The NPSL Central Conference of the Midwest Region is set begin on Saturday May 21. The Midwest region was split into three divisions for the 2016 season. The NPSL has added two new teams to the Midwest Central Conference, as well as another one team returning after taking a year long hiatus. The 4th team has preserved for more than a decade. The competition could be the fiercest in the NPSL as all teams will look to build an identity.
After four successful years of playing in the Major Arena Soccer League, the Chicago Mustangs have expanded into outdoor soccer. Several players from the indoor team have made into to the outdoor roster including: GK Jesus Flores, Forward Ricardo Carvalho and defenders Carlos Avina Ruiz, Alexis Camarena, Trajche Lostovski, and Joshio Sandoval. Notable additions to the team include Calumet College midfielder Luca Wiechers from Winsen luhe Germany, and forwards Basit Kosoko and Chidozie Nwagbara from Oakton College.
The Mustangs start their divisional competition later than the other midwest central teams as they will not play an NPSL midwest central opponent until June 10 when they take on the Milwaukee Torrent at home. Until then the Mustangs will play two more games; against FC Scwaben on May 24 and Kalamazoo FC on May 30.
Their first preseason game was a high scoring thriller against the 2014 US Amateur champion, RWB Adria, on May 7 at Canlan Sportsplex. RWB Adria took an early lead early in the first half, but after a PK in the 12 minute the Mustangs tied at 1-1. After several missed chances Adria scored with a minute left before halftime to go up 2-1. In the second half the Mustangs came out firing and scored in the 15 minute to tie the game at 2-2. RWB Adria then scored three answered goals before the Mustangs scored again, finishing the game Adria at 5-2.
The Chicago Mustangs still have 2 games to build their identity but several questions remain. How will the MASL players transition from playing in the smaller faster indoor game to the more open outdoor game? Who will become the leaders of the team; will it be one of the MASL players or will it be one of the new additions? And how will the Mustangs move forward with the team? Will they choose to find players that can play in both the indoor and outdoor game or will one team take precedence over the other?
Formerly known as Eau Claire Aris SC, the club took a year off and rebranded as Aris Sports Club. By moving more than 80 miles south, only one player, Aaron Wagner, has played for Aris SC before. What this means is that Aris as a soccer team are in a closer proximity to the Torrent and the Mustangs than the Twin Stars.
With the formation of the team Aris SC has chosen to go young as the vast majority of players were born after 1990 with 20 players born on or after 1993. In fact Dillon Parrott was born in 97, Addison Frebler, Ethan Houskamp, Brett Huebsch, and Zach Snyder in 98 and San Niak in 99.
Will the change in location bring in a new, more successful era for Aris SC? Head Coach Greg Saliaras has played his Minnessota rival Youssef Darbaki several times. How will the change in location effect how he prepares and recruits against their formal rival?
Optimism is the key word that describes the Milwaukee Torrent. Optimism surrounds both the players, their coach Andreas Davis, and the supporters in the Flood and the Milwaukee Barons. The key question for the Torrent is how will this optimism transition into the season against their Midwest central region opponents?
As a brand new club, the Torrent have aquired players from several notable clubs. From the Croatian Eagles goal keeper Nick Barry. From FC Milwaukee Jules Sekyi, AJ Patterson, Tony Patterson, Dustin Ashley, Stuart Grable, Landon Bulluck-McSwain. From the Milwaukee Bavarians Aaron Horvat, while Jules Sekyi and Stuart Grable have also played for the Bavarians. Also on the team is Nemanja Medic from the United Serbian Soccer Club, James Weber from North Shore United, Declan Rodriguez from the Vancouver Whitecaps, Ignacio Baeza from Union Espanola, Logan Fye from Rock Run SC, Matt Eisold from the Milwaukee sports club, and Ian Bennet from the Milwaukee Wave. On May 18 Drew Ruggles joined the team; Ruggles who has played for the Milwaukee Wave in 2014 and 2015 had also won the USL Championship with the Rochester Rhinos last season.
The Torrent have been working hard to prepare for their first match on Saturday May 21, by playing five games prior. In their first warm up game against UW Milwaukee the Torrent won 2-0 with goals from Ian Bennet and Weber. In the following game the Torrent lost to Marquette University 4-0. The Torrent tied their next game with UW Greenbay 0-0.
Against Cardinal Stritch the Torrent rallied from 2-0 deficit to win the game 4-3 with goals by Declan Rodriguez, Tony Patterson and Nemanja Medic. In their final game against the Elm Grove u19 team the Milwaukee team tied Elm Grove at 2-2 with goals by Nemanja Medic and Declan Rodriguez.
The Torrent have done their best to prepare, but will they be ready for their first NPSL opponent? As a team playing for the first time, how will their style of play evolve over the course of the season?
The Twin Stars are the sole team in the conference to have played in the NPSL last season. After a disappointing last season that saw them finishing thirteenth in the midwest conference, the Twin Stars may find themselves in a much more comfortable position against teams that have not played with each other for as long as the Twin Stars players have. In fact 12 players return from last season.
Returning players are: GK Sean Teske, Defenders Grant Dumler, and Benjamin Miller. Midfielders Carlos Boquin, Karim Darbaki , Christian Deaconson, Alieu Kamara, Ethan Pitre, Forwards, Oscar Cendejas, Samuel Contreras, and Mounir Darbaki. However, Head Coach Youssef Darbaki has brought on many new payers onto the team. Two of the youngest additions, Chase Wright and GK Sean Teske have just graduated High School. Chase will be playing for Hiwassee and Sean for the University of Hartford.
With back to back games on May 21 and 22 will the Twin Stars be ready? Can Youssef Darbaki have his team perform like they did in 2008 and 2009 when they lead the division? How will having a team in the American Premiere League effect the NPSL side?
The midwest central has many questions to answer this season. With all teams playing against each other for the first time; who will find themselves at the top of the league will be the biggest question.