Competition Update (as of 5/20/11) ** Final Update: On Thursday, May 19 the NPSL commissioner and other committee members upheld the league’s decision to penalize the San Diego Flash use of an illegal player in two matches by ruling the games as 3-0 forfeitures.
With the news Thursday that the appeal by the San Diego Flash to overturn the penalties levied against them for using an illegal player in its matches versus Hollywood and Bay Area had failed, the club was officially eliminated from US Open Cup contention.
The ruling gives the US Open Cup berth to Hollywood United, which is now perfect at 7-0-0 and uncatchable. Hollywood finished with a nearly flawless record with 34 goals scored and only three allowed.
Second to Hollywood in the table are the Santa Ana Winds, whose only loss of the six games played on their slate thus far was a 1-0 decision against the leaders in just the second game of the season.
The Flash would have had a perfect 7-0-0 record with the win against the Sacramento Gold. Instead, it is Hollywood United that sits atop the table with a perfect record, including their victory against the Flash, one of the two forfeitures. Along with news of the NPSL ruling, the Flash management commented on their Facebook page, “As an Organization, we will move forward from this decision and do our best to have a great 1st season in the NPSL.”
See the updated standings below (includes penalties):
|Santa Ana Winds||6||5||1||0||15||15||6||+9|
|San Diego Flash||7||5||2||0||15||14||9||+5|
|Sonoma County Sol||6||3||2||1||10||16||10||+6|
|San Diego Boca||7||3||4||0||9||14||16||-2|
|Bay Area Ambassadors||7||1||5||1||4||9||22||-13|
|Real San Jose||7||1||6||0||3||4||32||-28|
Top team qualifies for the 2011 US Open Cup
Clinched Open Cup berth – Eliminated from contention
NPSL West tiebreakers
(1) Goal difference (2) Goals scored
* Denotes forfeiture - All times Eastern
|April 1||Sonoma County Sol||3:1||Bay Area Ambassadors||Final|
|April 2||Hollywood United||1:0||Santa Ana Winds||Final|
|April 2||Real San Jose||1:2||San Diego Boca||Final|
|April 3||FC Hasental||1:3||San Diego Flash||Final|
|April 9||San Diego Flash||0:3*||Hollywood United||Final|
|April 9||Sacramento Gold||4:1||Bay Area Ambassadors||Final|
|April 9||FC Hasental||0:1||San Diego Boca||Final|
|April 16||Hollywood United||4:0||Sonoma County Sol||Final|
|April 16||Bay Area Ambassadors||0:2||Real San Jose||Final|
|April 16||Santa Ana Winds||4:1||FC Hasental||Final|
|April 17||Hollywood United||3:0||Sacramento Gold||Final|
|April 17||Real San Jose||0:8||Sonoma County Sol||Final|
|April 17||San Diego Boca||1:2||San Diego Flash||Final|
|April 23||Sacramento Gold||0:0||Sonoma County Sol||Final|
|April 23||Real San Jose||0:11||Hollywood United||Final|
|April 23||San Diego Flash||0:3*||Bay Area Ambassadors||Final|
|April 23||Santa Ana Winds||3:2||San Diego Boca||Final|
|April 23||FC Hasental||3:1||Rattlers FC||Final|
|April 30||Santa Ana Winds||3:0||Rattlers FC||Final|
|April 30||Sacramento Gold||4:0||Real San Jose||Final|
|April 30||Bay Area Ambassadors||2:2||FC Hasental||Final|
|May 1||San Diego Boca||3:5||Hollywood United||Final|
|May 1||Sonoma County Sol||0:1||San Diego Flash||Final|
|May 7||Bay Area Ambassadors||2:4||San Diego Boca||Final|
|May 7||San Diego Flash||5:0||Real San Jose||Final|
|May 8||Bay Area Ambassadors||0:7||Hollywood United||Final|
|May 8||Rattlers FC||1:2||Santa Ana Winds||Final|
|May 14||FC Hasental||4:5||Sonoma County Sol||9:30|
|May 14||Sacramento Gold||1:1||Hollywood United||10 p.m.|
|May 14||San Diego Boca||1:3||Santa Ana Winds||10 p.m.|
|May 14||Rattlers FC||2:1||Real San Jose||10:30|
|May 15||San Diego Boca||1:2||FC Hasental||5 p.m.|
|May 15||Sacramento Gold||1:3||San Diego Flash||6 p.m.|
|May 21||Real San Jose||at||Santa Ana Winds||10 p.m.|
|May 21||Rattlers FC||at||San Diego Boca||10 p.m.|
|May 22||Rattlers FC||at||San Diego Flash||6 p.m.|
|May 22||FC Hasental||at||Sacramento Gold||8 p.m.|
|May 28||Rattlers FC||at||FC Hasental||10 p.m.|
|May 29||Sonoma County Sol||at||Sacramento Gold||8 p.m.|
The most sought-after US Open Cup berth in the National Premier Soccer League numerically, the 10 clubs in the West Division, at the time of this article being written, are a third of the way through the qualification process. The berth at stake will go to the club with the best point total after its first seven matches of the league campaign.
Given the method of determining the qualifier, the quest began on April 1 when the Sonoma County Sol won on the road against the 2010 US Open Cup qualifier Bay Area Ambassadors. Both are returning teams to the division. The final qualification match, of 40 total, also features Sonoma County when they travel to play May 29 against the Sacramento Gold.
Qualifying for NPSL teams was previously done via the USASA Regional tournaments. The 2011 edition of the US Open Cup gave the league four automatic entrants into the event. Last year, the division was comprised of six teams. With one team folding, five new clubs join the fray this year, including former United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League teams Hollywood United Hitmen and Lancaster Rattlers. The other three newcomers are FC Hasental, Santa Ana Winds and San Diego Flash, a new version of a former USL club from years past.
Last year, four of the NPSL sides participated in the Region IV tournament and found success. Real San Jose, Bay Area Ambassadors and Sacramento Gold each won their groups with perfect records. Bay Area then edged Sacramento 1-0 in the semifinals while San Jose fell 2-1 to former NPSL and USL side Arizona Sahuaros, who earned the wild card berth in a tiebreaker with the NPSL San Diego Boca. With the two US Open Cup berths already determined, the Ambassadors won the regional championship, 2-0. Sonoma County Sol also qualified via a special play-in match.
The qualifying format for the West upon closer inspection is fairly balanced based in the breadth of opposition each club is facing as five teams only play one opponent twice and the Rattlers are the lone club that plays two teams twice. The Rattlers, the remaining club yet to begin their league campaign, are also the only side that has four matches against clubs that were not in the NPSL or PDL a year ago while Real San Jose and Santa Ana are the only two teams that only play one match against said opponents.
The other balanced schedule aspect comes via the home-away composition. Only two clubs have more than four home or road games on the schedule. Both Sacramento and the Rattlers will be forced to play away from home five times during the campaign. The Gold have four consecutive on the road at one point while the Rattlers play both home matches at the top of the schedule before finishing out on the road five straight. No other clubs have four consecutive matches home or away on the fixture list.
The selection of seven games as the determining point matches the fact that Sonoma County, Santa Ana and the Rattlers only have seven matches prior to the official Lamar Hunt US Open Cup qualifying deadline. With other clubs playing more than seven by the deadline, the scheduling creates a unique scenario in which a handful of games only count as qualifiers for one club. Sonoma has one such match against an opponent whose qualifying campaign is already concluded. Sacramento, Santa Ana and the Rattlers each have three such games at the ends of their campaigns. Sacramento’s match May 14 against Hollywood United is the first of the 10 specific matches. The final six games, overall, from May 21-29 only count as qualifiers for one team.
About the Teams
Bay Area Ambassadors: A 2009 addition to the NPSL, the Ambassadors entered the US Open Cup fray a year ago with outstanding success, winning all three group games in the USASA Region IV tournament and earning a berth with a semifinal win against fellow NPSL side Sacramento, 1-0, en route to winning the championship against Arizona Sahuaros, 2-0. Bay Area made a thrilling comeback in the First Round of the US Open Cup on the road against the PDL Kitsap Pumas. Trailing since the third minute, Phil Silva scored twice in the 71st and 77th minutes to send the match to overtime where Kitsap scored twice for the 4-2 victory. The club’s two-year league record is 9-10-3.
FC Hasental: While the club is new to the NPSL, it is not new to US Open Cup qualifying. Established in 2005, the team has entered the Region IV tournament the past two years, coming up short in the quest for a berth. Last year FC Hasental was 1-1-0 in the group with Real San Jose of the NPSL. Hasental translates from German to English as Hare-Valley, also known as Conejo Valley, the home of the club.
Hollywood United: The side is the feature team of the Hollywood United Football Club that is famous for numerous celebrities and former internationals playing on its teams over the years as well as participating in the club’s many charity events. As an independent team, the team qualified for the US Open Cup in 2008 through the USASA Region IV tournament, going 3-0-0 with victories against three NPSL teams. They then shocked many in the First Round of the US Open Cup by eliminating then USL First Division (pro second division) Portland Timbers in a 3-2 affair. They were then defeated by the USL-1 Seattle Sounders 6-0. In the past two years, Hollywood finished in the top two of the PDL Southwest Division, but missed out on qualifying for the US Open Cup, finishing 1-2-1 in the group a year ago after narrowly missing out in 2009 at 3-1-0.
Rattlers FC: The club is in its first season in the NPSL after spending four in the USL PDL. The club struggled in PDL play, finishing 10th in its first two seasons and seventh the past two for a combined record of 12-38-14. The Rattlers are a total 3-11-2 in Open Cup qualifiers, but had their best PDL qualifying campaign last year at 1-1-2.
Real San Jose: A member of the NPSL since 2007, the club reached the postseason for the first time last year with a record of 5-3-2. The team is a combined 8-8-6 the past two league campaigns. The club reached the Region IV Semifinals a year ago in its qualification quest, winning its two group matches before falling to the Arizona Sahuaros in the Final Four, 2-1.
San Diego Boca: New to the NPSL last year, the club finished the season fourth in the division at 4-3-3, but surprised second-seed Real San Jose 4-0 in the playoffs before falling to division and eventual league champion Sacramento. In qualifying, San Diego Boca finished 1-1-1 in its group, second to league-mate Bay Area and missed out on the wild card based on tiebreakers.
San Diego Flash: A familiar name, the club is new to the NPSL. The team is a rebirth of the former A-League (pro second division) team that played in United Soccer Leagues from 1998-2001. The new club is guided by former English international Warren Barton (Wimbledon, Newcastle United, Derby County, QPR), who is also an analyst for Fox Soccer Channel. The previous Flash side was 2-3 in the tournament after failing to qualify in its first season. In 1999 and 2000 the club posted victories against pro third division USL clubs before being ousted back-to-back times by the MLS Los Angeles Galaxy in the Third Round. In 2000, they were knocked out by the MLS Chicago Fire in the Second Round.
Santa Ana Winds: A new addition to the NPSL, the club was founded in 2009 and has played locally the past few years. This is the club’s first campaign to qualify for the US Open Cup.
Sonoma County Sol: The oldest club in the division, Sonoma County is looking to qualify for the US Open Cup for the third consecutive year and fifth time overall, having advanced via the USASA Region IV tournament previously. The club joined the league in 2004 and reached the US Open Cup for the first time in 2005. It has advanced to the Second Round of the tournament twice, downing the Ogden Outlaws (PDL) in penalties, 6-5, after a 1-1 draw in 2006 and topping Orange County Blue Star (PDL), 5-2, in 2009. They were knocked out by the USL First Division’s (pro second division) Charleston Battery, 1-0, and Portland Timbers, 3-0, in the Second Round contests, respectively. In their 2005 debut they were ousted in penalties, 6-5, after a 2-2 draw with Salinas Valley Samba in the First Round. Last year, extra amateur spots led to a special amateur play-in game that gave the defending NPSL champions the opportunity to qualify in one match, defeating a fellow California side PSA Los Gatos 3-0 to reach the tournament where they were blanked, 3-0, by the USL-1 Timbers again.