Buffalo soccer fans will be treated to a St. Patrick's Day special, as the BSC Raiders - winners of both the premier division of the Buffalo & District Soccer League and the Tehel Cup - will host Rochester & District Soccer League squad Westside in a tournament play-in match.
The winner of the contest, scheduled for 2 p.m. March 17 at Sparky Adams Field (1299 Parker Blvd., Kenmore), will represent the Western New York region in the annual USASA Amateur Cup Region I competition, which begins in early April.
It's the second straight year the Raiders will represent Buffalo's men's league; they dodged a play-in game last year and, after beating TFC Gunners (Virginia), 2-0, fell to FC Motown, 2-1, at Nichols School.
Here's the roster that Raiders will carry for the match, comprising much of their expected roster for the 2019 season, with one or two exceptions.
[Update: BSC has added forward Kendell McFayden and midfielder Evan Walsh to the roster, below, on Friday morning. The Raiders will need to reduce the roster by one player - to get to 18 - by Sunday afternoon.]
No. 0: John Netter, goalkeeper
No. 00: Noah Smith, goalkeeper
No. 2: Tony Mermigas, forward
No. 5: Robert Williamson, forward
No. 7: Kyle Rogers, defender
No. 9: Rudy Pikuzinski, midfielder
No. 11: Casey Derkacz, defender
No. 12: John Grabowski, midfielder
No. 13: Ryan Walter, midfielder
No. 15: Colin O'Keefe, midfielder/forward
No. 18: Kyle Westerholt, midfielder
No. 20: Justin Wainwright, midfielder
No. 22: Anthony Johnson, defender
No. 23: Matt Grabowski, midfielder
No. 26: Devonte Black, midfielder/forward
No. 28: Chris Walter, defender
No. 90: Alex Osuch, defender
Manager: Rocky Palmeiro
Big, fast and organized, Raiders aren't a pleasant match-up for opponents. The back four is cohesive and physical, with University at Buffalo women's assistant Casey Derkacz organizing and distributing, Anthony Johnson tearing up the flank, Chris Walter tackling with ferocity and Kyle Rogers serving as the most underrated of the bunch.
[Related: 3 BSC Raiders defenders make the BDSL Best 18 of '18]
Alex Osuch, a physical presence in his own right, is also a regular starter in the back, particularly when Walter is deployed as a winger. Queenston FC's John Netter will likely start in goal; his length and distribution are assets.
The midfield is plucky, too, with a good balance of hard tacklers, composed players who keep the ball, pace and professional experience in Rudy Pikuzinski III and Ryan Walter.
If there's any area where Raiders are lacking, it's up front, as aside from converted defender Robert Williamson, who's been positioned as a target forward on BSC's indoor side at Sahlen Sports Park, the options are rather sparse. Colin O'Keefe has defense-stretching pace, even though he's more accustomed to a fullback role.
While Raiders' foe, Westside, has yet to submit an official roster, the RDSL side was heavily Hilton based last summer when it went 11-2-1, a vast improvement over its 5-7-2 mark a year prior.
SUNY Cortland product Nick Tata, a fleet-footed goal scorer; RIT's Simon Garno, a No. 10 type; and his college teammates Anthony DeFeo and Nick Simone, two more forwards, were some of the squad's most productive players.
Crafty Daemen College winger Anthony Cupello was part of Westside, too, but he suffered a severe injury last fall with the Wildcats.
The Hilton High School program has been outstanding in Section VI in the last five years, securing two sectional titles (2015, '18) in that span.
Additional notes: Should one of these Western New York teams win Sunday and then cruise through a tough regional bracket, they would then be pitted in a Final Four against the three other regional finalists, with the winner earning $15,000 and a place in the U.S. Open Cup for the following season. All four regional winners receive prize money.
The all-time BDSL vs. RDSL record remains knotted at one, with Sharpshooters falling to the Rochester River Dogz Reserves in 2017 and the BSC Raiders knocking off Italian-Americans SC in 2016. There was no RDSL entrant into last year's tournament.