DISCLAIMER: While I am league president, I want to be as open and honest in these as I can. So with all that said lets you the readers and myself the writer make a quick deal that nothing I say in this or any preview is personal. Just my thoughts about the teams the divisions, mixed with so bad jokes and poor grammar/spelling. Deal? Ok…………..
3rd Division Overview:
Ok so it is a bit awkward for me to start here in D3. Traditionally this is the division I know the least about. So off the bat a lot of this is speculation and word of mouth learned. Next most new teams in the league fell in here, which also means I know even less about them generally. All that said, I think this is the weakest field D3 has ever had. I think this is sort of natural though as with 74 teams its impossible that there is this much soccer talent in WNY. I mean there just can’t be right? And trickling down its logical D3 will be hit the hardest by that dearth of player options. Hopefully I’m wrong, but my first thoughts here are the new teams are going to struggle while the returning teams should be favored week in and week out. I’d bet that most games in D3 will end with 6 or more goals per game. I already hate everything I wrote so far so were off to a great start for the 2017 previews! Lets break it down by team so I can look even dumber shall we.
Aurora Arsenal II
My Take: Slowly Aurora has improved each and every year. I think young manager Alex Davis has this squad on the right path and is building a winner here. A taste of the playoffs last year will keep the hunger growing here. They return most all their best players and picked off some D1 cast off of Nickel City. Big season ahead for Aurora I think.
Best Case – They hit their stride big time in 2017 after two positive years. The young talent they have peaks and they take everyone best storm to a first place finish in season. They beat out all challengers in D3 earning the playoff crown. Too. Just miss the treble by falling in Wood Cup final to FC Yemen II
Worst Case – The floor for them for me is no lower then 4th place with a trip to the semis in playoffs. They prove still too young falling to Devils and missing out on promotion.
Actual – I have them 2nd right now. I think the team will keep progressing and earn promotion to D2 next season one way or another.
Big Green SC:
My Take: I’ll be honest and say everything I’ve heard from anyone with any BDSL connection about this team has been nothing but huge red flags. Roster wise most of these guys can bee found in the Sportsplex leagues and they have had little success against anyone. So my expectations are rock bottom for them.
Best Case – A Mexican kid named Juan shows up and joins the team. He’s really great and they just pass him the ball and he scores a bunch. Everything is great until his family is deported by Trump. They finish 9th.
Worst Case – They ship the highest goal against total in league history and take up residence in the basement of the BDSL hierarchy.
Actual – Some ones got to finish last right? So Big Green I’m sorry but I got you there. Like your jerseys and logo though.
My Take: They lost Barker, which has me super worried about their ability to score enough consistently. Their experience and roster versatility is good though and they have a young piece or two that will help give then some needed speed on the field. I feel like they will benefit from the new team influx and it will keep them in the hunt for the playoffs.
Best Case – One of the new adds turns into Barker 2.0. They ride him into 3rd. but fall in the playoffs to a younger FC Aftershock side.
Worst Case - Starved for goals they flip around in the middle of the table until settling for 8th place.
Actual – The middle path works for me with them. They’ll slip into 5th and bow out gracefully in round 1 of the playoffs.
My Take: I think they are the best team in D3 by a decent enough margin. Fairly telling about the division as a whole I think. But that’s not to discount this team. They’ve built a D2 capable team here and while I’m not 100 sure if those are their ambitions the side is too good for me to expect any less. But I’m consistently wrong about the Devils so buyers beware following this advice.
Best Case – Devils out class everyone else in D3 by a bigger margin then I expect. Powers and Chase run rampant and they allow a pittance of goals. They cruise to the league and playoff double rarely even challenged.
Worst Case - Injuries derail them hard? They all get amnesia and forget to play soccer? The league buys med kits for everyone aside for them for some weird reason no one can figure out?
Actual – I think they actually play out the best case and are the undeniable best team in D3 and find themselves a D2 side in 2018.
Erie County FC:
My Take: They talk a pretty nice twitter game but I fear that their mouths are writing a check their play won’t let them cash. I like their goalies and think midfield wise they are ok but defensively I have lots of questions. I think they’ll be a slower team in the division and while that does kill you hear it also means the ceiling in low too.
Best Case – FC Buffalo goes on a run like AFC Cleveland does and wins the NPSL. Erie County players celebrate this as their BDSL season lands them in 7th.
Worst Case - They are worse then I expect and the defense is really bad. The midfield plays well but no one emerges as a go to forward. Molik’s childhood dream becomes a personal nightmare as they tumble to 12th.
Actual – A steep learning curve is in store for this side but they pick up on things as the year goes well enough to finish 11th with improvements for 2018 already prepared by years end.
My Take: I just like the cut of this teams jib to be honest so I’m probably going to over value them. But Cullen Dedrick seems to have a better grasp on running a team and has done a good job grabbing some players for his side. Bonandonna, if motivated could be a leading playmaker. If anything he and Patterson as a 1-2 punch is almost as good a pairing as there is in D3. I think midfield is a slight weakness but still plenty to like for year 2.
Best Case – Aftershock vault up the table with the best dual scoring threat in D3 and finish just short of 1st place due to some stupid dropped points. But they clean up in the playoffs and lift the trophy in August.
Worst Case – Attendance issues flair up and they are in lots of track meets. The new keeper isn’t as good as Legge and the end up on the wrong end of some crooked numbers. Quietly sink way to 8th.
Actual – I think they are a playoff side and have them 4th. I think though they lose in the playoffs. Close but no promotion yet.
Great Lakes FC:
My Take: Sad day when I heard that Haz Benz name was being rebranded. Such a storied team. RIP. Great Lakes FC though returns much of the same from their former team though so I’m assuming more of the same results wise which ya know isn’t that great soccer but fun soccer.
Best Case – The return to being called Haz Benz. Finish 7th.
Worst Case - The rebrand goes terribly and they finish dead last in 13th.
Actual – 12th place for the Great Lakes FC Coffee Roasters.
Great White Buffalo:
My Take: A change in the guard or so it seems here which might refresh this team in their 3rd year now. I think they made some really solid moves to counter the attendance issues that have nagged them. Id worried about them losing Crane and Shisler was an issue but with Mitch Mendez signing up that negates it. He is poised to be one of the best players in the divisions. Some holes in the back but I think they’ll figure it out.
Best Case – Revitalized the new blood is unphased by the weight of past years expectations and they finish up third before making it to the championship for promotion.
Worst Case - More of the same from the last years. Attendance is more then half the battle and they struggle with that and leak goals at an unsustainable rate. Knocks them back to familiar spots of 8th.
Actual – I think they finally make the playoff break through and even upset the 3 seed in round 1 but come up just short playoff wise.
Moby Ducks FC:
My Take: Mixed feelings here with this team. They have a player or two who can raise an eyebrow on both ends of pitch. But I can’t get myself to respect this side with their name. I wish they coulda kept their previous one quite honestly. Overall this might be one of the better new sides to D3 but I think they have limitations roster wise that will hold them back.
Best Case – They surprise teams that think they aren’t a serious side at all. Nab a 4th place but fall in the semis.
Worst Case - They play as poorly as their team name would indicate. Topple down to 13th.
Actual – A 9th place finish seems fair. This team to me is the hardest to predict in D3. I think they like it that way too.
North Buffalo FC:
My Take: The last team to join BDSL for the 2017 season has fewest expectations to go along with it. I think this team will be committed and that’s a good start. I think their manager wants to build them into a good side and while year one might hit them with many growing pains but long term I like their outlook. This year I think defensively they will be OK but goals might be a struggle.
Best Case – They play well enough this year to have a playoff look but settle into 8th down the stretch.
Worst Case – They play poor enough to flirt with dead last but settle into 12th.
Actual – I’ll take the middle road with an average debut of a 10th place finish.
My Take: Expecting a big bounce back for this side this year. Goals were hard to find for them and I think though they didn’t do anything to rectify that really, it will return to them. In the back they are awfully similar still too so I think if the goals come the record will improve. Just how much is the question.
Best Case – They find the back of the net at rate that makes up for last year and find themselves sitting closer to 1st then anyone thought. End up 2nd and fall in the semis.
Worst Case - They continue to be snake bitten around the net and another year of age makes them slower enough defensively that they fall further down the table into 10th place.
Actual – Like I said a big bounce year. I think the scoring returns and they take 3rd in this weaker D3 field. I do think Playoff wise though they’ll fall in round 1 in an upset.
Rust Belt United:
My Take: They should be celebrating as the influx of new D3 teams has watered down the division so week to week they’ll be much more competitive. That said I don’t think roster wise enough has changed to really push them into a higher spot up the table. But overall this is good news for Rust Belt as they look to improve out of the basement of the BDSL.
Best Case – They go back to their old logo, which I think is undeniably better, then the new one. On the field they finish 10th.
Worst Case – They still can’t do anything to get out of the bottom and finish last out of 74 teams.
Actual – 13th is theirs for me. So not the worst. But ya know plenty left to do.
My Take: This side made so slick adds I think as they lost a few Stone Jug mainstays. Overall they balance out so I think we’ll be seeing a similar team to last year. Following the trend of my overall division view this has Stone Jug in the thick of the playoff hunt. Other side of the coin though not really enough done to take a playoff spot.
Best Case – 7th
Worst Case – 7th
Actual – 7th
My Take: An interesting roster here of a bunch of former Haz Benz players venturing out to find their own BDSL fortunes. I think like Ducks, they could be the best new D3 side. I’m not sure the chemistry level outside of the BDSL vets so just what sort of early results will we see from them? I think that will be the determining factor of their season.
Best Case – They rely on their BDSL experience along with the mix of new blood to challenge for the playoffs. They sneak into 4th but fall in round 1.
Worst Case - Some lack of team unity and chemistry sees an up and down type year where they can’t get higher then 10th at any point. They lose to Great Lakes FC.
Actual – They might be a dark horse lurking but I don’t think they’ll do enough early on to be an actual threat. I have them in 8th.
Third Division Table:
2) Aurora Arsenal II
3) Revolution SC
4) FC Aftershock
5) Celtic Classic
6) Great White Buffalo
7) Stone Jug
8) Tesla FC
9) Moby Ducks FC
10) North Buffalo FC
11) Erie County FC
12) Great Lakes FC
13) Rust Belt United
14) Big Green SC
6) Great White Buffalo over 3) Revolution SC
4) FC Aftershock over 5) Celtic Classic
1) Devils over 6) Great White Buffalo
2) Aurora Arsenal II over 4) FC Aftershock
1) Devils over 2) Aurora Arsenal II
BDSL Division 3 Predictions
Overview: There are plenty of new faces in this division. By Wednesday evening, I count 113 new players in the division. So needless to say, I could be way off with some of these new teams or new influences to existing teams prior to 2017.
I dropped all of the league placements on Twitter the other day, so the order below won’t be any surprise. Just here to elaborate on how I got there. I paused before tweeting knowing I’ll get re-tweets and those ogling eyes when the rankings come back positive to certain teams, but also knowing I’d get that shade thrown at me when the rankings are towards the bottom of each division. It’s a risk I’m always willing to take though, because I love me some controversy.
Let’s get to it. I promise to keep spelling end grammar mistakes too a bear minimum.
14. Big Green SC:
This is a new team with only one player on board with previous BDSL experience in Sam Garra(unless they played prior to 2008, I don’t have record before then). Anyway, that’s meaningless. Arguably one of the best players in the division will be wearing green and white this summer, and that’s Chris Mayrose. After that, I’m not sure there’s much here that I know of. So they default to the bottom of the table. They’re playing home games at Ives Pond, which means perhaps I’ve ran into some of these guys at Sportsplex once in a while, but I can’t place any names to faces here.
13. Rust Belt United:
Added: Nate Gulvin (West Side), Matt Bala (LaSalle FC), 7 free agents
Lost: 5 to West Seneca Strikers, 4 Free agents
These guys haven’t won a game in quite some time, but I think they grab a game or two this summer. The West Seneca Striker influx last year apparently didn’t work out so well, considering the Strikers have re-emerged in the Second Division this summer, and perhaps some of the talent that came in has quickly left as well. Rust Belt is under new management though, which is always intriguing to me. Rosenthal is still probably one of their main threats, so if he gets going with the tallies this summer, perhaps there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
12. Great Lakes FC:
Added: Divested from Haz Benz, retained 11, Collin Wittman (Depew Village), 7 Free agents including FC Buffalo’s Nick Mendola
Lost: 5 to Tesla FC in the split, Jason Do (Buffalo Celtic), Chris Lambe (Kingsmen SC), 2 to Over 35 league and 1 Free agent
I had a choice to make, and that was “Who is better, Great Lakes FC or Tesla FC”? After reviewing the rosters of the former Haz Benz alliance, it seems to me that most of the bigger contributors in year’s past reside with Tesla, who also appear to be considerably older which I found interesting. So Great Lakes occupies a similar spot to where Haz Benz was a year before.
11. Moby Ducks FC:
Added: Nate Konitzer (Catan FC)
Is it FC or SC? I thought these guys were SC, which I still think is mis-listed on website…which also makes me think their Twitter account isn’t really them. It seems highly suspicious if you ask me. These guys are a complete mystery. I know of Corey McCarthy, who’s new to the league but donning the #10 jersey so he means business. They completely came out of left field entering the league as well back in February, so I’m going to be looking for that result come Sunday night. I could be WAY off in the placement here, but once again, there’s little I know of this squad.
10. Stone Jug:
Added: 6 Free agents
Lost: Rick Sweeney (Buffalo Bantu), Mike Curatolo (Niagara FC), Chuck Pfohl (Celtic Brigade), 4 Free agents
You know what keeps me up at night? What is the connection between West Seneca’s Dennis Rich (formerly of Wolfpack) and Wilson’s Stone Jug? The hell is going on here?? Assuming he shows frequently, or maybe even just for away games, that’s a decent snag for Division 3. The Jug lost a bunch of play makers this year, which is why I think they’ll struggle a bit. Rick Sweeney has departed for the Premier division, and both Chuck Pfohl and Mike Curatolo have joined different Clubs this summer. They’ll still find ways to tie 0-0 and 1-1 frequently, though.
9. North Buffalo FC:
What separates this team from most of the new teams, for me, is that they seem highly organized and genuinely interested in the league. For some reason that translates to better results in my eyes. Many fresh faces here, and although they’re forced to play home games outside of the “North Buffalo” general area way down at West Seneca due to the late drop of ‘Good Guys FC’, I think the commitment will be strong all season. Perhaps this is just a collection of decent athletes who hadn’t previously tested the BDSL waters. Could be some good soccer players here, and we’ll know more in the coming weeks.
8. Tesla FC:
Added: Radenko Ristic (Ukraine), Mirko Vidovic (Elmwood Saints), Christian Codjovi (Aliens), Mike Blake, Darko Simic & Dragan Drca (Azzurri), 5 from Haz Benz and 10 free agents.
Lost: See Great Lakes FC above.
Tesla appears to be an experienced team that’s got mid-table written all over them. Another historically low scoring team, they’ve been able to keep clean sheets rather consistently through the years with Lee Tran as their keeper. Even more experience comes their way through the Over 35 league, so I can see these guys being a frustrating fixture for some teams in the top half of the division. Also, is this the best Eastern Europe influenced team? If Ukraine were the only team in the picture, I’d say yes, but let’s not forget about FK Bosna. So the answer is no.
7. Erie County FC:
For me, this team has been placed here based on what I’ve heard about a couple of their players. I’m hearing Colin Witman (not to be confused with Collin Wittman who added additional letters to both first and last names) could be the real deal in this division. Plus, one of these newbs will surprise, so why not Erie?
6. Great White Buffalo:
Added: Sam Eckert (RVS United), 11 free agents
Lost: Jon Chavanne & Aaron Crane (RVS United), Matt Jankowski (Revolution SC), Randy Mayer (Polonia), Paul Schiappa (WNY United Reds), Ryan Woodard (Dutch), 7 free agents.
If not for the Mitch Mendez add here, amongst some other decent moves, Great White Buffalo lost most of its talent to other teams or BDSL free agency. But I’m not penalizing them too much because I know their current manager has had some modest co-ed and men’s success when playing his teams in years past, plus I think you’ll see a more committed bunch this summer. But again I stress the talent drop here, on paper. Chemistry, however, can be the key to keep these guys in the hunt. I have these guys getting ousted in the first round of the playoffs by the hands of Aurora Arsenal II.
5. Revolution SC:
Added: Zach Huber (Pendleton United), Matt Jankowski (Great White Buffalo), Sam Fahy (FC Aftershock), 1 free agent
Lost: 2 Free agents
Virtually unchanged from last year, although a Matt Meyer loss hurts a tad, I think Revolution SC experiences a bounce back season. Corey Deville is still probably the heart and soul of this team, and now that their non-promotion penalty has been lifted, which could have contributed to some of their results last year knowing they couldn’t participate in the playoffs, I can see these guys making another push towards Division 2. I think Revolution earns a mild upset over FC Aftershock in the first round, after falling to Devils (in penalties) in the semi-finals. Close, but no cigar.
4. FC Aftershock:
Added: Tony Bonadonna (FC Quake), 6 Free agents
Lost: Brandon Bernard & Adam Pisarski (Blizzard FC), Dan Carnevale (Kingsmen SC), Sam Fahy (Revolution SC), Brett Sanders (Youngstown Marksmen), 5 Free agents
If you thought my mind was blown over Dennis Rich to Stone Jug, imagine what it was like to learn a guy traded a 2016 summer based out of Yorkshire to play for a team based out of Youngstown in Brett Sanders. I mean, YOU LITERALLY COULDN’T HAVE GONE FURTHER AWAY. Anywho, I think we’re now one more year away from Aftershock making a serious push into Division 2. I think the Patterson/Spaulding/Bonadonna tandem offensively will produce a lot of goals. In fact I’ll boldly predict they beat Rust Belt in Week 0 (April) 6-0. You heard it here first.
These guys seem to genuinely like one another. Their normal goal keeper in Dan Legge is out for the season with a gruesome injury sustained earlier this offseason, but is heavily involved with the squad anyway. I like that. Aftershock makes the jump into the playoffs before falling to a tough opening round opponent in Revolution SC.
3. Aurora Arsenal II:
Added: Brady King, Sean Cook and Brett Bosinski (Nickel City Wanderers), 5 free agents
Lost: Jonathan Correa (FC Yemen II), 6 free agents
This would be the team that I believe is one year ahead of Aftershock in terms of ‘being ready for the jump’. I say this fully knowing two of their three biggest pieces of the last few years, statistically speaking anyway, have left the team in Correa and Eric Roetzer. But they still have enough here. These guys are the WNY United Reds, just younger. Defend well, sometimes struggle to score, but in this division it does enough. Maybe they belong (long-term) in Division 2. I think they get there after this summer with an opening round victory at home versus Erie County FC, and an ‘upset’ over Celtic Classic. More on this in a short moment.
2. Celtic Classic:
Added: Paul Caban (Bluestars), 1 free agent
Lost: 2 free agents
Steve Barker being one of the free agent losses must sting a little. This is probably a good time to mention that I think, top to bottom, save maybe rank #1 on my list, Division 3 could be pretty unpredictable this season. There’s no clear line in the sand between good and bad, more like fairly decent down to somewhat poor. Classic I have here by default. I think they’re better than most of the teams in this league over the course of an 11 game season. I expect a slow start, but by season’s end they earn a bye. A lot of experience on this side, many former college players, so although the legs are collectively older, they should be able to put away most ‘youthful’ sides. And most of those sides were promoted in 2016.
Celtic Classic Ioses to Aurora Arsenal II in the semi-finals; revenge of sorts from a 6/18 defeat, to remain in Division 3 in 2018. Part of me thinks this will happen just to keep all Celtic teams spread out in different divisions.
Added: Grant Graves (BSC International), 4 free agents
Lost: DJ Cook (Dutch), Ryan Acanfora (West United FC), 4 free agents
I think Devils have all the pieces this year to win the league, win their league playoffs, and make a serious run in the Wood Cup. The treble is alive! They probably have the best TWO goal keepers in the division on their roster, so that’s a big bonus as it’s something they can always rely on. And although they were aided a bit in the playoffs last year with a late LaSalle FC playoff forfeiture after actually winning the game, Devils got a taste of potential promotion and got Dutch worried in that semi-final. They also played much better than anticipated against Yemen Elite in the Tehel Cup last year. The final notation here is that their pre-season form seems to be as good as ever, based on their self-assessments on Twitter (that no opposing team has questioned) after scrimmages unfolded. So I’m thinking it all comes together this season for the Devils. They win 2-1 over Aurora Arsenal II in the playoff final, coming off of a PK win against Revolution SC in the semis.