competes for CIS schools. Midfielder Elijah Adekugbe supplies the brains in the midfield, while University of Calgary star Dominic Russo is a clinical finisher that continues to score goals in a timely and critical fashion.
A deadly attack is key for the Nor’easters, led by Chevaughn Walsh and his 14 goals from 14 games. The JuCo standout is far from the only threat up front, as Miguel Jaime is the supply line to Walsh. Nathan Regis, representing the Division II college ranks, has chipped in six goals and eight assists. Any of those three are capable of producing in critical moments.
College Players to Watch: F Chevaughn Walsh (Ocean City/Jefferson College), M Miguel Jaime (Ocean City/Florida Gulf Coast), M Kyle Thomson (Ocean City/Loyola-Chicago), F Nathan Regis (Ocean City/Pfeiffer), F Dominic Russo (Foothills FC/University of Calgary), M Elijah Adekugbe (Foothills FC/Trinity Western), GK Dylon Powley (Foothills FC/MacEwan)
Midland/Odessa Sockers FC at Michigan Bucks, 7:30 p.m. (Pontiac, Mich.) - Watch here
How They Got Here: After defeating The Villages SC 2-1 in the conference semifinals, Midland/Odessa (8-3-3 in the regular season) held its nerve on penalty kicks, defeating OKC Energy U23 2-1 from the spot. The Bucks (12-2-0) swept past their opposition last weekend, beating the Thunder Bay Chill 3-0, and getting a pair of second half goals to top Des Moines Menace by a 2-0 score.
Keys to Success: One of the best clubs in the PDL, the Michigan Bucks are loaded with the most prominent Division I college talent up and down the field among the teams left. The dynamic duo of Adam Najem and Russell Cicerone combine to produce the most danger, as the former leads the team with nine assists and the latter has scored 12 goals. There’s more to that however, as Lalas Abubakar, Francis De Vries and Brad Ruhaak are all experienced DI defenders difficult to break down.
Defense has been the catalyst for Midland/Odessa, as it conceded only 14 goals during the season. That will need to continue if the Sockers are to have any chance at springing the upset against the Bucks. NAIA All-American Fernando Machado has been one of the keys to that effort, and he’ll need another big performance to slow down Ciccerone and the Bucks.
College Players to Watch: F Russell Cicerone (Bucks/Buffalo), F David Goldsmith (Bucks/Butler), M Adam Najem (Bucks/Akron), D Lalas Abubakar (Bucks/Dayton), D Francis de Vries (Bucks/Saint Francis (PA)) D Fernando Machado (Sockers/Oklahoma Wesleyan), Ty Mobley (Sockers/St. Edward's), M Caio Ruiz (Sockers/Oklahoma Wesleyan