The remembrance of longtime Buffalo District Soccer League player Chris Pepper continues on Sunday, as most teams across the league will pause for a moment of silence in the seventh minute to honor a positive, well-liked man who died last week.
Soho FC and BSC Raiders stopped their Tehel Cup match to reflect on Pepper's impact, and even the Buffalo Bandits, for whom Pepper was a trainer, held a moment of silence before Saturday night's playoff game.
Here's the breakdown of Week 4 in the BDSL's premier division:
*Match of the Week*
BSC Raiders (3-0) at Amherst Sharpshooters (3-0)
2 p.m. Sunday at Nichols School
Preview: The only two teams without blemish square off in a matinee Sunday, and both sides will feel the effects of a busy soccer weekend. Raiders' Kendell McFayden and Chris Walter featured for FC Buffalo in Cleveland on Saturday, while Matt Waddington and John Grabowski were instrumental in winning the first G.O.A.L.S. Premier Cup futsal tournament in Buffalo RiverWorks.
Sharpshooters' Brandon Loncar, Eric Brodfuehrer, Ricky Martinez, Justin Hofschneider, Ben Mozg and Zack Wood fell in the semifinals, so fatigue could play a role in this possible title-game preview. Amherst enters the match as one of two teams (Panthers) in the entire BDSL to not concede a goal so far this year, as Adam Durst has been a rock in net in front of a deep back four.
Sharpshooters could have an advantage in the middle of the park, as the departures of Raiders' Ian Mort and Rudy Pikuzinski III have led to several players trying to occupy those roles. BSC midfielder Kyle Westerholt was terrific in the Tehel Cup win over Soho, moving the ball quickly and smartly, and Casey Derkacz can push higher up the field, if need be.
Prediction: 1-1 tie. Heavy legs are felt, but McFayden and Steele both solve the opposing keeper.
FC Yemen (1-0-2) at Soho FC (1-1-1)
2 p.m. Sunday at Nichols School
Preview: It's been a trying week for many players on Soho, as several were close friends with Pepper given the club's former association with Celtic. Missing five key contributors against BSC Raiders didn't help, and it's unclear how many will return for Sunday's clash.
Outstanding fullback Jake Rinow is closer to returning -- it's possible he suits up against FC Yemen -- while Bobby Ross continues to recover from a broken nose suffered against Sharpshooters last week. Austin Tom and Nick Szabo had bright moments against Raiders, but striker Ryan Mangano left early with a knock.
A goal from Abdul Al-Shaebi against Roos was a positive sign for FC Yemen, taking some of the burden off maestro Abdulawi Mohamed, but the team can't be pleased with conceding a tying goal in stoppage time. Adan Mukumbira and Bassam Harhara -- both talented attackers -- are goal-less on the season, as Taha Omar's club is getting desperate for the return of Nageeb Ali from overseas.
Prediction: 2-1, Soho. Their advantage in size and toughness pays dividends as Andy Tiedt gets a pair from set pieces.
Yemen Elite (0-2-1) at Roos FC (0-2-1)
4 p.m. Sunday at Mulroy Pierce Field
Preview: Yemen Elite earned its first positive result of the year last week, knotting 12-man Rogue FC at 2, and new additions Koby Sapon-Amoah, Adel Rahman and Clint Holcomb have given Faress Saleh's team a spark. Elite's defense is still struggling -- their 10 goals conceded are tied for second-most in premier, and the club's first game of the year on turf might further test the pace of the back four.
Don't look now, but Roos' attacking trio of Alex Reid, Sam Greco and Mike Skrzypczyk is close to breaking out. Reid's pace will worry Elite's defense, even if Skrzypczyk is pushed a little farther back to help neutralize Elite's waves of attackers.
Roos' defense is a little underrated, too, as the quartet of Kurtis Maloney, Nick Clay, James Knapp and Garrett Rehner has the right combination of speed, tackling and toughness. But the home side isn't especially deep, and losing Scott Schuler and Josh Beshaw to serious injuries doesn't help the cause.
Prediction: 3-2, Yemen Elite. I tried to talk myself into giving Roos another point, but Elite could produce some fireworks on turf.
Rogue FC (2-0-1) at Clarence (2-1)
6 p.m. Sunday at Clarence Town Hall
Preview: The runner-up for match of the week moseys out to Clarence, which comes off an impressive 2-1 win over BUSS on the road. J.J. Hughes is making a claim for an All-Premier Team spot at center mid, while Andrew Incho and Andrea Conte should see joy against an overachieving Rogue back line.
The Yotes' two center backs -- Ryan Schroen and Chris Cournan -- will have their hands full with the Walsh brothers, Hunter and Evan, while struggling midfielder C.J. Scirto is bound to get going at some point. Attendance was a curious issue for a Rogue team with success out of the gate, and it will be interesting to see what both teams' numbers are on Sunday.
Prediction: 2-2. Schroen and Cournan hold the Walsh brothers at bay, but captain Zack Thomas strikes a late equalizer for the visitors.
BSC International (0-2-1) at Celtic United (0-3)
6 p.m. Sunday at Nichols School
Preview: If one of these teams deserves a win, it's probably Celtic United, who've played Soho, Sharpshooters and Raiders with unenviable numbers. United's addition of St. Bonaventure defender Nikko Richards is savvy, but he's not going to solve their goal-scoring problem. Perhaps Brandon Galanti will surge after scoring twice in Tehel Cup action.
Inter was blown out by Queenston, 5-0, last week, and the same question haunts Ross Karipidis' team: Who is going to score the goals? We've been waiting for Nate Holler or Paul Johnson to step forward, but it hasn't happened on the score sheet yet.
Prediction: 2-1, Celtic United. Inter shows progress but Celtic United prevails.
Queenston (1-1-1) at BUSS (1-2)
6 p.m. Sunday at Sahlen Sports Park
Preview: Queenston makes the long jaunt to Elma for a tilt against BUSS, which is coming off a disappointing 2-1 loss to Clarence. The Parliament proved the advantage of youth in last week's 5-0 spanking of Inter, as Frank Cotroneo and Ross Suitor thrived in their season debuts.
A 5-2 extra-time win over Lakeside in Tehel Cup was one of the stranger results you'll see, but it was Suitor again who caught fire for Queenston in the bonus period, highlighted by a bending set piece.
BUSS won't back down from a challenge, both in opponent and in 50-50s. They pace premier with seven yellow cards, as the team has a nasty streak that can be tough to play against. Kyle Clifford will be a handful for Queenston's back four, and Josh Hammer and Cory Carter appear to be sound additions.
We'll see if BUSS will respond to manager Bobby Calvaneso's frustration following the loss to Clarence. [Updates, noon May 22: Kyle Clifford won't be available for BUSS, while Cotroneo isn't expected for Queenston. So that changes things.]
Prediction: 2-1, Queenston. Clifford's absence is too much for BUSS to overcome.
Email Ben Tsujimoto at firstname.lastname@example.org