The top flight in the BDSL has never looked deeper then this year. Can anyone dethrone the champs? Find out more inside
Premier Division Overview:
If you take a look at the Premier Division this year, it honestly never looked more daunting of a task to compete with some of these teams. The talent level for some teams is insane. I’m not sure we’ve ever had this many D1, 2, and 3 athletes before. For me it just gives me added faith that the league is continuing in the right direction. We want the league to be a launching point for our local high school and collegiate talent as well as a landing point for all of them when those careers are over. As I look at the division today, that goal has never been more realized than this year. That said, I’m ready for a Premier bloodbath.
Premier Burning Questions:
What the hell happened to Amherst Sharpshooters and their roster?
This has to be a tough one here for the Lawlers. After years of being considered one of the top teams in the Premier and being the last team to dethrone the Raiders with mostly the same core group of guys, 2020 brought a mutiny of sorts. Williamsville Willies swooped in and took nearly 1/4th of the team in a major coup. And with less of a pipeline existing between the Sharpshooters and Canisius there were many questions about what would happen to the team and how they could bounce back. Honestly the year off mighta been a blessing for the Sharpshooters and they had time to reevaluate their position and respond. So while Amherst is definitely fielding a much different line up this season it’s not a terrible drop off. The biggest things for them are perhaps the continued growth of Ben Woolingham and Derek Bartlo who lead the next crop of stars for the club. They’ll have to lean on the experienced vets they have on the backline as they break in a BDSL rookie GK’s Jack Petrie and Spencer Catalano. I don’t want to call it a rebuilding year for the Sharpshooters here but teams in the division will be looking to see if this club is vulnerable for a down season.
Can Buffalo United SS continue their end of season form from 2019?
After a very shaky start, BUSS ended the year playing some great soccer before failing (as usual) to top rival BSC Raiders again in the postseason. If they can pick up where they left off it will be because of a new crop of talent as BUSS has added several standouts from local D1 college Niagara University or Canisius. These talents coupled with many of the BUSS core that remains should put them in position again to challenge for the BDSL crown. Will this be their year to win something? Chances are running low for some of the members of the club here so I really hope they can climb that mountain here. The biggest question for them is if these heavy hitters will be committed to the cause. And if they are, the league needs to look out for this revamped Buffalo United.
Can you explain anything about Celtic United to us?
Look I’ve been trying to figure it out for years here. I have no answers for you. This is the team that ended one of the greatest unbeaten runs in BDSL history and made the Tehel Cup final and yet they were a mere 2 points from relegation This team on paper continues to look like it should be a contender but year in and out for whatever reason they simply can not put it together. If it's puzzling and frustrating for me I can only imagine what it's like for them because they must know it too. and yet here we are. Again in 2021 they look good to great. So this must mean by year’s end they’ll stumble their way to a 9th place finish somehow.
Get back to Willies. How do they look now with this major shake up?
They look good for sure. They were very top heavy in 2019 but there was a considerable lack of depth that probably doomed them. This season that concern is completely absent. This roster now might have one of the deepest rosters in the league. It's maybe too deep though? Like I can see lack of playing time being an issue for them because they have so many guys who deserve to play minutes. And what is like the final 11 for this squad during crunch time. I’m not saying this was like a bad move or anything like that, but there are some things they are going to have to work out before I want to call them a top 4 side or anything. But a lot to like with the new look Willies.
Is it Lackawanna FCY’s year?
They are the preseason darlings for many for really good reasons. This team is locked and loaded. They have some of the best offensive weapons in the league with ‘19 Premier leading scorer Shaibi, the return of Ali Shawish from his one year detour with Amherst, and now Theo Pencic joining the ranks. No one scored more than Lackawanna in 2019 and they look poised to repeat that. My big fear with them is the distraction that is their side project team. How much will their attention be pulled from the BDSL slate to other ventures. It will probably cost them some spots in the standings of the bat and what happens if they advance in that thing? So while I love this team and the direction they are headed I’m not sure that these dueling ambitions will lead to success on both fronts. I hope they sacrifice the right competition if it comes down to it.
Will Clarence surprise again?
I hate to be a downer here but i can’t see it. Here though I would like to wish long time BDSLer and goalkeeping legend Len Previte on his retirement from the league. Did you know he outlasted 2 players who thought they would take the Clarence goalkeeper spot when he retired. Yep both of those guys retired years before he hangs them up now. LP1 if you're reading this it's guys like you and your passion for the game and our league that make it so great. I’ll have one in your honor after our first game.
How will all the new teams fair?
Of the three the best suited is Polonia oddly as they made it at my team's expense. They have a good group and top end talent. I like Mullen’s leadership here and he seemed to say all the right things when he came on the podcast. Beast City is in an interesting spot especially considering they lost their longtime leaders in the Keems to Queenston. I think they’ll find their first season in the top flight difficult. Sadly OP Alliance is maybe in the most difficult spot having nearly folded before new manager Dwight Eagen stepped in to save the club. He’s had to change over much of the team here and while the roster isn’t bad it's just that the gap between the Premier and Championship is so immense that I can’t see them overcoming it. The right pieces are in place but it's a tough ask to take over on the fly in Premier.
Speaking of Queenston, have you favored them chances last year? Why don’t you say some more nice things about them?
Will anyone ever dethrone BSC Raiders?
IF, and that's a huge if, there was a chance to, this year is the first time in a while I could see it being possible. Raiders are without longtime top striker Kendall McFayden, midfield machine Ryan Walter, and both goalkeepers in the Figler duo. That would cripple almost any other team in the league. And typically there is an addition to their squad that really just seems almost unfair that they have another star incoming (ex. Williamson in ‘19). This year Stern is back which if he can pick up from his preinjury 2018 form would fit that category but Simic and Moreland while both good quality players for any Premier team seem more like role players here. So there have been whispers out there that this could be the year they are able to be slain especially when you look at the ads of other teams chasing them. But here’s the thing. These guys are the BSC Raiders. They are, whether you like it or not, the best BDSL club our league has ever seen. I will not pick against them until I see them go down with my own two eyes. They still have the best player in the league in Casey Derkacz. They still have the strongest starting 11 anyone could field. They still have the most cohesion and team chemistry out of any club. And once FCB season kicks off, they’ll add one or two studs from that team that will cripple any threat to the throne. So no I’m not picking against them despite everyone else looking really good and Raiders maybe looking like there finally could be the tiniest of cracks in the armor to exploit. To be the best, you have to beat the best. And until then the BSC Raiders are unquestionably the BDSL best.
Relegation Zone: OP Alliance, Beast City SC, Polonia
Pretenders: Inter SC, Clarence, Celtic United
Contenders: Queenston FC, Lackawanna FCY, Buffalo United Ss, Williamsville Willies, Amherst Sharpshooters
Favorite: BSC Raiders
Premier Division Prediction:
Buffalo United SS
Beast City SC
3) Lackawanna FCY over 6) Queenston FC
5) Amherst Sharpshooters over 4) Williamsville Willies
1) BSC Raiders over 4) Amherst Sharpshooters
2) Buffalo United SS over 3) Lackawanna FCY
1) BSC Raiders over 2) Buffalo United SS