In our 5th and final preview, BDSL's Brian Rademaker brings the predictions our Premier division for 2017. Soon to be added will be Michael Schiebers views of the division as well.
Michael Schieber's Premier predictions(to be expanded):
1) Amherst Sharpshooters
2) SoHo FC
3) Clarence Coyotes
4) BSC Raiders
5) Buffalo United SS
6) Queenston FC
7) Celtic United
8) East Aurora FC
9) Roos FC
10) Yemen Elite
11) FC Yemen
12) Buffalo Bantu
3) Clarence over 6) Queenston FC
4) BSC Raiders over 5) Buffalo United SS
4) BSC Raiders over 1) Amherst Sharpshooters
2) SoHo FC over 3) Clarence
2) SoHo FC over 4) BSC Raiders
BDSL Premier Division Predictions
Overview: These past few Premier divisions have been housing some incredible talent. Six to eight years ago, the league was smaller, and thus the Premier division was smaller, so you could argue that the league was tough then as well, but for whatever reason, the increase in teams hasn’t watered down the product; it’s actually gotten better. I guess that’s what happens when a Buffalo populous stays stagnant, but somehow, the league doubles in size. Simply put, more people are playing soccer in this league on Sunday nights, and that’s great. All leagues see a boost from this, except for maybe the 3rd division. As for Premier, I think there’s a fairly big split between five excellent teams, and then five to six challengers for a final playoff spot. And of course, there’s always got to be one unfortunate cellar dweller.
12. Buffalo Bantu:
Added: Jeff Sekyere (BUSS), Rick Sweeney (Stone Jug), Aweso Noor (FK Bosna), Andrew Brobbey & Seydi Ba (Lakeside FC), Joe Boahen, George Yapa & Joel Clarke (SPAL), Stephen Acheampong (Elmwood Saints), Abdikadir Sabtow, Hamza Cedric, Mohamed Ibrahim, Sulemana Ali & Mohamed Toure (Free Agents)
Lost: Mohamed Musse, Mohamed Hussein, Hassan “Abdi” Sabtow & Prince Saysay (BUSS), Benti Jodi (Yemen Elite), Ibrahim Abdalla, Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, Zein Omar Abdulaziz, Salah Houssein, Hussein Hussein, Abdifatah Mohamed, Max Rumbo, Abdi Sabtow, Abdirahmani Salim, & Jason Kuczmanski (Free Agents).
Bantu is an entirely new look squad in their first season in the Premier league. I think it may be a one and done here, as it may take some time for all of the new pieces to gel in order to secure some points where the fixtures are completely unforgiving week after week. BUSS raided this team’s core in the offseason big time, leaving a void for some former Premier castaways to come together, and perhaps at the very least, get some playing time. As if the wound was already fresh enough, Bantu faces off against BUSS in Week 1. This could be a very long season for Buffalo Bantu this year. If they end the season with more than 4 points, I’d consider it a success.
11. FC Yemen:
2016 Premier Record: 3-6-2 (9th), 19 GF, 29 GA (-10) plus forfeit goal differential of +2
Added: Abdul Albaneh & Abdulraouf Mohamed (Yemen Elite), Miguel Rumbo & Saleman Salim (BUSS), Jabreel Almontaser & Abdi Salim (FC Yemen II), Suah Saylee, Mohammed Mohamed, Adam Mohammed & Victor Tarwo (Free Agents)
Lost: Yasir Alhadeethi & Otmane Boussag (Buffalo Gunners), Hesham Almontaser (FC Yemen II), Greg Blette (Lykan FC), Antonio Toe (SPAL), Harieth Alkadi, Adulhakim Alshaebi, Waheb Noman, Mohammed Saif, & Juan Villegas (Free Agents)
FC Yemen seemed to shuffle some pieces around coming into 2017, but their core was mainly untouched. On their roster this year is Majed Mohamed, but I’m being told he really won’t play at all this season, so that’s a small blow to the midfield. I think this team needs a big year out of Ali Shawish, who’s going to be needed to bury the ball in the back of the net to keep these guys in games. I’ve heard rumors of inner turmoil amongst this squad, which is interesting because we’re only two years removed from a spectacular season from FC Yemen, Championship division winners and Tehel Cup winners, followed by some Region I experience last April, and a win over big brother Yemen Elite in their premier opener last season. Since then, to me they haven’t really won a game. They got a controversial forfeit victory over Rogue, which was the difference between Rogue’s fold and FC Yemen playing back in Championship again this year. Then in the final week of the season, FC Yemen got a victory over Celtic United, who were playing for nothing, as their playoff position had already been set one week prior. I think of this team like the OP Alliance of Championship; in almost every game, but not enough positive results to avoid the drop.
10. Yemen Elite:
2016 Premier Record: 4-3-4 (5th), 24 GF, 25 GA (-1), 1st round playoff loss
Added: Jorge Jimenez & Ahmed Adil (Elmwood Saints), Benti Jodi (Buffalo Bantu), Pete Marlette (BUSS), Dan Barrie (FC Buffalo), Billy Hanford, Matt Owusu, Steve Ruotsi, Ivan Lara & Haythen Taih (Free Agents)
Lost: Moe Kassem & Ramsey Abdulmalik (Queenston), Sami Abdulmalik (FK Bosna), Chris Griffiths (Tri Town United), Abdul Albaneh & Abdelraouf Mohamed (FC Yemen II), Clint Holcomb (Clarence), Ali Adil, Steve Pondeca, Adel Rahman, Alex Marecki & Koby Sapon-Amoah (Free Agents)
Yemen Elite generally turn over half or more than half of their roster year over year, and somehow they figure it all out each year, enough to bring mild success to the Club each year on the Premiership level. But when will this catch up with them? Is it now? I’d say they have their most vulnerable lineup for a regression here in 2017, as many of their departures played key roles to the squad last season. Griffiths and Holcomb played well centrally when they were on the pitch last season, and Sapon-Amoah and Moe Kassem were integral parts of their defense, which on paper looks pretty thin at the moment. Adel Rahman filled up the stat sheet early on last season as well, so they’ll turn to Dan Barrie to get some goals this season, as you wouldn’t necessarily want to build an offense around Kovan Menr. Having said all this, there’s this special power that Mateo Escobar possesses to get teammates to play together and rally behind him, so it’s certainly possible they pull a similar slow start, bullish finish again.
9. East Aurora FC:
Added: Kyle Kleckner (Rogue FC), Bryce Schiltz & Ty Bentham (Free Agents)
Lost: Myles Taylor (Amherst Sharpshooters), Russ Catalano (Free Agent)
Always with them (RIP): Alex Gurney
I respect this team a bunch because these guys took their initial league placement into the Second Division in stride back in 2014, and they were probably borderline Premier material back then. Since then, they’ve won championships every summer, earning their way to where they are today. Kudos to EAFC. I think this team will fit right in with other mid-table sides that will be competitive week in and week out, and that’s with or without all their big guns every week. See to me, that’s the difference right there; in the past, in lower divisions, I think they could get away with cruising through games, missing some players, etc. Without a massive amount of depth to your roster, you can get punished for that in Premier. Vucic, Keller and Parker Healy should translate very well to this division, and guys like Kleckner, Ritchie, Chimento and Beale are complimentary figures that probably won’t break a game open by themselves, but they can feed their top players effectively. I wonder how often Mike Jackson appears this summer from a defensive standpoint; if he’s in good shape, that’s a solid center back. Overall I see this team popping a top 5 side once, drawing another, but taking some weird losses along the way as well (they had some puzzling losses last year, like a 1-0 loss to Niagara FC). The Myles Taylor omission this summer is a bigger loss than what originally is anticipated, and ninth is where they’re slotted.
8. Roos FC:
2016 Premier Record: 3-5-3 (7th), 28 GF, 30 GA (-2)
Added: Ben Sivitilli (NMB FC), Brett Stern (Free Agent)
Lost: Mike Gandt (Honey Badgers), Nick Mann, Scott Schuler & League President and team manager Mike Schieber (Free Agents)
Schieber isn’t so much of a free agent, but he’s not currently rostered due to some lingering wrist issues, so he’ll man the coaching duties that he handled admirably down the stretch last season. See, Roos were dead in the water by mid-June last year, but pulled off one of the greatest escapes imaginable, actually finishing in 7th by season’s end, which is a little misleading due to what teams were playing for down the stretch, but nonetheless, it was extremely impressive. Roos were not very busy this offseason, but you could say they made their free agent acquisitions at the June transfer window deadline last year, acquiring Zack Thomas and Alex Shafer from Rogue FC. With a full season of these guys, plus a threatening forward tandem in Reid and Greco, both of which had outstanding individual seasons last summer, these guys should be able to do enough over an entire season’s body of work to never really be in danger of the drop zone, but for some reason I also think they’ll never be closer than arm’s reach to the playoffs. Maybe part of that has to do with the fact that they won’t start their season until May 21st, putting them under the gun, pressure wise, to grab some points and move up from the bottom of the table. They’re certainly a capable bunch, considering they had the eventual Premier champions Amherst Sharpshooters on the ropes before conceding twice late to settle for a draw last summer, one of many positive results they saw in the back half of 2016 with the roster they have today.
7. Queenston FC:
2016 Premier Record: 3-6-2 (8th), 20 GF, 20 GA (Even)
Added: Moe Kassem & Ramsey Abdulmalik (Yemen Elite), Adam Winkworth (Niagara FC), Colin O’Keefe (Youngstown Marksmen)
Lost: Ross Suitor (Niagara FC), Ben Rung (Meerkats), Erik Kastner, Luke Duncan, Max Braun, Tony Galvano & Nick Dumond (Free Agents)
There are a ton of question marks for the Parliament heading into this summer. First, last season’s glaring problem was a defensive presence in the midfield. Far too many times Queenston was bullied in that area, putting a lot of strain on the center backs in Greg Hoffman and Dylan Duncan, who quite frankly, played out of their minds at times to put out a ton of fires. That’s probably because they couldn’t find the right replacement for Miguel Rodrigues, a legend who relocated to Kansas. Then the news breaks that Ross Suitor is leaving the club to play with his friends, which is a respectable move, but it leaves the squad without their best player. All of this adds up to harm their chances at a 2017 playoff bid and inches the side closer to relegation. However, those voids were filled admirably; Moe Kassem brings creativity, speed and goals to the club, and rising name in the WNY area Colin O’Keefe does the same. In some ways, you could say Queenston also added Frank Cotroneo, who will be in the fray for a full season this summer, coming off a year in which he only cameo'ed in a handful of games. Other additions and long standing members of the club have moved into a defensive central midfield role in a season where a new formation will be unveiled. Backed by a very strong keeper in John Netter, Queenston now may possess just enough defensively, and many speedy attacking options to stay afloat as a mid-table side. What certainly didn’t hurt was a general split from high end talented clubs (ranks 1-5 to mid-level talented clubs (ranks 6-11), meaning there are plenty of opportunities this summer to grab wins from similarly skilled teams. One more big in season splash here, either centrally or perhaps one more full back for depth, and QFC could suddenly be the odds on favorite to earn that final playoff spot.
6. Celtic United:
2016 Premier Record: 5-5-1 (6th), 19 GF, 22 GA (-3), 1st round playoff loss
Added: Seth Snyder & Matt Casey (Niagara FC), Matt Belardi (Meerkats), Victor Powell* (Clarence), Anthony Yarussi, Steve Casey, Barak Benyehuda & Ash Bryan (Free Agents)
Lost: Chris Berardi (Clarence), Kyle Wiatrowski (SoHo FC), Tommy Huebsch (Celtic Hoops), Steve Carcaterro, Shane Greene, Nikko Richards, TJ Kaszubski, Michael Gallivan & Nick Smith (Free Agents)
Celtic United for me is always the most difficult team to place. They certainly lost some major pieces from last year, so the immediate reaction would be to plummet this team closer to the bottom of the table, especially since two of those losses generated almost all of their goals or scoring chances. But from top to bottom, if you were to rank player 1 to player 22 (if such a player existed on every team), pound for pound, the talent here is better than almost every single BDSL team out there, save for maybe 1 or 2. The issue is, you never see that many guys present. They comfortably show up with 12-13 every game and they’re fit enough to make fatigue moot. I guess it really depends just how good or how often the Casey’s, Bryan, and Benyehuda show up to see what kind of impact they can bring to this team, aside from rolling out a strong defense. We know Sammy Wasson paces the club now, and he’ll make his mark on the game, but will they be able to grab enough points for another postseason showing? I think so, barely, but I also think they suffer the same cruel fate as last year, getting white washed by a stronger club when it matters most.
5. SoHo FC:
2016 Premier Record: 8-2-1 (2nd), 30 GF, 14 GA (+16), playoff runner-up
Added: Kyle Wiatrowski (Celtic United), Andrew Larracuente & Jamie Salcedo (Free Agents)
Lost: Garrett Sengbusch & Brian Benson (Celtic Hoops), Nick Szabo (Grand Island)
On paper, SoHo has improved. They reached the Premier league final last season, held the lead in the second half, and ultimately were crowned runner-up by way of a loss in penalties. Yet I have them here in 5th. Call it a ‘gut feeling’ if you will, but I just simply think the rest of the teams to come in this preview are stronger this season, and I feel like it’s long overdue now, but SoHo’s reign up towards the top of the table needs to regress, as their core has aged and inched closer to their late thirties. Plus, I’ve always walked away from our fixtures against SoHo these past few seasons thinking “We had that one, how did we let it get away?”. Credit to SoHo, though, as they stout enough defensively and skillful enough individually to capitalize on a couple of occasions over the course of a game and it’s enough to earn a win. They’re the best in the business at getting a win rather than settling for a draw, so I think they’re a virtual lock for playoffs this summer, even at rank 5. Larracuente’s return only further solidifies a back lilne that already includes Rinow, Bobby Ross and last season’s unheralded star in Matt Romano. Opposing teams: make sure you make the most of your chances, this team will be stingy.
2016 Premier Record: 6-4-1 (4th), 18 GF, 15 GA (+3), semi-final playoff loss
Added: Chris Berardi (Celtic United), Clint Holcomb (Yemen Elite), Francesco Strangio (Rogue FC), Sam Sutherland (BUSS), Andrew Peek (Free Agent)
Lost: Victor Powell (Celtic United), Mike Antkowiak, Chris and Kevin Cournan, Jordan Katz, Matt Schroen & Aaron Zelko (Free Agents)
We’ve already gotten the pleasure to see incoming Clarence midfielder Chris Berardi make an immediate impact for his new club, with an assist in Region I play. For a team already loaded with top end talent, that add, plus great complimentary adds in Sutherland (who should find a way to score 4-5 goals this summer) and Holcomb, this team is poised for another successful summer. The question mark will be, who fills the holes defensively as the departures of Zelko, Chris Cournan, and to a slightly lesser extent, Katz, are rather gaping. The buzz on the street is JJ Hughes will slide to the back four, considering the depth they’ve acquired at central midfield, so as I write this sentence I’ve just realized they’ll be perfectly fine. Rats! Turns out their 2015 season was an anomaly, so I expect Clarence to be a better side this summer, but due to the talent towards the top of this division, they actually finish in the same spot they did last year, regular season wise.
3. Buffalo United SS:
2016 Premier Record: 3-6-2 (10th), 24 GF, 39 GA (-15)
Added: Prince Saysay, Mohamed Musse, Hassan “Abdi” Sabtow & Mo Hussein (Buffalo Bantu), Adonis Pimienta-Penalver & Drew Colosimo (Elmwood Saints), Hunter Walsh (Rogue FC), Danny Tarbell (Crimson Fire), Junior Geegba, Yony Guardado, Hunter Sherman, Anthony Saysay & George Tor (Free Agent)
Lost: Pete Marlette (Yemen Elite), Frank Poppolo (SPAL), Saleman Salilm (FC Yemen), Mate Tarr (FC Quake), Sam Sutherland (Clarence), Cameron Law (Beast City), Jeff Sekyere (Buffalo Bantu), Corey Carter, Matt Daddario, Ezana Kahsay, Miguel Rumbo, Jeff Panik & Rich Wilson (Free Agent)
The names that were added, as well as dropped, relating to this club are ridiculous. A lot of talent has left, but probably more has entered. The difference between last year’s team that struggled and this year’s team, though, I believe will be its chemistry. A lot of these guys enjoy playing for one another at the indoor level, and I truly think it’ll translate outdoors. I still don’t think BUSS is particularly strong defensively when you compare their back four to others in the Premier league, but I can confidently say this is the top offensive unit in the league. I’m curious to see how they share the minutes and the pitch though: Clifford, Geegba, Tor, Sherman, Guardado and Walsh are all forward breeds, so a few of these guys will have to play out wide. Although Panik was a big loss, I think Musse is a fantastic player, and should have a strong summer campaign. Finding Tarbell a permanent positional role this summer could be interesting due to their plethora of forwards, so we'll wait and see where certain people slide to around the pitch. They even found a way to improve between the pipes. Big summer for BUSS.
2. BSC Raiders:
2016 Premier Record: 7-1-3 (3rd), 36 GF, 18 GA (+18), semi-final playoff loss
Added: Ryan Arvin (Amherst Sharpshooters), Evan Walsh (Rogue FC), Rudy Pikuzinski, Pa Lu & Siang Hnin Lian (Free Agent)
Lost: Anthony Gallo (RVS United), Matt Keating (Crusaders FC), 4 free agents
BSC Raiders are as consistent as they come: The roster is loaded with talent as per usual, but this year, it seems like they approached free agency a bit differently. Two high school adds in Lu and Lian; both of which are quality players but I wonder how they fit into this system and these personalities. Then of course there’s Pikuzinski, listed as a free agent but we’re all well aware he’s a long time Raider, taking only 2016 off in recent years as he had relocated. Waddington, Chris Walter, Casey Derkacz and Kyle Rodgers make up a ridiculous defensive unit, who probably never actually all play at the same time so just imagine if and when it does happen. Rudy, the Grabowski’s, Ryan Walter and other complimentary players can boss the midfield. The top goal scorer in the BDSL last season, in all competitions in Kendell McFayden has returned, while Asante and Osuch are capable secondary options. There are really no holes here, and if Arvin is around enough this summer, they’ve undoubtedly improved in net as well. I like this team because of its consistency. The only time they’re vulnerable is when they play 120 minutes of playoff soccer down a man.
1. Amherst Sharpshooters:
2016 Premier Record: 8-1-2 (1st), 32 GF, 13 GA (+19), playoff and league champions
Added: Cody Rouse (Southtowns FPFC), Myles Taylor (East Aurora FC), Curt Ventresca (LaSalle FC), Andrew Crawford, Matt Campana & Marcelo Moreira (Free Agent)
Lost: Ricky Martinez (Celtic Hoops), Ryan Arvin (BSC Raiders), Tom Fusillo (Rampart FC), Keith Braun, Greg Anne, Eric Steinmetz & Oliver Jackson (Free Agent)
It’s pretty boring to make the same pick here as I did last year, but I was right, wasn’t I? And if the team has improved on paper, then I can’t pick against it. However, considering the gap has closed between Amherst and BSC this year (in my opinion), and also considering how hard it is to repeat as a champion in this division, it wouldn’t be a total shock to see a mild upset come playoff time, especially considering I think Amherst could be hoisting the Tehel Cup again (unless Queenston has another deep run coming, you know, sometimes it’s just fate). But let’s get back to the positives here: Free agency was probably won by the Sharpshooters this summer, with BUSS and Clarence coming next in no particular order. Taylor and Rouse are excellent central midfielders, specifically in a holding role, and that’s what they lost with the departures of Anne and Fusillo. Campana is still one of the best outside midfielders I can remember facing, as he torched our Queenston team back in 2013 over and over again back in the Championship division days. Crawford replaces Braun, and that’s an upgrade – and Braun is clearly no slouch. So what we’re left with is probably a slightly better version than the #1 Premier team of 2016. Asani Samuels is also seemingly one Charlie Puth away from being back in red (or yellow this year?!), so it’s really difficult for me to sway from this Club. The only potential tail off this team could face this year is goal scoring, considering we still don’t know how manager Trevor Lawler will fare coming off of an ACL tear last August, and Justin Hofschneider was hampered at times this winter, so it really comes down to big years from Brendan Lawler from a CAM position, Brandon Loncar from a wide position, or the mop in Eric Brodfuehrer. Regan Steele was specifically omitted only due to the fact that his attendance this summer could be limited, but with how deep this team is virtually everywhere, I don’t expect that to be much of a story.
Wildcard Playoff Results:
#3 BUSS blitzes past #6 Celtic United 5-1. The game gets out of hand late, both by way of yellow cards and goals, as Theuerkauf’s side takes exception to the scoring and celebrations deep into the game.
#4 Clarence survives #5 SoHo FC out at Town Hall in overtime. AC LaFlore channels his inner vintage Vincent Kompany and heads one home off of a corner for the win.
Semi-Final Weekend Results:
#4 Clarence knocks off defending champions #1 Amherst Sharpshooters. This particular matchup has always been troubling for Amherst, and they’re done in by an exceptional defensive performance by Clarence, winners by the score of 2-0. Amherst comes up tame after a big Tehel Cup win just three nights prior.
#2 BSC Raiders win a wild one over #3 BUSS 5-4 in regulation. We’ve been down this road before; offensive explosions between these two are common, so let’s not buck the trend.
#2 BSC Raiders bring home the hardware with a 1-0 victory over #4 Clarence. The Raiders’ big players all show up for this one, leaving Clarence with limited chances to draw even in the match. McFayden’s strike mid-way through the first half holds up as the difference, and Rocky’s club returns to apex of the BDSL.