The Buffalo & District Soccer League quarterfinals in premier and championship went largely as predicted. Sure, that's kind of boring, but it does set up some brilliant semifinal clashes this Sunday.
Interesting fact: Both premier division semifinal match-ups represent the third time this season that the clubs have squared off. In other words, they're very familiar with each other.
Let's take an in-depth look into the four semifinals and one rescheduled premier match that will decide the division's second relegated side.
*BN Soccer Match of the Week*
2016 meeting: Raiders won, 3-2, on July 17 behind goals from Kendell McFayden, Anthony Johnson and John Grabowski; Raiders also won handily in Tehel Cup, 4-1, on May 18
Last playoff meeting: Raiders won in penalties in the 2011 title game
How they got here: SoHo FC, with their second-place finish, earned a quarterfinal bye. BSC Raiders pulverized Celtic United, 5-0.
[Read: Scores and sums from the BDSL premier and championship quarterfinals last Sunday]
Keys for SoHo to win: SoHo didn't overhaul its 2015 roster after a third-place finish and a semifinal loss to Sharpshooters, but the moves they did make were savvy.
Adding Andy Tiedt back into the picture after a summer away made strike partner Ryan Mangano even more dangerous, while Nate Griffiths and Nick Szabo brought energy and pace to a team that needed it. Austin Tom's professional indoor experience turned him from a useful piece to difference-maker, and Pablo Ordonez's Pirlo-esque campaign (10 assists) came a little out of nowhere, at least statistically.
SoHo's physicality and toughness should keep the match tight against Raiders, who, given their history, are still the favorites despite their lower seed. SoHo must score early and force Raiders to bicker internally and chase the game instead of dictate.
Keys for Raiders to win: The two-time defending champions have already beaten SoHo once and can certainly do it again. Two things are key, though: Rocky Palmeiro's team must avoid any red cards, and keeper Will Boerema needs a strong match, because he will be tested.
If these two happen, then Raiders' pace going forward with McFayden, Johnson and Kwadwo Asante should supply enough goal-scoring to move on to the final.
SoHo's player to watch: Tiedt. The Tiedt-vs.-Waddington match-up will be fun to watch on both sides, as both veterans are crafty, use their bodies well and play with a bit of an edge. Don't be shocked if Tiedt pots a goal off a set piece.
Raiders' player to watch: Ryan Walter. The former Binghamton Bearcat can be an outstanding piece -- he can serve a ball from the right side, connects well with his brother, right back Chris, and can finish from distance. His emotional volatility is always a worry for Raiders, though, and the semi vs. SoHo could see tempers flare.
Prediction: 3-2, SoHo. Higher seed mounts an early lead through Mangano and holds on late.
2016 meetings: Clarence knocked Amherst out of the Tehel Cup, while Sharpshooters beat Clarence, 1-0, in the final league game of the regular season
Last playoff meeting: Have never faced each other in the postseason
How they got here: Sharpshooters won the regular-season title and earned a first-round bye, while the Yotes blanked Yemen Elite, 2-0
Keys for Amherst to win: With Regan Steele and Trevor Lawler both nursing injuries -- the former is more likely to play than the latter -- Sharpshooters' wealth of secondary scoring will be crucial.
Whether it's Eric Brodfuehrer, Brandon Loncar, Ricky Martinez or Justin Hofschneider, someone will need to step forward and help shoulder the burden against a very good Clarence defense. There's plenty of talent there, of course, but remember that Amherst have only scored once against the Yotes in 180 minutes so far this year.
Keys for Clarence to win: Clarence will be happy to concede possession if it means more chances on the counter. Even though they'll likely be without Andrea Conte, who's arguably been their best attacker this summer, due to injury, Derek Maier, Gary Boughton, J.J. Hughes and Tyler Hamill are all capable attackers, and A.C. LaFlore and Brendan Brody are threats off of set pieces.
The Yotes' defense is smart and fit enough to withstand a lot of pressure in their own third, but they must avoid getting worn down by Sharpshooters' unrelenting depth.
Amherst's player to watch: Martinez. He's useful all over the pitch, but he's also the team's vocal leader. Traits like that matter in important games that are expected to be close.
Clarence's player to watch: A.C. LaFlore. Moving from Sharpshooters to Clarence during this summer's transfer window in order to play with former Canisius College center-back partner Ryan Schroen, LaFlore has been animal for his new side.
Even if Steele is hobbled, the clashes between Sharpshooters' leading scorer and his former Griffs mate LaFlore will be worth the price of admission (which is free, of course).
Prediction: 2-1, Sharpshooters. Goals from Steele and Brodfuehrer are enough to vault Amherst to the final.
Primer: With 11 points, BUSS are safe from relegation, but Roos FC need a win from this rescheduled match to remain in the top flight. If Roos can muster three points, then Rogue FC would be the squad joining BSC International en route to the championship division.
Without Cory Carter, Miguel Rumbo and goalkeeper Matt Daddario available, BUSS will rely heavily on star striker Kyle Clifford, wily veterans Polo Suazo and Jeff Panik, and youngsters Josh Hammer, Sam Sutherland and Saleman Salim. Manager Bobby Calvaneso will fill in between the pipes, meaning the defense in front of him will need to be sharp.
For Roos, Daemen striker Alex Reid will miss the match due to injury, leaving the offense without its most potent scorer, but Sam Greco isn't far behind in production (seven goals, three assists) and should pick up the slack. Roos' pride is on the line here, and Michael Schieber's team has a lot more riding on the result.
Prediction: 4-1, Roos. Two from Greco, one apiece from Mike Skrzypczyk and Zack Thomas keep Roos from relegation.
Primer: Good midweek news for East Aurora FC, who trounced Rangers in the quarterfinals: Hat-trick hero Joe Vucic learned he would not be suspended for shotgunning a beer on the sideline at some point during the win. (Trust me, it felt all parts weird writing that.)
The next task is much tougher for EA, although these two sides were even through 85 minutes in their first meeting before Southtowns' Rob Booker slotted a rebound from a corner kick. Vucic has found his goal-scoring touch again, though, and his constant activity up front should be a thorn in Southtowns' side, even with Parker Healy expected to miss the match.
Led by Booker, Will Smith, Steve Fox and goalkeeper Bill Littere, SPFC simply do not give up goals, and East Aurora have struggled to take their chances this year, with the exception of Vucic's recent spurt.
Prediction: 2-1, Southtowns. Wade Bergum and Travis Hicks produce the offense in the narrow victory.
Primer: This is shaping up to be Sunday's marquee match in championship. It was Wolfpack who prevented Bantu from an undefeated league campaign, when Kyle Weaver and Scott Berardi scored in the 2-1 win on July 24.
Bantu have been too good this year to go out with a whimper, and an offense boasting Zein Abdulaziz, Mohamed Musse, Hassan Sabtow and Adan Mukumbira could erupt at any moment.
Wolfpack will want to make this match a slower-paced grind in the midfield and on defense, hoping that Weaver or Nick Cavalieri can break scythe through Bantu's defense on the counter attack.
Prediction: 3-2, Bantu. Wolfpack are 0-1 on turf this year, and they're about to be 0-2.
Email Ben Tsujimoto, who's an oasis of cleverness today, at firstname.lastname@example.org