UPSETS ABOUND IN USISL'S "SECOND SEASON"
Austin, Lexington, Chico, Begin Cinderella Run to "Sizzlin' Nine Championships"
El Paso, SF All Blacks, Tulsa Take Early Exit From Divisional Playoffs
'Hoppers, VG Eagles Pull Mild Upsets
-(Dallas)- Playoff fever hit the USISL this past weekend and, as in most
playoffs, brought with it a mix of upsets and expecteds as some favorites
advanced and others started early vacations. Most glaring were the early exits
of the top seeded Tulsa Roughnecks and SF United All Blacks in the South
Central and Pacific, while the El Paso Patriots, Louisville Thoroughbreds and
New Orleans Riverboat Gamblers are surprisingly not involved in the Sizzlin'
Second Season. The weekend also saw long shots such as the Chico Rooks (4th
seed), Lexington Bluegrass Bandits (4th seed) start a Cinderella run that could
lead to the Finals in Greensboro. The Austin Lone Stars had to play two
playoff games, but still survived to see the Divisional Final. A look at all
of the USISL Divisional Playoff action:
MIDWEST DIVISION- Thunder vs Rampage III
3 Minnesota Thunder 2 St. Louis Knights
The Minnesota Thunder advanced to the Midwest Divisional Final with a 3-2
victory over the St. Louis Knights on Saturday night in front of 2,119 in
Minnesota. Gerard Lagos led the Thunder with two goals, while his brother
Manuel Lagos had two assists. Tom Stone and Jeff Davis got goals for the
Knights to even the score at 2-2 late in the game, but it was a left-footed
blast from Minnesota midfielder Pierre Morrice that made the difference and
knocked the Knights out for the summer.
1 Milwaukee Rampage 0 Columbus Xoggz
It took regulation and overtime before Steve Provan got the winning goal for
Milwaukee on an assist from Michael Collins, as the Rampage defeated the
Columbus Xoggz 1-0 in front of 1,384 in Milwaukee on Saturday night. It was a
close, physical game that saw a number of yellow cards and even a red card to
Milwaukee's Tony Sanneh. The loss of Sanneh will be crucial for Milwaukee as
they will now be without his services in the first game of the Divisional
Finals against the Thunder.
PREVIEW-The Midwest Divisional Final will see the re-rematch of two of the
top teams in the USISL in 1994. The Thunder have yet to lose a game in the
1994 season, while the only two losses for the Rampage have come to the
Thunder. Not only will a trip to the Sizzlin' Nine Finals be on the line, but
the Rampage will be thinking of revenge as they try for the third time this
season to erase the only two blemishes on their otherwise stellar first season.
Look for the Lagos brothers to make an impace, while Milwaukee will be looking
to Joey Kirk and Brian McBride to pick up the slack from the loss of Sanneh.
MIDSOUTH DIVISION-Top Seeds Take Early Exit
1 Louisville Thoroughbreds 4 Lexington Bluegrass Bandits
Dexter Sandy got two goals, while Shane Gibson and Brian Jeffs added one each
as the Bandits shocked a listless Thoroughbreds 4-1 in Louisville on Saturday
night. John Van Buskirk got the lone Louisville goal on a penalty kick, as the
Thoroughbreds were dominated by Lexington from the outset.
0 New Orleans Riverboat Gamblers 1 Birmingham Grasshoppers
The rematch of the 1993 Southern Challenge Cup Final was almost a reply as the
Gamblers and Grasshoppers played an even game that went down to the wire. The
difference in 1994 was that this time Birmingham came out on top 1-0, thanks to
a goal from Phil Harden from a Bobby Bell assist. The goal, along with some
exceptional play from 'Hopper GK Daryl Shore, made the difference and stamped
Birmingham's ticket to the Divisional Final this weekend.
PREVIEW-The Midsouth Final will see the Grasshoppers put their 1993 playoff
experience on the line against the Bandits, who are seeing a Cinderella story
unfold before their eyes. Birmingham has a 2-0 regular season advantage over
Lexington, but both games were close 1-0 affairs. Look for a close game with
the outcome up in the air until the final whistle.
SOUTH CENTRAL DIVISION-Roughnecks Leave Party Early; Toros Top Pumas
1 Tulsa Roughnecks 4 Austin Lone Stars
The story of the weekend has to be the Austin Lone Stars. At the beginning of
the week there was a doubt that Austin was even in the South Central Playoffs,
but after a preliminary win over the Texas Lightning and a shocking drumming of
the top ranked Tulsa Roughnecks, the Lone Stars have proven that they are for
real. Prior to the Tulsa game, Austin faced off against the Texas Lightning in
a preliminary game on Friday night that was the game of the weekend. The
Lightning were up 2-0 with twelve minutes remaining, thanks to goals from Cory
Hooper and Ron Baskin. At a point where they could have folded, the Lone Stars
battled back with two goals from Chris Veselka and Steve Bailey, to tie the
score and send it into overtime. After a scoreless first OT, Lance Reed ended
the suspense with the winning goal. After that much excitement, you would
think the Lone Stars would come out flat against the Tulsa Roughnecks on
Saturday night. Not so, as Shahram Salami put Austin on the board in the first
half, and a three goal second half explosion from Austin's Gabe Jones, Chris
Veselka and JoJo Flemister led the Lone Stars over the Roughnecks 4-1 in front
of 1,387 in Tulsa. Virgil Stevens got the lone Tulsa goal in the loss.
3 San Antonio Pumas 4 D/FW Toros
It was an eventful game on Saturday night that saw the Toros capitalize on San
Antonio mistakes to take a 4-1 halftime lead. San Antonio got a goal from
Marco Feruzzi with the assist coming from Tom McAdams. The Pumas battled back
in the second half with goals from J.D. Stark and Steve Schauer, but the
comeback came up short, and the Toros will now play Austin to see who goes to
PREVIEW-At the beginning of the season, very few people would have predicted
this South Central Final, but both teams have proven they are for real and
deserving of a Sizzlin' Nine shot. The Lone Stars won both regular season
meetings, but come playoff time anything can happen, so stay tuned.
[My two cents: The scores in the other Austin - D/FW games were 6-5 (OT) and
3-1. Both teams prefer scoring goals to defending, so expect a goalfest. But
then as the above comment states: anything can happen in the playoffs.]
PACIFIC DIVISION-All Blacks Ousted; Breakers Crash on Hydra
0 SF United All Blacks 1 Chico Rooks
After a great finish to their season, in which the SF United All Blacks jumped
from third to first, you would have expected the Pacific semi-final to be a
formality. The Chico Rooks thought differently, as they held the All Blacks
scoreless the entire game and got a goal from Scott Wulferdingen to assure
their next step to the Pacific Division Final. Splendid play from both
goalkeepers carried the game, but in the end the Rooks came out on top.
3 North Bay Breakers 2 CCV Hydra
The North Bay Breakers got goals from Craig Ruggels, Roman Ritz and Chris
Ziemer to beat the CCV Hydra 3-2 on Saturday night. It was an evenly played
game that saw the Breakers get the edge from the outset, and even though the
Hydra got goals from Luis Berbari and Jose Romas, they couldn't pull even.
PREVIEW-The Pacific Division Final pits the 2nd seed agains the 4th seed as
Chico looks to continue their surprising run through the playoffs. These two
teams split their regular season results, so the Divisional Final promises to
be a contest to the wire to see who Sizzles and who fizzles.
NORTHEAST DIVISION-'Riders Roll; Imperials end Crusade
(Midweek: 2 Jersey Dragons 0 Delaware Wizards)
2 Long Island Rough Riders 1 Jersey Dragons
The Long Island Rough Riders advanced to the Northeast Division Final by way of
a 2-1 win over the Jersey Dragons in front of 3,422 'Riders Rowdies on Saturday
night in a corner kick decider. Manuel Archer put Jersey on top with a first
half goal, but Long Island answered late in the game with a goal from Danny
Mueller to tie the score. After two scoreless overtime periods, the 'Riders
got the win due to a 4-2 corner kick advantage.
1 North Jersey Imperials 0 Cape Cod Crusaders
North Jersey GK Gary Gonzalez and defender Marek Sadowski were the heroes of
the hour as they led the Imperials over the Crusaders 1-0 in front of 1,000 in
North Jersey on Sunday. Sadowski got the only goal of the game and Gonzalez
was outstanding in goal as the Imperials shut down Cape Cod and goal-scoring
forward Ron Murphy to preserve the win and the trip to the Divisional Finals.
PREVIEW-The Northeast Division Final will be a matchup of the top seeded
teams in the division. They split their regular season games, so it is a
toss-up to pick a winner. With the game being played in Long Island though,
you are guaranteed a big crowd and a great atmosphere for a Divisional Final.
ATLANTIC DIVISION-Battery survives Hurricane(s); Eagles Ground Flyers
4 Charleston Battery 1 Hampton Roads Hurricanes
The Charleston Battery got two goals and an assist from Andrew Coggins go blow
past the Hampton Roads Hurricanes in a driving rain storm in Charleston on
Saturday night. The Battery dominated the game from the outset, and, aside
from Coggins, got goals from Paul Young and Rich Hughes to move into the
Divisional Finals. The Hurricanes only goal came from Byron Mitchell midway
into the second half.
2 Charlotte Eagles 0 Raleigh Flyers
In the battle of the Sizzlin' Nine hosts, the Charlotte Eagles moved closer to
playing the Championships at home with a 2-0 win over the Raleigh Flyers on
Saturday night in front of 1,000 in Charlotte. Kieth Dakin and Philbert Jones
got Eagles' goals as Charlotte won its first playoff game in the history of the
PREVIEW-The Atlantic Division Final promises to be an exciting game between
two teams who played evenly against each other during the regular season. A
win for the Eagles would not only mean a trip to the Sizzlin' Nine Finals, but,
as a venue host, they would play the preliminary games at home. This would be
a huge advantage, but they will have to beat a Sizzlin' Battery team for that
SOUTHEAST DIVISION-Cocoa Tames Lions; Magic Beat Stars
7 Cocoa Expos 1 Orlando Lions
The Cocoa Expos got two goals from Richard Sharpe and Robin Chan, while Keiran
Breslin, Ian Gill and Eric Leibin added one apiece to trample the Orlando Lions
7-1 on Saturday night in Cocoa. The Lions got one goal from Del Smith as Cocoa
Dominated from the outset.
1 Atlanta Magic 0 Florida Stars
A tight game that saw Florida Stars GK Jose CArlos Fernandez play brilliantly,
making saves that kept the Stars within striking distance. The Magic carried
most of the play and were rewarded midway through the second half when Magic
forward Caleb Suri scored from a free kick.
PREVIEW- The Southeast Divisional Final will see the top two teams square off
for the right to go to the Sizzlin' Nine. Cocoa won both regular season
meetings, but the Magic have a very experienced team and are no stranger to the
playoffs and USISL championships, which could be the great equalizer next
SOUTHWEST DIVISION-Cobras Strike; Golden Eagles Stun Patriots
7 Los Angeles Cobras 3 Montclair Standard Falcons
The Los Angeles Cobras flexed their playoff muscles with a dominating 7-3 win
over the Standard Falcons in LA on Sunday. Arut Karapetyan led the Cobras with
three goals, while Sean Henderson, Carlos Zavala, Juan Munoz and Sergio Suarez
added one each in a game LA dominated from start to finish. Garrett Torres,
Eddie Soto and Jesus Artlaga scored for the Falcons in the loss.
2 El Paso Patriots 5 Valley Golden Eagles
The Valley Golden Eagles travelled to El Paso on Saturday night and, in front
of 4,278 Patriot fans, spoiled the playoff party with a 5-2 win over El Paso.
Raul Haro and Carlos Acosta had two goals each and Julio Umana added another as
the Golden Eagles out performed a Patriot team that suffered form a bit of the
playoff jitters. Arturo Bautista and Steve Guardado got goals for El Paso in
PREVEIW-The Cobras will have a definite advantage against the Golden Eagles
in the Southwest Division Finals. The Cobras won both meetings during the
season and have been on a roll all year. Valley will need to play an almost
perfect game to earn a spot in the Sizzlin' Nine.
[my two cents: I wonder a little about the Cobras line-up. I thought I saw
Karapetyan listed as one of the goalscorers for the LA Salsa, against Houston
in the game that never was. What are the rules about a player jumping around
between teams, I wonder. I know that the roster for the USISL has to be frozen
as of July 8. Can a player still play for another team at the same time? I
personally suspect the LA organization is stacking their team in an effort to
win a championship that they've been hungering for ever since they were
eligible for it.]
Divisional Finals schedule coming up shortly...
Oh, and a milder disclaimer. They couldn't have made any results errors, but
some of the player's names may be misspelled.