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USL PDL: Conference Championship Preview

Article Written by Travis Clark
Published: July 21, 2016

The USL PDL is winding down to a close over the next coming weeks, with the playoffs beginning on Tuesday with games on both ends of the country.

Sixteen teams in total are left across four conferences, with the Conference Semifinals and finals slated to whittle the field down to next week’s final quartet of teams. Teams will clash back-to-back, with two games taking place Friday through Sunday.

Here’s a look ahead at this week’s action, as the college-heavy league prepares for its grand finale.

(All times EST; Games on Friday, July 22)

Southern Conference (Taft Stadium/Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)

Midland/Odessa Sockers FC vs. The Villages SC, Friday, July 22, 6 p.m. (Watch here)

The only PDL side from Texas lines up against The Villages, a side notable for begin disqualified from the U.C. Open Cup. Bruno Henrique led the Sockers in goals, netting seven from 13 games, including a pair in Friday’s win against OKC Energy U23s that secured a playoff spot. Brand new Florida side The Villages caps off its first year in the PDL by making the playoffs. A first place finish in the Southeast Division saw to that, thanks in part to the 11 goals supplied by Carlos Araujo.

South Florida Surf vs. OKC Energy U23, 9 p.m. (Watch here)

Hosts of the Southern Conference semifinals, OKC Energy leans on under-the-radar college talent like Ben Conway (Incarnate Word) and Josh Taylor (St. Edward's). Another former Incarnate Word standout, Noah Keats, fired in a team-high 13 goals during the regular season campaign to lead the Energy. Division II standout Lucas Coutinho helped propel the Surf to this point of the season, as the Palm Beach Atlantic midfielder scored three goals and added five assists. Rutgers star Jason Wright also turned out and scored three times, though his availability is always uncertain. If he ends up playing, it’s a big boost for the Surf.

Central Conference (Ultimate Soccer Arena/Pontiac, Michigan)

K-W United vs. Des Moines Menace, 5 p.m. (Watch here)

The defending PDL Champions begin their quest for a second straight title against Des Moines, a perennial power in the league. There’s a lot of turnover from last year’s United team that captured the title, though Syracuse scoring ace Sergio Camargo remains a focal point of the attack. He didn’t top United’s scoring charts, as that distinction goes to Hawaii Pacific’s Sven Koenig, who notched 12 goals in 11 games. The Menace has impressive performers at the back in goalkeeper Nico Campbell and defender Jimmy Fiscus.

Thunder Bay Chill vs. Michigan Bucks, 7:30 p.m. (Watch here)

Bucks roll into its clash with the Chill as the slight favorites, given the pedigree of the players on its roster. Russell Cicerone (Buffalo) scored 12 goals this season, buoyed by nine assists from Akron star Adam Najem. The Chill boast plenty of experience, including Sullivan Silva (who scored 11 goals this season) and goalkeeper Daniel Milton, a former Canadian youth international.

Western Conference (Kino North Stadium/Tucson, Ariz.)

Calgary Foothills FC vs. FC Golden State Force, 9 p.m. (Watch here)

The Canadian side surged into the playoffs as Northwest Division champions, edging out the Sounders U23s by three points. An impressive defensive record aided that accomplishment, as they conceded just 12 goals in 14 games. Former University of Calgary scorer and local product Dominic Russo chipped in six tallies, while Dylon Powley earned the majority of minutes in goal. Both become critical figures in Friday’s clash against FC Golden State, a PDL incarnation of a sterling SoCal youth club. While he’s logged just one start in three seasons at Stanford, Mark Verso could be poised for big things after finishing the season as FC Golden State’s top scorer with 12 goals. There are a slew of other talented players plucked from Division I, including Jose Hernandez (UCLA), Jose Carrera-Garcia (California) and Seyi Adekoya (UCLA).

Burlingame Dragons vs. FC Tucson, 11 p.m. (Watch here)

Perhaps the most compelling matchup of the conference semifinals, Burlingame’s tussle with FC Tucson should be loaded with plenty of talent. The Dragons have a lengthy roster, so it’s unclear just who might end up stepping between the lines on Friday. But give the likes of Daniel Musovski (UNLV), Brian Nana-Sinkam, Corey Baird (Stanford) and Christian Thierjung (California) all have logged minutes this season, there are ample weapons to choose from. Tucson counters with Alfonso Pinheiro (Albany), Tate Schmitt (Louisville) and Damian German (Grand Canyon) leading the line, and has the firepower to disrupt the Dragons.

Games on Saturday, July 23

Eastern Conference (Exeter High School/Reading, Pa.)

Ocean City Nor’easters vs. Charlotte Eagles, 5 p.m. (Watch here)

Junior college All American Chevaughn Walsh has helped lead the Nor’easters into the semifinals, scoring 14 goals and certainly earning himself a long look from PDL scouts. It’s not just a one-man wrecking crew for Ocean City, as Florida Gulf Coast(m) midfield ace has helped form a solid duo with Walsh. One of the best defenses in the league, Charlotte will need to find a way to deal with Walsh as it seeks a spot in the conference finals. It’s been a rotation approach in goal for the Eagles, with James Pyle (South Carolina), Jordan Farr and William Pyle (North Carolina) splitting minutes. Whoever ends up getting the nod this weekend will need to be on his game.

Carolina Dynamo vs. Reading United, 7:30 p.m. (Watch here)

Another pair of storied PDL teams takes front and center to wrap up the semifinal stage of the season. A long list of North Carolina’s premium Division I players turn up for the Dynamo, including Tanner Roberts, Chris Ramsell, Phillip Goodrum and Brandt Bronico. They’ll look to shackle the offense of United, which has been led by Paul Marie (Florida International) and his 10 goals. The Dynamo has the horses to keep the scores close, though perhaps the advantage of playing at home can aid Reading as they seek progress to Sunday's conference final.

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