** Final Update: 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.
It appears the deciding moment of who will represent the National Premier Soccer League’s West Division in the 2011 US Open Cup will not be decided on the field Sunday, but rather off the field. It was learned today that the leading contender San Diego Flash have been penalized by the league for use of an illegal player, forfeiting two matches played as reported by SoccerNation.com.
If the penalties, which have not yet been applied publicly, are indeed forfeitures and not solely point deductions, it would overturn the club’s 3-1 victory against Hollywood United. That would clinch the US Open Cup berth for Hollywood. The Santa Ana Winds were previously the only team that could potentially force a tie with their two remaining matches. If the penalties are merely point deductions, Hollywood would still remain the likely winners of the berth as the side holds a goal differential that is 19 more than Santa Ana’s.
The team was also set to be featured on Fox Soccer Channel shows Fox Soccer Report and Fox Super Sunday Plus, which features analyst Warren Barton, who is also the head coach of the Flash. Though the team now appears to be out of Open Cup contention, the club stated on it’s Facebook page, “Fox Soccer Channel will still be in San Diego to cover your Flash because… We Play Soccer!” With the club in contention for the tournament, it would likely have marked the first time a qualification match would have been covered by a FSC-produced program.
Though the club is apparently appealing the NPSL decision, the quote seems to indicate the club’s match may not have tournament implications as initially reported with the news that FSC would be covering the match.
The infractions, allegedly the playing of English national Lee Underwood, occurred in games versus Hollywood Hitmen and Bay Area Ambassadors. Being a foreign player, it is likely he had not yet received international clearance from the English FA, which must be processed through the United States Soccer Federation.
According to a Bury Free Press news story in early April, Underwood left Bury Town, of the Ryman League, last summer for the United States even though he had signed a deal with the club that would still have him playing for the side.
Though Underwood is cited as saying there are no hard feelings between he and the club, the Free Press story at no time echoes that sentiment from the club, or that it has officially released Underwood from his contract, which could potentially be a reason for him not to have received the needed clearance from the English FA. It would seem reasonable for the club to not just give the player up freely considering he scored 19 goals in just five months while leading the team through a promotion campaign.
Bury Town announced the signing of the striker in November of 2009, to a deal through May of 2011, after targeting him for over a year. No details of the transfer were announced.
Hollywood and Bay Area, the harmed clubs in the infractions were both Flash road matches in April. The club also played twice at home in April.