Ninety-degree Sundays in Buffalo separate the wheat from the chaff in the BDSL, as several men's league clubs hope to make a last-season push up the table, whether it's out of the relegation zone or into the thick of the playoff race.
Here's the table heading into Week 8:
*BN Soccer Match of the Week*
Yemen Elite (3-2-2) at BSC Raiders (5-1-1)
6 p.m. Sunday at Nichols
Preview: It was an odd sight to see BSC Raiders relinquish a 5-1 lead against BUSS, settling for a draw that likely felt like a loss. With FC Buffalo in Rochester for a 3 p.m. match, it's likely that Rocky Palmeiro won't have striker Kendell McFayden and midfielders Chris Walter and Jack Donaldson available for much, if any, of the tilt against Yemen Elite.
The visitors are potent offensively, especially on turf, and have carved out three straight wins -- two against very good sides in Sharpshooters and Queenston -- to vault from 10th place to fifth. At this point, five teams are jockeying for the final two playoff spots, currently held by Elite and Rogue FC (by goal differential), with Queenston, Celtic United and FC Yemen are nipping at their heels.
Faress Saleh's defense has conceded only 1.67 goals per match over the win streak, after allowing 3.75 per match in the season's first four contests. Credit to Mo Kassem and Koby Sapon-Amoah for pulling together a back four that was once remarkably leaky. Elite captain Mateo Escobar won't be available for Sunday's clash, a substantial blow to the underdog's hopes.
Prediction: 3-2, Raiders. Kwadwo Asante has been flying the last few weeks, and he'll step forward again in the absence of the stars.
[Look back at the Week 7 scores and sums from BDSL premier & across the league]
Queenston FC (3-3-1) at SoHo FC (5-1-1)
2 p.m. Sunday at Nichols
Preview: The runner-up for Match of the Week is also at Nichols, where struggling Queenston will look to get back on track against SoHo FC, who've tossed aside whispers that they were too old and too slow, surging to third place.
The Parliament's defense will certainly be mindful of SoHo's prolific striker pairing of Andy Tiedt (four goals, four assists) and Ryan Mangano (seven goals), while also keeping an eye on distributor Pablo Ordonez (eight assists). Physical presences in Austin Tom and Bobby Ross make opponents think twice before charging through the SoHo midfield and back line.
Queenston are not without bite, though, either, as Dylan Duncan will go shoulder to shoulder with SoHo's strikers, while Greg Hoffman and Pat Eadie must rise to the occasion to deal with bigger, stronger players. Canisius-bound Troy Brady finally potted his first goal of the season last Sunday, possibly setting him up for a productive stretch run, and Ross Suitor will be a handful for SoHo.
Prediction: 2-1, SoHo. The slide continues for Queenston, while Josh Hall sticks in his first of the campaign.
Rogue FC (3-3-1) at Celtic United (3-4)
4 p.m. Sunday at Nichols
Preview: The transfer window hasn't been kind to Rogue, who saw the departures of co-manager Zack Thomas and reliable defender Alex Shafer to Roos FC. The visitors narrowly took down Division 3 side FK Bosnia, 1-0, behind an early Zack Schmidt volley in Tehel Cup action late last week, but the result wasn't particularly encouraging for a team eying the premier division postseason.
Perhaps the off-the-field move will aid the on-the-field chemistry, which has been hit-and-miss. Chris Cary looks like a nice addition to the back four.
Celtic United is the BDSL's version of Jekyll and Hyde, as Clarence resoundingly ended United's three-game win streak last week, 2-0. Standout midfielder Chris Berardi hasn't registered a point since his one-goal, three-assist showing against BUSS on June 5, and the offense tends to be quiet when the former Canisius College starter isn't scything through defenses.
Defender Ian Brown and midfielder Chris Barbolini have been two of the more unheralded contributors to Celtic United this year, but their consistency and quality will be central to knocking off Rogue.
Prediction: 3-2, Rogue. The winners' chemistry is better, and the Walshes take over.
BSC International (0-6-1) at Clarence Yotes (5-2)
6 p.m. Sunday at Clarence Town Park
Preview: Inter quietly made two smart adds during the transfer window, bringing in Buffalo State College attackers Devonte Black and Lorne Maxime. Both have heaps of pace -- Black, especially -- and can find the back of the net, something BSC International has been unable to do often this season. Will the duo's style fit in with and raise the level of the current squad? It's possible, but we're not convinced.
Inter's injection of offensive threats might worry Clarence a bit, but the Yotes' defense is resolute and organized in front of able keeper Len Previte. In terms of overall talent, Clarence should have no trouble putting away Inter, even if Gary Boughton is only there for half the match.
Prediction: 3-1, Clarence. Andrea Conte claims two of his own.
Sharpshooters (6-1) at Roos FC (0-5-2)
6 p.m. Sunday at Pierce Field in Mulroy Park
Preview: Roos have been the most active premier team during the transfer period, picking up midfielder Richie Gordon from BUSS and Zack Thomas and Alex Shafer from Rogue, while also regaining the services of previously injured Josh Beshaw.
How do these moves help? Roos now have more depth all over the pitch, and Beshaw, who's also training with FC Buffalo, will pair with Alex Reid to form an absurdly fast striker duo. Thomas should step into a central role with Mike Skrzypczyk, pushing Gordon and Sam Greco out to the wings.
It's possible these moves will be too little, too late for Roos, though, who seem determined to avoid relegation. The powerhouse Sharpshooters might sweat a bit defensively, and if Regan Steele, who scored his first NPSL goal for FC Buffalo on Friday, is part of the 18-man roster headed to Rochester on Sunday, then perhaps Amherst could be in for a surprise. Don't bet on it, though.
Prediction: 3-2, Sharpshooters. Eric Brodfuehrer strikes twice for Amherst while Beshaw tallies his first of the campaign.
FC Yemen (2-3-2) at BUSS (1-5-1)
6 p.m. Sunday at Sahlen Sports Park
Preview: Following the controversy from the forfeit win over Rogue, FC Yemen manager Taha Omar has shuffled his roster a bit, sending Adan Mukumbira, who just was sent off last week, back to Buffalo Bantu, while bringing on Antonio Toe, Harry Alkadi and former Oswego State defender Greg Blette for the stretch run. Mohamed Harhara and Otmane Boussag, two defenders, are suspended for this game.
Booming with confidence after erasing a four-goal deficit to draw Raiders last Sunday, BUSS could use a win to distance themselves from relegation worries. Striker Kyle Clifford should have his way with FC Yemen's makeshift back line, while youngsters Saleman Salim and Sam Sutherland (a mouthful when said together) have already made an impact on an older side.
Prediction: 2-2 draw. I have a strong hunch there will be a red card in this fiery match.
Email Ben Tsujimoto, who's never gotten a red card, at email@example.com