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BDSL Championship Sunday preview for all divisions

Expect a festival atmosphere on Sunday at Nichols School, where six playoff soccer matches spread across two fields will rumble from 1:30 to 8 p.m. All games are free to attend, and one of Lloyd Taco's fleet of food trucks will post up in the parking lot behind the hockey rink from 3 to 7 p.m.

With the exception of the Over-35 division, all levels of the Buffalo & District Soccer League will be represented, from the bottom tier (third division) to the top (premier). The match times are staggered intentionally so viewers can take in parts of the games that overlap.

Many of the clubs participating in the games below have already secured promotion to a higher division for 2018, but advancing to the next tier is even sweeter when it's accompanied by a league title.

Here's a look at all six matches to be played Sunday:


No. 3 BSC Raiders (9-2-2) vs. No. 5 Soho FC (8-5)
5:30 p.m. at Nichols (Strauss-Truscott)

Last meeting: Raiders beat Soho, 4-2, on May 7.

Context: Either Raiders and/or Soho have been in every premier division championship game since 2008, the year the BDSL began tracking detailed results (one year, 2010, was an exception, as premier ran as a yearlong table without playoffs).

The most recent title game match-up between these two sides came in 2011, when Raiders topped Soho in penalty kicks after a scoreless match. This is a rematch of last year's premier semifinal, which Soho barely won, also in penalty kicks, despite BSC dressing only 10 players.

Checking in on Raiders: BSC pulled off perhaps the league's greatest playoff comeback last Sunday, reversing a three-goal deficit, down a man, to shock Buffalo United Soccer Stars (BUSS) 4-3 on Kendell McFayden's overtime header. Raiders showed their mettle in the face of adversity, cutting into BUSS' lead with relentless pressure and chance-creation, especially off of set pieces drawn by their own assertiveness.

BDSL scores, sums for premier, championship semis

BSC will be without starting goalkeeper Ryan Arvin due to coaching responsibilities, but center back Matt Waddington has filled in on several occasions this season. Rudy Pikuzinski III, who earned a red card for an elbow against BUSS, will also miss the match to serve his suspension.

Anthony Johnson, Kyle Rogers, Ryan Walter and Casey Derkacz played crucial roles in Raiders' comeback victory.

Route to the final: Beat East Aurora, 3-1; Beat BUSS, 4-3 in 2OTs.

Player to watch: McFayden. He wasn't his best against BUSS, but the FC Buffalo forward remains a game-breaker who thrives historically against Soho.


Checking in on Soho: Few gave Soho a chance to knock off defending champions Sharpshooters last Sunday, but the Burgers grilled the favorites, 4-1, behind brilliant efforts from hat-trick-hero Pablo Ordonez and center back Andrew Larracuente.

An interesting wrinkle to Soho's expected side Sunday is the return of Andy Tiedt and Steve Butcher from three-game suspensions. Jay Manno's team has had sparse attendance due to injury, suspensions and commitments over the last several weeks, but there should be some relief on the way for the title game.

Jake Montante has excelled late in the season as an offensive-minded midfielder; can the former Canisius High School standout continue his run of clutch production? Kyle Wiatrowski, Dave Hogan, Austin Tom and Josh Hall round out a very good Soho side.

Route to final: Beat Clarence, 2-1; Upset Sharpshooters, 4-1.

Player to watch: Ryan Mangano, one of the best goalscorers in Western New York history, has scored nine this season and provided six assists. He's smooth on the ball, deceptively quick and a natural finisher. How will he handle a notoriously physical Raiders back four?

Prediction: Soho snags their first premier trophy since 2013 with a 3-2 win in extra time.

Related: See what happened in the Tehel Cup Final between two premier sides:

Yemen Elite down BUSS in penalty kicks, claim Tehel Cup



No. 1 Southtowns FPFC (8-2-2) vs. No. 2 Wolfpack (7-1-4)
5:45 p.m. at Nichols (Peek)

Last meeting: 1-1 draw on July 9.

Game overview: It's hard to find two more similar teams than Wolfpack and Southtowns, who've both earned promotion to the premier division for 2018 by winning their semifinal matches, both by a score of 1-0.

The playoff victories were a redemption story for Southtowns, which came inches away from reaching the top tier after last season, and a terrific parting gift for Wolfpack manager Kyle Hanavan, who will move to youth soccer coaching duties after Sunday's final.

Checking in on Southtowns: The No. 1 seed shutdown red-hot Noah Keem last weekend through the efforts of pesky Will Smith and an organized defense in front of James Quinn. Expect usual goalkeeper Bill Littere to return to the role for Sunday's final, but there's no step down in quality.

SFPFC will be comfortable playing against Wolfpack's rugged style, and expect golden scoring chances to be sparse. Elias Kubera and Travis Hicks are the primary scoring threats, but Sean MacLean, Smith and Phil Pinzone have all popped in big goals this campaign.

Route to the final: Bye; Beat Beast City SC, 1-0.

Player to watch: Kubera might be a bit of a powder keg with his temper, but he easily possesses the most creativity and flair in an otherwise gritty squad.

Checking in on Wolfpack: Wolfpack weathered Willies' offensive storm in the semifinal, trusting a defense and goalkeeper that had guided them forward all season.

Former UB and FC Buffalo midfielder Braden Scales, who started up front but often dropped back into the middle third, scored the match's lone goal on a header, while keeper Andrew Renkas stood tall against Williamsville's flurry of late chances, including a smash by Jeff Bellinger from close-range in the final minute.

High-effort Caleb Richards is fun to watch patrol one flank, while Brian Terpin anchors a defense that is tough to break down. Eric Russell and Scott Berardi were Wolfpack's two most dangerous midfielders against Willies.

Like Southtowns, Wolfpack is a bit of an older side by the BDSL's standards, which means they won't be affected considerably by the return of NCAA Division I soccer players to their respective programs.

Caleb Richards, foreground, keeps his footing as he's pursued by Ian Harris. (Ben Tsujimoto/Buffalo News)

Route to the final: Bye; Beat Williamsville Willies, 1-0.

Player to watch: Matt McCoy. A no-frills center midfielder, McCoy's touch is outstanding and his decision-making with the ball equally as good. He's a well-developed player who doesn't have any obvious weaknesses.

Prediction: 1-1 after 120, Wolfpack win in penalty kicks.



No. 4 Polonia (8-4-1) vs. No. 7 Pendleton (7-3-3)
3:45 p.m. at Nichols (Peek)

Last meeting: 6-4, Pendleton, on May 21.

Game overview: Longtime BDSL squad Polonia have flip-flopped between the second and third tiers for several seasons; their 5-2 stomping of Tonawanda in the semifinal will give the red-and-white another chance at sticking in championship next season.

Pendleton, on the other hand, have earned promotion in each of its two years of existence, as well as made noise in the Tehel Cup - falling to eventual champion Yemen Elite in the semifinals.

Yemen Elite silence Pendleton, face BUSS in Tehel Cup final

Checking in on Polonia: The playoffs have been a bit of a breeze for Polonia, dropping SPAL 4-1 and Tonawanda 5-2. A side typically known for its defense-first mentality has blossomed as an offensive force this year - Medaille-bound David Mack (eight goals), fellow youngster Jake Kowalewski (six goals, six assists) and Justin Bracci (six goals) have taken their chances well.

The defense is built around aggressive Derek Andrews, experienced Matt Marcinkiewicz and two-way threat Nick Donner, but the collective unit has been exposed by faster teams - like Pendleton - at times this season.

Route to final: Beat SPAL, 4-1; Beat Tonawanda, 5-2.

Player to watch: Both George Wallenfels and Chuck Donner are over the age of 45, but they've been key cogs in Polonia's success over the last four summers. That's very impressive longevity.

Checking in on Pendleton: The Lions have roared through another strong campaign, as the young, confident group rebounded from a potential summer-shattering loss to Grand Island in league play to blank two favored foes, West Side and NMB, in consecutive playoff contests.

Forward Kyle Jones (11 goals) can be a one-man wrecking ball up front, while Fredonia-bound Sam Wagner has bolstered his production late in the season. K.J. Maldiner, Mike Wright, Jake Ratka, Justin Bender, Jake Graham and Mike Juszczak are some of the other quality members of a Lions' side that's high on continuity.

Route to final: Beat West Side, 2-0; Beat NMB, 1-0.

Player to watch: Jones didn't look out of place against Yemen Elite in the Tehel Cup semifinals, suggesting he's a premier-level forward. There's some worry that he can be contained by constant defensive attention, though - Polonia will have a plan - which puts a little more pressure on fellow attackers Maldiner, Justin Bender and Wagner.

Prediction: 2-1, Pendleton, who continue their run of strong defensive efforts.



No. 1 Los Chupacabras vs. No. 3 Blizzard SC
3:30 p.m. at Nichols (Strauss-Truscott)

Last meeting: 4-0, Los Chupacabras, on June 25.

Game overview: You'll be impressed by the caliber of this final, even if it's the BDSL's second division (fourth tier). These two promoted sides are examples of the "new wave" BDSL, which emphasizes youth, speed and togetherness rather than experience, grit and physicality.

The Blizzard are surely the underdogs given the result of their previous meeting and all of Los Chupacabras' 2017 achievements, but strange things can happen in a one-match final.

Checking in on Los Chupacabras: The 2017 Wood Cup champions can earn the treble on Sunday (regular season division title, tournament winner and playoff champion) if they can continue their fine run of form.

Jeremy Bari, Jeff Calkins and Noah Seiler have been buzzing offensively this summer, while the late additions of Colin Allen and Trevor McCabe have strengthened the squad for the stretch run. The Chupas defense, buoyed by center back Jordan Calkins and netminder Tim Calkins, has permitted just six goals all season and have yet to concede in the playoffs.

Route to the finals: Beat WNY Reds, 1-0; Beat Honey Badgers, 2-0.

Player to watch: Bari, who scores goals for fun, suffered a concussion two weeks ago, and his status is uncertain.

Checking in on Blizzard FC: It's been an odd season for the Blizzard, who won two late-season match-ups by forfeit, the most controversial coming in the quarterfinals, where FC Yemen II started an ineligible player in net and won 3-2, only to have the result reversed as punishment.

The two-man punch of Justus Hoffmann and Mo Channer have combined for a whopping 24 goals in league play, while the late-season transfer additions of Andrew Brobbey and Joe Boahen from premier side Bantu have made a noticeable difference. In fact, it's the addition of this pair that hints at a closer final than many anticipate.

Route to the finals: Beat FC Yemen II in a forfeit due to ineligible player; Beat Ukraine, 4-1 in OT.

Player to watch: Bryce Parker-Norton is one of the few goalkeepers in the division capable of stealing a game, but he won't be able to do that Sunday after suffering a serious knee injury in the regular season. Fill-in keeper Cameron Farrugia will have to exceed expectations for Blizzard to stave off Los Chupas' balanced offense.

Prediction: Los Chupacabras cap the treble in uncomfortable fashion, beating the Blizzard, 5-2.


(Three teams earn promotion from D2 to D1 due to the size of the two divisions. Three teams were relegated from Division 1.)

No. 4 Ukraine (9-4) vs. No. 7 Honey Badgers (6-4-3)
2 p.m. at Nichols (Peek)

Last meeting: The two teams did not meet this season.

Game overview: The first time in recent memory that the BDSL has slated a 'promotion game,' pitting the two semifinal losers against each other for a chance to get pulled up to first division in 2018. Ukraine put up the best fight of the two in the semifinals, taking Blizzard SC to overtime before completely melting down in the 4-1 final.

Ukraine's player to watch: Newcomer Pedro Alba (13 goals) is an offensive menace - he's a bulldog in the attacking third and a clinical finisher for a midfielder. Don't sleep on Dmitriy and Vadim Belous, either, as the pair has combined for 11 goals and 15 assists this season.

Honey Badgers' players to watch: Maryvale alums Joey Gabor, Mike Gandt and Brian Grabiec lead the charge for Honey Badgers, a first-year side in the BDSL. The latter two are expected to be in attendance for this crucial clash. Kenny Anderson, a late-season addition to the roster, has potted four goals in three appearances and is dynamic with the ball.

Prediction: 2-2 after regulation, Honey Badgers advance in penalties.



No. 2 Revolution SC (11-1) vs. No. 4 Great White Buffalo (9-2-2)
1:30 p.m. at Nichols (Strauss-Truscott)

Last meeting: 1-0, Revolution SC, on July 9.

Revolution SC's players to watch: Ryan Pulaski hit double-figures in goals, with 11, while Dan Pulaski returned from injury late in the season to give the side a lift. Andy Page, Chad Sleiman, Corey DeVille and Frank Huber are solid, loyal members to the team formerly known as C.S. Italia. After a bye in the quarterfinals, Revolution took down Aurora Arsenal II, one of the division's preseason favorites.

Great White Buffalo's players to watch: James Mikulski finished the summer with the most league goals (15) of any player in the BDSL, while Mich Mendez, Ryan Mierzwa and Andy Beringer have all proven to be important pieces in a side that beat two quality sides in Moby Ducks and Devils to reach the final.

Prediction: Great White Buffalo reigns supreme, 2-1.





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