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No Hollywood Ending in Chapel Hill: Chelsea 5 - Wrexham 0
Article: Sean Connolly
Photos: James Scarborough
Chapel Hill, NC
Once upon a time on a pitch far far away, a Hollywood-owned League Two football team, Wrexham, decided to take on a European Premier League giant, Chelsea.
With 50,596 fans watching, Wrexham’s defensive lineup, 3-5-2, was broken quite easily by the Blues as they jumped out to an early lead with a goal in the 3rd minute by Maatsen. After the first goal Wrexham started to settle down and went toe-to-toe with Chelsea; who finished 12th in the Premier League last year. However, in the 42nd minute Chelsea broke through the defensive setup to have Maatsen score his 2nd goal of the first half.
In the second half, Wrexham had a couple of chances to put some points on the board but ultimately fell short. As for Chelsea, after putting some of the starters on the pitch they were able to get 3 goals in the closing minutes (81st, 90th, 91st) of the second half. Ultimately the depth of players was noticeable between the two teams and proved too much for Wrexham.
Chelsea’s starting lineup was quite young and together the team only had 130+ total premier league appearances. Despite the youth the team was able to pull together a consistent attack against Wrexham. What does this mean for each team’s future? Only time will tell.
Wrexham is moving into the English Football League for the first time in over a decade and they actually held their own against Chelsea for a good portion of the match. The final stats showed the position was pretty much even with Wrexham having the majority at 51%. It was a good showing for the National League Champions and certainly sets them up well for the upcoming season. Maybe I have been taken in by the Wrexham story but I believe Wrexham will be promoted this season to League One. “Let’s Go Boys”
As for Chelsea they are returning only 6 players from last year’s preseason team and having to learn a new scheme under a new coach, Mauricio Pochettino. But, they looked to be in good form and will most likely improve in the standings over last year. This reporter has Chelsea finishing number 6 in the 2023-24 standings.
Though we have to wait and see what Happily Ever After looks like for both teams there is one thing that is fairly certain: “Chapel Hill was a GREAT host city for Premier league soccer match. The Fan Fest for both teams was well attended and all fans witnessed English-style Soccer”.
Here or across the pond… “It’s Soccer Y’all”!
Until our next time on the pitch,
Savannah #3 City To Visit: It Must Be Because Of The Clovers?
Savannah Clovers hosted Flower City Union in a NISA league match up at Memorial Stadium. The Clovers had plenty of chances but could not penetrate the back line of the visitors from Rochester, NY. Unfortunately, at the end of 90 minutes the number "3" on the scoreboard belonged to the visitors.
Char-Broiled Battle: Battery Need Extra Time To Defeat Independence in Open Cup
Charleston Battery of the USL-Championship won 1-0 against the Charlotte Independence of USL-One in extra time. The game winner was scored in the 113th minute by Nick Markanich as the teams left it all on the pitch Tuesday night under the Cooper River Bridge. Both teams' Back and Midfielder played exceptionally well, keeping several opportunities from developing into clean shots.
Charlotte Independence: Free Tickets and Free To Advance
Charlotte's USL-1 Independence defeated Appalachian FC of the NPSL in the 2nd round of the US Open Cup at the Mecklenburg Sportsplex.
Beautiful weather and free tickets brought in plenty of fans of both the Jacks and the 'Squatch. The Jacks scored in the 25th minute off a penalty in the box: low and left. And again in the 66th minute on some hustle generating a great cross from midfielder Flanagan finding the boot of Dimick and then the back of the net.
Charleston Battery Advances to 3rd Round of US Open Cup
Sean Connolly, Southern Pitch
Charleston started off slow while managing to handle the aggressive nature of the Savannah Clover’s play. After receiving 2 yellow cards in the first 15 minutes, one to a Charleston Battery assistant coach, the Battery started to calm down and dominate possession. The Battery lined up in a 3-4-1-2 formation. This proved to be the correct call since it continually provided an overload of attacking players causing Savannah problems the entire game. The formation saw the Battery crashing the nets with numerous shots on goal and 4 of them finding the back of the net.
One highlight of the Match was the professional debut of Charlie Dennis, an 18 year old Charleston native. As the final substitution in the 72 nd minute, he was well received when he took the pitch. His energy was abundantly apparent in his fearless tackles on the ball during the final 20 minutes.
Triumphant Start Of Spring In Greenville
Signs of spring abound in Greenville: The tulips are blooming in Reedy Falls park and the Reedy River Riot are singing their hearts out for the Triumph! The Triumph dropped their home opener in their new digs (Furman's Paladin Stadium) to the Richmond Kickers on a beautiful spring evening 0-1.
Squatch-tastic Start to US Open Cup
Cup newcomers Appalachian FC came out fast to a 2-nil in the first half lead, but had to hold on as a shorthanded (due to a late first half red card) NC Fusion squad tied it up 2-2. Appalachian then took the penalties 3-0 to advance. They will face Charlotte Independence on April 5th.
Southern Face-Off: ORL City 1 - CLT FC 2
Orlando City drops a home match to CLT FC just a few nights after being eliminated from Champions League on away goals. CLT earned their first points of the season in large part to the stellar play and 6 saves by their keeper George Marks
Lions, Tigres, and Red Cards... Oh My
UANL Tigres advance in the CONCACAF Champions League on away goals after drawing 1-1 with Orlando City. City had chances, but could not convert despite a last minute flurry by the home squad.
USMNT announces first Continental Clasico
US Soccer announced the new annual Continental Clasico. This will pit the USMNT against a top tier team from North, South, or Central America. The inaugural event will be April 19th in Phoenix against the Mexican national team.
ATL Scores Early, Guzman Shuts Out CLTFC
Atlanta United's 18 year old defender Caleb Wiley nets a pair of goals while 39 year old keeper Brad Guzman has a clean sheet against CLT FC. CLT FC is off to a slow start and hopes to bounce back next week.
ESPN Platform To Carry USL Matches
All USL Championship and League 1 matches to be carried on the ESPN platform this season! It is now easy to follow your favorite teams when you can't make it to the match. ESPN2 will carry 9 matches including both finals of USL-C and USL-1! The rest will be on ESPN+.
For more information click here!
USL-2 and USL-W 2023 Schedules
A USL Two and USL Women leagues released their 2023 schedules. These are some of the top pre-professional leagues in the country and many athletes are on their way to the professional leagues. Find a team near you and see some great play by players doing it for the love of the game.
Charleston Battery draws 0-0 with South Carolina Gamecocks
A chilly night both in temperature and in scoring. Both teams had chances throughout but some outstanding play by both keepers kept the sheets clean for the full 90 minutes.
Up next for the Battery is back at Patriots Point for a tilt with College of Charleston on Feb 22nd
South Georgia Tormenta 2 - Ga. St. 1
Big things are happening in little Statesboro. Last season's champs picked up a preseason victory over Georgia State. They got goals from former Tottenham player Kazaiah Sterling and Brazilian midfielder Pedro Fonseca.
Up next for the Tormenta is a home match against USL-Championship Tampa Bay Rowdies on Feb 25th
She Believes Cup: USA 2 - Canada 0
Team USA took the nightcap of the round-robin Cup format against neighbor Canada 2-0. Swanson got the scoring started early putting a cross into the back of the net just seven minutes in. She also added the second goal on a forced error by Canada's defense.
The US team includes a pair of players currently playing in the southeast: both from NC Courage: Defender Emily Fox, and back-up Keeper Casey Murphy
She Believes Cup: Brazil 1 - Japan 0
The 2023 edition of the She Believes Cup kicked off Thursday February 16 in Orlando, FL. Brazil took on Japan. While Japan's methodical attack created numerous opportunities, they just could not finish them off in the net. But the big story, and the loudest fan reaction (which includes the nightcap with team USA) was the return of Brazilian star Marta! Marta made an immediate impact with an assist on the afternoon's only goal.
The Brazilian national team includes 3 players currently playing in the southeast: Marta for the Orlando Pride, and midfielders Kerolin (NC Courage) and Ary (Racing Louisville)
NWSL 2023 Schedule Released
America's top flight women's soccer league released its 2023 schedule. Kicking off on March 25, teams will play a balanced 22 match schedule. Each team will face every other team once away and once home. The schedule also features for the first time in-season, the Challenge Cup, as teams are grouped into three 4 team "groups" and advancing to a short playoff.
More Information Here:
WPSL to launch Pro League
Fans of are demanding more, and the largest women's league, the WPSL has answered with plans to add a pro league as soon as 2024.
The WPSL PRO plans to launch with 10 teams and looks to grow to more than 24 teams by 2030, with soccer activities potentially beginning in some form as early as 2024. In addition to operating WPSL PRO, the WPSL will continue to elevate and expand its summer amateur league, as well as its WPSL U21 division which will continue to serve as a proving ground for young players looking to advance into the collegiate and pro ranks. In initiating at the DIII level of professional play, the WPSL PRO sees a tremendous opportunity to fill in the gap between the large base of women’s amateur and pre-professional soccer clubs and the top tiers of pro play.
Lamar Hunt US Open Cup first round March 21-23
Tuesday, March 21
El Farolito (NPSL) vs. International San Francisco (Calif.)
West Chester United SC (Pa.) vs. Ocean City Nor'easters (USLL2)
Wednesday, March 22
Club de Lyon/Open (Fla.) vs. Nona FC (USLL2)
Appalachian FC (NPSL) vs. NC Fusion U23 (USLL2)
Manhattan SC (USLL2) vs. FC Motown (NPSL)
Chicago House AC (Ill.) vs. Bavarian United (Wis.)
Beaman United FC (Tenn.) vs. Des Moines Menace (USLL2)
Tulsa Athletic (NPSL) vs. Brazos Valley Cavalry FC (USLL2)
UDA Soccer (N.M.) vs. Park City Red Wolves (USLL2)
Project 51O (USLL2) vs. Crossfire Premier (NPSL)
Thursday, March 23
Cleveland SC (NPSL) vs. Lionsbridge FC (USLL2)
Jacksonville Armada FC (NPSL) vs. Miami United FC (Fla.)
Hartford City FC (NPSL) vs. Lansdowne Yonkers (N.Y.)
Ventura County Fusion (USLL2) vs. Capo FC (Calif.)
The Remaining Rounds are as follows:
Second Round (April 4-6, 2023)
Teams entering this round are:
Rochester New York FC (MLS Next Pro)
NISA teams: Albion San Diego, Chattanooga FC, Club de Lyon (D3), Flower City Union, Gold Star FC, Los Angeles Force, Maryland Bobcats FC, Michigan Stars FC, Savannah Clovers
USL 1 Teams: Central Valley Fuego FC, Charlotte Independence, Chattanooga Red Wolves SC, Forward Madison FC
Greenville Triumph SC, Lexington SC, North Carolina FC, Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC, One Knoxville SC
Richmond Kickers, South Georgia Tormenta FC, Union Omaha
USL C Teams: Birmingham Legion FC, Charleston Battery, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Detroit City FC, El Paso Locomotive FC, Hartford Athletic, Indy Eleven, Las Vegas Lights FC, Loudoun United FC, Louisville City FC, Memphis 901 FC, The Miami FC, Monterey Bay FC, New Mexico United, Oakland Roots, Orange County SC, Phoenix Rising FC, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Rio Grande Valley FC, Sacramento Republic FC, San Antonio FC, San Diego Loyal SC, Tampa Bay Rowdies, FC Tulsa
Third Round (April 25-26)
Teams entering this round: Major League Soccer (8 entering in the Round of 32 and 18 entering in the Third Round):
Round of 32 (May 9-10, 2023), Round of 16 (May 23-24, 2023). Quarterfinals (June 6-7, 2023). Semifinals (August 23, 2023), and the Final (September 27, 2023)
FIFA Club World Cup kicks off February 1
The club world cup pits the winners of the 6 federation around the globe: Asian, African, CONCACAF, Europe, Oceania, and South American. The tournament is hosted by Morocco (giving the host an automatic slot). It opens with Auckland City (NZ) against Al Ahly (Egypt) with the winner advancing to play the American side Seattle Sounders, first MLS winners of the CONCACAF champions tournament (in its current format). Should Seattle win on Saturday, they would advance to face Real Madrid.
Image Courtesy of Seattle Sounders
MLS Flourishes in World Cup
The MLS was founded in 1993, The English league in 1888, La Liga in 1929. But the MLS has made tremendous strides to bring some of the best soccer to American fans. Outside the top 5 leagues in the world (England, Spain, Germany, Italy, and France) MLS had the most rostered players (36) and represented the most countries (12) of any other league. This includes Cup winner, Argentine Thiago Almada (ATL United)