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Super-20 Finals Preview
Tournament kicks off Thursday, August 3rd
The inaugural Super-20 League North American Finals is set to kickoff off this Thursday at 10 a.m. on Seacoast United’s state-of-the-art facilities in Epping New Hampshire. To earn the right to compete in this elite tournament, teams from across the United States and Canada battled their way through regional play throughout the summer. This four day event will play host to 28 intense matches culminating in the crowning of one women’s and one men’s North American Champion. The following preview is an in-depth look at the teams vying for the Super-20 League title.
 
Pacific North California Division
Representing the Pacific North California Division are the Santa Cruz Country Breakers. They edged out second place DVSC by one point to take the regional crown in one of the most competitive divisions in the Super-20 League. Fifth and first place in the Pacific North California division was separated by a meager four points.
 
This Breakers are the only hope for a Pacific North California Division side to win a North American Championship. But having topped three very talented squads including, USA 17 (21 points), De Anza SC (20 points), and San Francisco United (18 points) – Santa Cruz isn’t a side to look forward to seeing.
 
Santa Cruz’s first match of the tournament is set for noon on Thursday, August 3 against the lone representative of Canada – the Ottawa Fury.
 
“We’re a very good attacking team,” said Santa Cruz Head Coach Michael Runeare. “Consistency on defense is a minor concern but I feel the back four we’re taking to Seacoast are very solid. We have a good combination of the three rival soccer high schools in the area – Santa Cruz, Altos, and Watsonville, some of the best indivual attacking soccer available. We haven’t finalized our game plan for Seacoast yet but if we can all get on the same page we’ll be dangerous.”
 
Players to Watch
Anton Peterlin – Mid – Cal Poly
Julian Alveraez – Mid – Cal Poly
Armando Martinez – Forward
 
4-4-2
The Breakers are one of the more offensive minded teams in the tournament. The team excels in attacking despite their defensive formation due to their three gifted attackers in Peterlin, Alveraez, and Martinez. As perhaps the best example of 1v1 soccer in the tournament – Santa Cruz should draw crowds with their fast passed, precision dribbling.
     
Midwest Division
Mequon United and JYSA United Soccer Club will be representing the Midwest. Mequon was one of the earliest qualifiers, going 7-0-1 through group play. JYSA claimed the runner-up position with a 4-2-2 record. These two clubs met twice in group play. The first match, held at JYSA’s Lost Nations Sports Park in Willoughby, Ohio ended in a 2-2 draw but Mequon earned the division title on their home turf, downing JYSA 3-2 at Hallmark Sports Club this past Sunday.
 
Mequon drew an arduous Group C pairing with undefeated D.C. United (6-0-2) and Knights, who are anything but a breeze at 5-0-3. Filling out Group C are the determined hosts in Seacoast United. They finished a respectable 8-5-1 in the New England Division. The Midwest Champions first action in New Hampshire is a 2:00 showdown with Seacoast on Thursday.
 
“Our season was challenging,” said Mequon United Manager Fred Webber. “We have a strong foundation of players and have been successful despite the challenges. Against Seacoast we will look to continue our high-pressure defense and look to force mistakes to capitalize on.”
 
Players to Watch
Mohammad Sethi – Center Mid –University of Wisconsin
Phillip Webber – Center Back – Drake University
Ryan Moylan – Left Wing – Drake University
Ilya Ksenidi – Forward – UW
 
3-5-2
A natural left-footed winger drawing comparisons to Bobby Convey, except for his 6-1 height, Ryan Moylan will be tough to match up against throughout the North American Finals. The difference up front comes in the form of deadly Russian striker Ilya Ksenidi. Webber fortifies the zonal defense freeing up an extra man to win the midfield - already quite talented thanks to Sethi.
 
JYSA was placed in Group A with the undefeated New York Rough Riders (6-0-2), New England Division Champion MPS Boston (9-2-3), and Southeast runner-up West Kendall (6-1). Their first game is against MPS Boston at 10 a.m. Thursday.
 
“We have a very good mix of players,” said JYSA Head Coach John Franson. “They have come together well. We like to play a lot of procession. We have great forwards in Matt Wheeler and Nick Dressman; these guys don’t need many chances to come away with a goal.”
 
“Facing MPS Boston will be a challenge,” added Franson. “We don’t know much about any of the teams outside of Mequon United. I usually don’t look into the opposing team too much anyway. We’re going to come out and play our game. We can adjust accordingly after the first match.”
 
Players to Watch
Corey Wisenhunt – GK
Miles Harrison – Center Mid – Villanova University
Matt Wheeler –??? – Xavier University
Nick Dressman – Forward – Memphis
 
4-4-2
Wisenhunt may be the best goalkeeper in the tournament, returning from a Super Y-League Select Tournament in Germany, he’ll be as prepared as anyone. Harrison controls the deliberate pace of JYSA while Dressman is the side’s deadliest scoring threat. Wheeler can excel anywhere on the field. His position changes will likely be the adjustments coach Franson was talking about.
 
Southeast Division     
The Southwest was won by H.C. United who went 7-1 in group play and earned 21 total points. West Kendall clinched access to New Hampshire by defeating Miami Strike Force 2-0 on Sunday, July 16 at Kendall Soccer Park. They ended regional play with 16 total points. 
 
Very little lies between the sides as they traded wins during regional play. A season opening game went to home standing H.C. United 1-0, while their mid-season rematch stood 2-1 West Kendall at the end of 90 minutes. H.C. United’s offense may be the advantage they need to carry them past the rest of the top Super-20 competition on the continent as they outscored their Southeast opponents 34-7.
 
H.C. United must keep their potent offense firing as they open the 2006 North American Finals with well respected Red Bull New York (5-1-1). Kickoff is set for noon on Thursday.
 
“It’s hard to tip the hat to a few indivual players with this team,” said H.C. United Manager Eric Simms. “We’re really blessed with a great team here. They’re well balanced and really strong offensively. I’m proud of the soccer originating from the immediate Tampa area – we don’t have to look far to find a full side capable of competing on a national level.”
 
Players to Watch
Pascal Millien – Attacking Mid
Bobby Durham – Left Back – University of Tampa
Ognjen Perucia – Striker – University of South Florida  
 
4-4-2
Speed – this team can move. The Millien/Perucia connection keeps this team in any match. Durham is a rare offensive weapon at this level. His balance on the left flank is a forte to an already tough defense. His timely offensive runs into the attack will give opposing defenders nightmares.
West Kendall has the honor of opening tournament facing the Rough Riders at 10 a.m. Thursday.
 
Mid Atlantic Division
The New York Rough Riders were first to earn the right to compete in the inaugural finals by winning group A over the impressive Brooklyn Knights by a slim two points. The two point difference can be traced to an early season, 0-0 draw between FC Westchester and the Knights. The Rough Riders took every advantage of the inspiring draw and downed Westchester 3-0 later in the season, earning the vital two points.
 
“We started the season with a 4-4-2 but my midfield has turned into the strength of our team,” said New York Rough Rider Head Coach Dave Willins. “Lately, we’ve come out in a 3-5-2 but against West Kendall, who I think is a team to watch for, I want to play a little more cautiously.”
 
Players to Watch
Mike Palecio – Attacking Mid
Peter Sterbenz – Defensive Mid
Christian Camacho – Defensive Mid
 
3-5-2
The heart of this team lies in the midfield – a triangle combination that prospers on Palecio’s creativity. Sterbenz and Camancho’s tireless work ethic wins games. The zonal three in the back tend to subdue opposing offenses rather than shut them down – allowing time for the midfield to recover and dominate both halves of the pitch. The strikers aren’t something to overlook as they put up the third most goals in the Mid Atlantic so far this season.
 
Brooklyn finished the season at 5-0-3 and remains undefeated – the side lingered as a validated first alternate should a regional representative not be able to attend the finals. Their wish was granted and they were awarded a Mid Atlantic Wildcard position.  A slight realignment of the bracket pairings was made to insure none of the teams who saw each other in regional play competed in group play of the North American Finals. Brooklyn opens tournament play at 2 p.m. Thursday against D.C. United – a battle of two undefeated sides.
 
“I know D.C. United is a good team,” said Brooklyn Head Coach Joe Roberto. “So are we. I want our boys to be very patient in the opening match. I feel we can defend well against their offense and look to counter attack.”
 
Players to Watch
Carmine Ruberto – Defensive Mid
Mohammad Mashriqi – Mid – Long Island University
Jose Batista – Attacking Mid – CW Coast College

4-4-2
This is one of the most exceptional defensive sides in the tournament. Brooklyn allowed only six goals through eight games including five shutouts. Three of the six goals went to the group champion New York Rough Riders in a game they ended up tying 3-3. Two sound defensive midfielders roam the center of the pitch – Ruberto and Mashriqi. Separately the two could shut down an opposing offense, but together they’re just imposing. Batista provides the flashy offensive spark from his attacking midfield role.  
 
Red Bull New York edged Parsippany SC 16 points to 12 in group play to take Group B. Parsippany seemed to have the Red Bulls number, beating them 1-0 in their Super-20 opener on May 31st but Red Bull won out the rest of their schedule, save a 0-0 draw with City Islanders Academy on June 8.
 
“We were a bit disorganized our first game this season,” said Red Bull New York head Coach David Price. “We had a lack of pace and were unorganized but, I have to credit the guys on really turning things around. Our team defense has excelled. We allowed only four goals all season. Something unique to this team is the level of defensive energy I get out of my forwards. They play with a lot of energy and are dangerous even without the ball.”
 
Players to Watch
John Pardini – Center Back – Fordham University
Hugo Lourenco – Right Mid
John Borrajo – Right Back
Mike Grella – Center Forward – Duke University
 
4-4-2 
Grella, who has seen time with the U.S. U20 National Team and Duke University, has game changing talent and will be tough to contain. They possess incredible strength on the right flank with Borrajo and Lourenco doubling as serious offensive threats. Pardini, an Atlantic 10 All-Rookie last season keeps the back four organized and at 6’4 is nearly impossible to beat over the top.
 
Red Bull’s senior I-95 rivals, D.C. United beat the Delaware based Hockessin United Futbol Academy 20 points to 17 taking the Group C bid to the finals. The deciding factor in that battle came from the Reading Rage, who unknowingly ended Hockessin’s hopes of making the final with a hard-fought 2-1 victory on Sunday, June 25. United played the Rage to a 3-1 win.
 
D.C. United opens tournament play against the undefeated Brooklyn Knights at 2 p.m. Thursday.
“A great thing about this tournament is that nobody really knows what to expect,” said D.C. United Coach Gene Mishalow. “All you can do is play your game and make adjustments accordingly. The guys are all going to need about ten minutes to calm down before we can start to play our game but an advantage we have is our deep bench.  I feel comfortable rotating a new starting lineup every other day without lowering our on-field ability. Other teams may not have that option.”
 
Players to Watch 
Fabian Simbana – Mid
Brian Brady – Center Mid – Princeton
Adam Hahn – GK – Harvard
 
3-5-2
Simbana may be flat out the best talent in the tournament. His long range shooting will test every keeper. He will look to work off of Brady’s defensive ability in the middle while Hahn, the projected starter for Harvard this fall, solidifies United’s ability in net.
 
“We have three solid defenders in the back,” added Mishalow. “This allows us to get more of our talented midfielders involved. I like to play with the withdrawn striker and not to waste four in the back when everyone only plays two up top is just a waste.”
 
New England Division
It may have taken an extra week but the New England Division was finally handed over to MPS Boston 19’s after a final weekend battle with the second place Ottawa Fury. Head to head the Fury took the two game decision with a 1-1 draw and a 2-1 win. Despite losing the series, MPS Boston played better throughout group play and earned a one point victory 30-29.
 
“At the heart of my side are two players who have improved so much since their U16 days,” said MPS Boston Head Coach Joe Bradley. “The success of this team is a testament to how hard Mark Thomas and Fran Taylor have worked to improve. Around them, we are a possession type football team. We try to play an attractive brand of soccer.”
 
Players to Watch
Dave Donahue – Center Mid – Notre Dame
Mark Thomas – Right Center Mid – St. Anselms
Fran Taylor – Center Forward – Occidental College
 
4-4-2/3-5-2
Depending on what form they come out in, MPS Boston could play a very deliberate procession 4-4-2 where they look for Taylor up front to make the difference. The 4-4-2 style would focus on defense and counter attacking. The alternative is a high paced 3-5-2 where their impressive midfield, captioned by Donahue, controls the game creating numerous scoring opportunities. In either system Thomas controls the defensive midfield while Donahue looks to spring the dangerous Taylor. 
 
Ottawa is not only the best hope for Canada in this tournament but for years to come on a national level.
 
“We’re very proud of the fact five of our guys earned college scholarships to the states,” said Ottawa Head Coach Steven O’Kane. “That’s a big step for one team to make. Our team strength is defense. We’re fit and we work very hard to win the ball.”
 
Players to Watch
Kenny Caceros – Center Mid – University of Maine
Matthew Rigby – Center Mid – Ottawa University
Julian Edwards – Center Back – Drake University
 
4-4-2
Caceros is elite level. Returning from captioning a very successful Super Y-League Select ’88 team through a German tournament on July 25 – he is ready to bring that kind of leadership to his Fury in the Super-20 finals. Edwards governs a team defense that allowed a regional low – 13 goals through 14 games. Rigby is a workhorse in the midfield. His tireless efforts in the center will disrupt possession midfields and create numerous opportunities for Ottawa.   
 
Seacoast United earned an outright bid for hosting the tournament. At the end of group play Seacoast finished in the middle of the pack earning a total of 25 points. The team seemed to improve throughout the regular season, culminating in a 3-1 upset of third place MPS Boston 18’s. The upset ended the organization’s chances of sweeping the New England Division.
 
“We are most effective when we can play simple and knock the ball around on the ground,” said Seacoast Head Coach Tony Karibian. “We’re really growing as a club and this whole season has been great for soccer in New Hampshire. Our U17’s have been playing great soccer so we hope to earn an outright bid to the finals next season but I wouldn’t put advancing in group play past this side – we have some dangerous players.”
 
Players to Watch
Matt Hill – Center Back
James Phillips – Striker
Jesse Schram – Mid
Marcelo Guindon – Attacking Mid
 
4-4-2
An up and coming talent in defense, Hill is less of an organizer and more of a pure talent who can read opposing offenses and cut out passes. On the other end, Phillips is a crafty striker who’s off the ball movement will find holes in defenses. Look for Guindon to be among the leaders in assists during tournament play. Schram is another effective passer but is more concerned with winning the midfield battle.
 
Women’s Super-20 North American Finals
 
New England Division
MPS Boston 19’s clinched the top spot in the women’s tournament outright over the Ottawa Fury and their mirror club, MPS Boston 18’s by amassing 31 points from ten wins and one draw.  The top two teams in the division – MPS 18’s and 19’s met twice in the month of June. The 18’s took a 4-2 decision from the regional champs on June 14 while the senior club reinforced their hold on the division with a 5-2 win on June 28.
 
“Our greatest strength is our back four,” said MPS 19 Head Coach James Hamblin. “They have been playing together the last few years and they communicate extremely well.”
 
Players to Watch  
Becky Westbury – Mid – Franklin Peirce
Brianna Wilson-Byrne – Forward – Boston College
Maria Picard – Mid – UConn.
 
4-3-3
The most effective offensive team in the women’s tournament, MPS Boston 19’s put up an impressive 42 goals in 12 games. Wilson-Byrne is the most dangerous attacker in MPS’s three striker system. Picard and Westbury dominate the midfield dispite the three mid system, adding to the attack of the Mid Atlantic Champion. The back four can defend on their own, allowing recovery time for the six forward players.  Any outlet pass is feasible with receptors everywhere.
 
The Seacoast women hold the added advantage of playing at home and despite their 3-6-2 record could pose quite an obstacle to the rest of the group. Their claim to fame is holding off great teams. They earned a 3-3 draw with the division champs on May 25 as well as a 1-1 tie with the third place Fury that same month.
 
“My entire squad is looking forward to this tournament,” said Seacoast Head Coach David Burgess. “We have a lot of young players who are very excited to show what they’re worth in their final preparation before their freshman year of college. We don’t know much about the other teams in the tournament outside of Boston. We have the capability to push forward if need be, but as I imagine all teams are doing, we will come out cautious and sit back defensibly until we get a feel for the type of game we have on hand.”
 
Players to Watch
Breanna Gray – Striker – University of Connecticut
Kimberley Stephenson – Stopper – University of Maine
Hailey Blackburn – Center Mid – Stopper
 
4-4-2
Seacoast United is strong down the middle. They have spread their talent out the length of the pitch. A diamond back four matches up well against the opposing side’s three forwards. Blackburn will be tough to beat with a through ball and my shut off those passing lanes completely. Stephenson will direct the attack from the middle, looking to spring Gray throughout. 
 
Mid Atlantic Division
The classic showdown in the women’s Super-20 season came on Sunday, July 9 when Group A leader Parsippany SC upset the seemingly impervious Washington Freedom 3-2 at Reynolds Soccer Complex in Parsippany, New Jersey.
 
Parsippany’s three goals equaled one half of the six Washington gave up all season. The two sides are set to meet on Saturday, August 5 at Seacoast. The match-up should prove to be the marquee event of the inaugural Super-20 women’s season.
 
If the two sides can bypass MPS Boston and formidable host side Seacoast through group play – this showdown could happen twice in two days.
 
“When we met the first time it was by far the best played game of the season,” said Parsippany SC Head Coach Kobie Johnson. “The quality of play and the level of talent really stuck out in my mind as the highpoint of our season.  Washington has a great team and we are looking forward to seeing them again.”
 
Players to Watch
Lauren Ebert – Center Back – UConn
Jessica Bitsack – Forward – Colgate University
 
“It’s hard to pick out a few players that carry this team,” added Johnson. “It’s very much a team effort across the board. Every player out there has played excellent in each of the past three seasons for us.”
 
3-4-3
Another offensive minded team. The side’s ultimate strength is more their lack of weakness than anything. Johnson mentioned most of his team as standout performers but narrowed it to the defensive stalwart – Ebert and key goal scorer Bitsack when pressed. Their formation includes three capable strikers. Each will require attention from opposing defenses. A zonal three in the back is common in the women’s game, at least among the tournament participants, and should make for a very attractive style of play throughout.
 
Carrying the name of the top women’s team in the country, the Washington Freedom have the ability to attract the top talent on the planet and are the team to beat in the women’s tournament.
 
“This team can play at a high level from top to bottom,” said Washington Freedom Manager David Tenny. “There are not too many holes in our lineup and we have several players coming off the bench who can contribute. We’re going into this tournament with a high level of confidence – hoping for it all to play out.”
 
Players to Watch
Katie Watson – Center Forward – Old Dominion University
Victoria Damren – Left Wing – Florida State University
Madison Keller – Center Back – East Carolina University
 
4-3-3
Damren is a creative left wing who will dominate play on her flank. A left-footed winger in a three forward system, her crosses will be deadly if she can pick out Watson in the middle. Keller oversees a defense that has been in lockdown for most of the summer. The Freedom allowed only six goals in regional play, including six shutouts.
 
“We’re stable enough to bring outside backs forward into the attack,” added Tenny. “The personnel we have fit into this system a little better than a 4-4-2. Watson is more of a playmaker than a target player.” 
 
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