Photo: Frank Mattia
Six clubs representing five states meet at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tennessee this weekend for the National Premier Soccer League’s Southeast Division tournament for one of the league’s four Lamar Hunt US Open Cup berths. First Round games will be held Friday with the winners joining two others in the semifinals Saturday. The Open Cup berth will be determined Sunday.
Knoxville Force and Jacksonville United FC meet in the first match followed by Rocket City United versus FC Tulsa. The two winners advance to play the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves and host Chattanooga FC Saturday evening. New club Georgia Revolution are the only team in the division not slated to participate. In their place as the sixth team is FC Tulsa, a club that was a member of the league a year ago, but is only playing friendlies in 2011 in preparation of joining the USL Premier Development League in 2012.
Previous NPSL qualification opportunities were primarily held via the regional USASA tournaments. Three clubs participated in the Region III tournament a year ago, but were unable to earn one of the two berths on the line, finishing a combined 2-4-3 in group play.
Both First Round matches will be first-time meetings for 2011. Knoxville, currently 1-2-0, and Jacksonville, 0-4-0, are new to the division and will meet for the first time ever. A year ago Tulsa finished second in the division at 4-2-2 with a win and draw against Rocket City in consecutive matches. They posted a 2-1 win at home and played to a 1-1 draw on the road.
Undefeated a year ago at 6-0-2, Chattanooga enters the tournament still unbeaten with a 2-0-1 record thus far in 2011 league play, making them heavy favorites. They have yet to face either possible semifinal opponent. A year ago Chattanooga drew 1-1 at Rocket City before finishing the season off with a 4-0 victory over them. They swept Tulsa with a 2-1 road win and 5-0 blanking at home.
Winless a year ago as Atlanta FC (0-6-2), the new-look side under the Atlanta Silverbacks banner has made strides early in the season with only one loss in four games at 1-1-2. The club could prove dangerous for Chattanooga having registered the season opening 1-1 result and having handed them one of the two draws a year ago.
Links: NPSL SE 2011 Results – Tournament Format
Friday, May 27
Knoxville Force 0:1 Jacksonville United FC – 5:30 pm ET
– JUFC: Tyler Williams (Tommy KKrizanovic) 53rd
Rocket City United 7:1 FC Tulsa – 8:00 pm ET
– RCU: Hyde (Letsholo) 13
– RCU: Hyde 22
– TUL: Jake Cottage 31
– RCU: Hyde 33
– RCU: Nkurunungi 59
– RCU: Hyde 64
– RCU: Nunez pen. 80
– RCU: Omondi 88
Saturday, May 28
Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves 3:1 Jacksonville United FC – 5:30 pm ET
– JU: Tyler Williams 23
– ATL: Juan Carlos Nandi 28
– ATL: Kingsley Morgan 86
– ATL: Duque 90+
Chattanooga FC 2:0 Rocket City United – 8:00 pm ET
– CFC Penalty kick Heredia (saved)
– CFC: James Moore 65
– CFC: Chris Ochieng 74
Sunday, May 29 – FINAL – 7:00 pm ET
Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves 0:1 Chattanooga FC
– CFC: Chris Ochieng 116
About the Teams
Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves: Formerly known as Atlanta FC, the club has been in existence since 2008 as members of the NPSL and previously only qualified for the US Open Cup once. In their lone appearance in 2009, the club was eliminated in the First Round on the road, 2-0, by the Charleston Battery of the USL First Division (pro second division). The new name reflects new ownership and affiliation with the new NASL team of the same name (provisionally sanctioned pro second division). Atlanta won the division in its first season in 2008. Last year, Atlanta finished third in its Region III tournament group. (MORE: Atlanta FC – 2009 Meet the USASA)
Chattanooga FC: The club from Tennessee is entering its third year in the league and are the defending conference champion. This will be the team’s first attempt at qualifying for the US Open Cup. The team is coached by Brian Crossman, the 21-year coach of local Covenant College.
FC Tulsa: Members of the NPSL Southeast Division last year, the Oklahoma side finished second in the division a year ago after finishing second in the USASA Region III tournament while trying to qualify for the US Open Cup. The club’s director of coaching is Ali Adibi, who also manages the women’s side and formerly coached the Tulsa Roughnecks for eight years during the USL era in which they never qualified for the US Open Cup. The club is spending 2011 preparing to play in the USL PDL in 2012.
Jacksonville United FC: The Florida club is a new entry into the NPSL this season, but fans of the US Open Cup will recognize the team. Jacksonville United is a product of a merger of Open Cup regulars Lynch’s FC (Lynch’s Irish Pub / DS United) and the Jacksonville United youth academy. Lynch’s has qualified for the Open Cup three times (2003, 2007, 2009) in the last eight years. The team is coached by Pat Cannon, a recent inductee into the University of West Florida Hall of Fame. (MORE: Lynch’s FC – 2009 Meet the USASA)
Knoxville Force: Another new club in the NPSL, the Force are led by Derek Broadley, who previously served as head coach of Reading United AC of the Premier Development League from 2005-07. Reading did not qualify for the US Open Cup during his tenure.
Rocket City United: A member of the NPSL since 2008, the club finished first in the division in 2009, but has not qualified in its attempts to reach the US Open Cup the past two years. Located in Huntsville, Alabama, the club is under its third coach in four years with Gerry Cleary at the helm.