Update, Aug. 10: After a vicious lightning storm prevented the Tehel Cup final from being played last Thursday, the championship match between BUSS and Yemen Elite will run at 8:30 tonight at Sweet Home High School.
Both teams are expected to field roughly the same size roster for the match, as BUSS are hurting after Hunter Sherman and Hunter Walsh earned red cards in the BDSL premier division semifinal. It's unclear if Rich Williams, who was given a red card following Sunday's game, will be available, although BUSS have tweeted their outside back will be eligible.
Yemen Elite are expected to have a trio of players in attendance for the final that did not feature in the semifinal victory over Pendleton, as Onondaga Community College striker Georges Betoubam (No. 13), former SUNY Poly midfielder Matthew Owusu (No. 22) and former FC Buffalo substitute striker Dan Barrie (No. 11) will join the side. Ali Adil, who was influential going forward against the Lions, remains out of town.
Read more on the incident that led to Sherman's suspension, below. Both Walsh and Williams were given red cards for dissent, to the head referee, after the final whistle.
It was just three years ago when Yemen Elite were 90 minutes from tasting Tehel Cup glory. Faress Saleh's team battled Queenston but fell short, 1-0, surrendering a first-half penalty kick and then failing to break down the Parliament despite relentless offensive pressure.
Whom did Elite beat to reach that championship game? None other than their opponent in the 2017 Tehel Cup final, Buffalo United Soccer Stars, 2-1 (4-2 in penalty kicks). The stage is set for a possible classic title match, so let's set the stage for Thursday's showdown.
Last meeting: BUSS beat Elite handily, 4-0, in league play on May 21.
Victims en route:
BUSS: Niagara FC (5-0), BSC Inter (4-1), Roos FC (8-1), Buffalo Bantu (4-2), FC Yemen (3-0)
Yemen Elite: Great Lakes Africa (2-1), Panthers (2-1), Williamsville Willies (2-1), Pendleton United (3-1)
Know the teams:
BUSS: The favorite - judging by the previous meeting and premier division standings - comes at you in waves. Abdi Sabtow (No. 99) and Mo Hussein (No. 10) have excelled in the attacking third recently, while Mohamed Musse (No. 6) pulls the strings in the middle of the park with pesky Yony Guardado (No. 77).
George Tor (No. 7), Kyle Clifford (No. 25) and Hunter Walsh (No. 17) round out a fearsome forward trio, while Polo Suazo (No. 13), Josh Hammer (No. 12), Mike Malcolm (No. 8), Prince Saysay (No. 3) and Rich Williams (No. 11), among others, form a solid defensive corps in front of Drew Colosimo.
How BUSS can win: Wear down Elite's defense with threatening possession, combining in the attacking third and forcing Yemen's relatively patchwork defense to concentrate for long periods. Poise will be an important trait.
Yemen Elite: Elite have plenty of pace and quickness on the wings, but it's center midfielder Mateo Escobar (No. 10) who sets everything in motion. His brace in the semifinals broke Pendleton's spirit, and his impact routinely goes well beyond the score sheet - he's the motivator, organizer and leader by example.
The early-season addition of striker Kerri Pryce (No. 24) has paid dividends, as the former Elmwood Saint is strong, fast and a capable finisher. Despite falling ill before the semifinal against upstart Pendleton, Pryce was a constant menace throughout the first 60 minutes.
Dan Barrie, who grew up playing in English Premier League youth academies, has been available only sporadically this season, but his appearance would be a major boost.
Although fleet-footed Ali Adil won't be available for the final, Kovan Menr (No. 7), Layth Alaekada (No. 9), Matthew Owusu (No. 22) and Steve Ruotsi (No. 5) give Saleh plentiful midfield options, and former pro Pete Marlette (No. 8) has transitioned into a center back role.
How Elite can win: Win 50-50 balls in the midfield and put BUSS on their heels by scoring first. Frustrate their foe into playing long balls and get a good outing from goalkeeper Billy Hanford. Create chances off set pieces - a situation in which Escobar is especially gifted.
Fearless prediction: 4-1, BUSS. Ali Adil's absence will slow Elite's attack a bit, and BUSS' wealth of attacking options will be too much to overcome.
Tehel Cup fact: Only BSC Raiders have won back-to-back titles (2011-12) in the last decade of the yearly tournament, which began in 1925 - making it the oldest amateur soccer tournament in the United States.
Get there early: The final of the Wood Cup runs at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 3, also at Sweet Home High School. Los Chupacabras, who still have a chance at the Treble, square off against the Youngstown Marksmen. The two sides settled with a scoreless draw in their lone meeting of the season.