Several teams in the Northeast Region’s Keystone Flight (we really need to standardize the naming…) kick off this weekend, so before the action starts here is your season preview.
BUXMONT TORCH: The Torch finished at the bottom of the table last year with 6 points and a 1-3-8 record. Interestingly, out of 7 club they finished 4th in terms of goals scored, 5th in goals against, and 4th in overall goal differential. This seems to suggest that they really should have finished mid-table, but for whatever reason just couldn’t close games. In the off-season Buxmont have added several quality players from perennial NCAA DIII powerhouse Messiah College and NCAA DI Liberty University, and will hope to put the past two seasons poor finishes behind them.
CLARKSTOWN SC EAGLES: Formerly branded the Jersey City Eagles, Clarkstown has relocated and re-branded for the 2013 season. Clarkstown finished in the top three of the competitive Keystone Flight and will hope to build on that success to challenge FC LVU Sonic for the title. Clarkstown has an advantage over many clubs in that they do not primarily recruit collegiate athletes. In fact, the core team has been playing together in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League under the tutelage of former Irish Youth National player Kevin Grogan. The combination of team cohesion and a high caliber coach may just be the winning combination for the Eagles this year.
FC LEHIGH VALLEY UNITED SONIC: Besides having one of the longest club names in NPSL, LVU Sonic are the defending national champions and obvious favorites to repeat as Keystone Flight champions. Last season LVU Sonic finished with a 10-1-1 record and a a league best of only 3 goals allowed. If Sonic can lock down the defense as well as they did last year, another Flight title is all but guaranteed.
FC READING REVOLUTION: Back from a year hiatus, the Flight the Revs re-joined looks a lot different than the one it left. 2011 Keystone champions Erie Admirals and 2011 5th place FC Buffalo both left to join the new Great Lakes Flight while the New Jersey Blaze and AC Crusaders have both pulled their teams for the foreseeable future. Reading will look to return on form, but the improved quality of competition may prove a bit of a surprise.
GREATER BINGHAMTON FC: Greater Binghamton played last season in the Great Lakes Flight and will be happy to cut away travel in half for the upcoming season. Greater Binghamton struggled last season, but made a late season run to beat out fellow upstate club FC Buffalo for the last playoff spot. In the off-season Binghamton added grandstands, a press box, and concessions to their home stadium at the Greater Binghamton Sports Complex in a move which will dramatically improve the fan experience. GBFC also shuffled around front office and coaching responsibilities, while bolstering their roster. If key players can avoid injuries this season, look for GBFC to have a strong season behind Captain Chris Riley and goalkeeper Jason Stenta. Veteran Johnny Sinclair has also joined the team this season, and his playing/coaching experience make him a valuable asset both on and off the field.
HERSHEY FC: Hershey FC will be joining the league for their first season. They recently played a friendly match against NPSL aspirants Electric City FC, which they won 2-0. A club in Hershey is a great addition to the Keystone region, and will hopefully promote some great local rivalries.
JUNIOR LONE STAR FC: Junior Lone Star finished last season with a 4-0-8 record, and not fairing well against the Flight’s best. Lone Star have taken aggressive action to turn the ship around for this season with an intense pre-season schedule that has seen them travel to Scranton, Virginia, and North Carolina. So far, the regimen seems to be working as Lone Star’s only pre-season loss came against Chestnut Hill College. They will open on May 11th against Greater Binghamton FC in what will be a telling match for both clubs.
MORRIS COUNTY COLONIALS: The Colonials posted a solid 7-3-1 record last season and were the only club to defeat LVU Sonic. The Morris County roster is heavy with NCAA D1 athletes representing Seton Hall, Rutgers, Iona, and Farleigh Dickonson. All early indications are that Morris County has returned a good portion of their line-up and hope to challenge LVU Sonic for the title.
POCONO SNOW SOCCER CLUB: The Snow have consistently finished near the bottom of the table since their founding in 2009. Pocono will hope to turn things around this season, and the addition of Greater Binghamton to the Flight will give them a competitive division rival. Last season the two clubs played a home and away friendly series which saw Pocono lose the first leg and draw the second. The good news for the Snow is that they can only improve.