Another year, another unbalanced, controversial change in the way the NPSL sets up its divisions. This season, City will compete for one of four playoff spots in the Midwest’s 13-team single table. Unfortunately, with the way the schedule has been set up, no single team will play all of the other twelve. This helps to keep travel costs down, but it also means that someone (or multiple someones) is going to feel cheated come July when they narrowly miss the playoffs.
(For a more in-depth schedule analysis, click here.)
I’ve used last season’s results and the few scraps of information I’ve been able to gather to come up with my predictions, and this still feels like a stab in the dark:
2015 Midwest Region – Predicted Order of Finish
I tried SO SO hard not to be a homer, but outside of Lansing and possibly Minnesota United Reserves, where are the other strong teams? There are a good five or six of them who will fight for the last two playoff spots, but are any of them capable of winning the region outright? One of the Indiana clubs might turn out to be a contender, and it would be so Erie for the Commodores to reprise their role as perennial thorns-in-our-side, but there aren’t many teams here that scare me.
City may struggle early on while figuring out their rotation, but every team has to deal with the same problem, and once they get rolling I think they’ll be the team to beat.
U.S. Open Cup
Last year’s USOC matchup with RWB Adria was announced less than two weeks before the match took place, meaning City had very little time to train and prepare. They still played well enough to win before going down on penalties, but there was a definite sense of “what if…” that floated around in the aftermath.
This year, almost two months notice was given of their first round pairing with the Michigan Bucks and they have three friendlies under their belt heading into the match. The Bucks, defending PDL Champions, lost a number of key players from last year’s squad, including standout goalkeeper Adam Grinwis. In a recent interview with The Outer Drive, owner Dan Duggan commented that 10-15 potential key players will not be available to the club until the middle or end of May. Whether that’s a bit of gamesmanship or he’s telling the truth, it’s evident that his team is not quite at full strength.
After adding everything together, I’m picking City to beat the Bucks. If the match took place in June or July, I’d have a tough time making the same call, but the timing looks right for an upset. I won’t be so bold as to predict a win over Portland’s Reserves in Round #2, but just getting to test yourselves against a professional side would be a nice bonus.
Playoffs & Beyond
This is where it gets murky. I think City will make the regional playoffs easily, but we’ve all seen that anything can happen in one-game elimination situations. If the attack is consistent and the back line comes together, this team has the potential to win the NPSL title, but I’m not prepared to go that far. I’ll do a little self-plagiarizing and stick with the prediction I made last year: Midwest Regional Champs, National Semifinalists.
5 Wild Guesses
1. A newcomer will win the Black Arrow Award (Team MVP). Javi Bautista and Tommy Catalano are the most obvious candidates, but one of the Iowa boys (Charlie MacInnes or Ross Hendry) might sneak up and take it.
2. City will score at least 6 goals in a game. The current club record for goals in a game is 5 (5/12/13 at Sparta, 6/15/14 at Cleveland). With the attackers on this roster, that mark will be broken at least once in 2015.
3. City will take at least 15 points from its final 6 matches (the second half of the season). I think this team will really hit its stride after the mid-way point of the season and be firing on all cylinders come playoff time.
4. Average home attendance will be over 3000 and all league matches will sell out. I way underestimated attendance last year by predicting an average of 1750 (actual average = 2857). I’m taking the over this time around.
5. This will be the last season at Cass. It will be bittersweet, and we may not be ready, but it comes down to a simple matter of economics. If you aren’t able to supply your good or service to all the people who want it, you are missing out on bundles of potential revenue.
Recap: Predicted Finishes
NPSL Midwest Region: 1st
USOC: 2nd Round
NPSL Playoffs: National Semifinals
This is a few months old, but it’s not possible to watch it without getting amped up.