Week 2 of the Buffalo & District Soccer League season is strewn with compelling match-ups, with a rising young side tangling with one of the league's elite, and the two combatants from one of the greatest playoff games the BDSL has ever seen jousting again.
After a first week that saw some surprise results - at least in reference to our premier division season preview - there could be even more fireworks on Sunday.
BUSS (0-0-1) at BSC Raiders (0-0)
8 p.m. at Sparky Adams Field (Kenmore East).
BUSS update: It's probably too early in the season to tell whether BUSS drew a better-than-expected BSC International team or the orange were guilty of under-performing in the 1-1 final. Let's call it a bit of both. Polo Suazo struck for BUSS' lone goal on a well-taken penalty kick, but the absence of Hunter Sherman (suspension) and a quiet debut from Mo Channer resulted in an unusually docile attack.
Bobby Calvaneso and Suazo's team will miss Hunter Walsh, who's been FC Buffalo's most prolific attacker in Germany, and goalkeeper Bryce Tramuta due to the NPSL club's preseason trip overseas. Tim Clark, BUSS' starter last year, will likely deputize in goal.
Raiders update: After rescheduling their Week 1 clash due to the Werner Fricker Cup semifinal, Raiders will finally kick off their 2019 campaign with a rematch of the wacky 2017 playoff overtime thriller. And it could be a slow start for Rocky Palmeiro's team, which will suffer the most from FC Buffalo's jaunt to Germany.
Kendell McFayden, Casey Derkacz, John Grabowski, Chris Walter, Colin O'Keefe and Robert Williamson all won't be available, leaving 14 players - at most - for Sunday's game.
How they match up: While neither side will be at full strength, the numbers decidedly favor BUSS, who will be itching to enter the win column. Raiders will need a resolute match from Jeremy Figler, Anthony Johnson and Kyle Rogers in their own third, as the defense will be patched together and be tasked with marking two big bodies in Channer and Kyle Clifford.
Expect a physical match with a couple yellow cards and some vicious tackles.
Prediction: BUSS pulls the upset, 2-1.
Amherst Sharpshooters (1-0) at Williamsville Willies (1-0)
4 p.m. at Nichols School (Strauss-Truscott)
Sharpshooters update: Amherst knocked often and dominated possession in its 2-1 win over Southtowns FPFC last Sunday, with Brandon Loncar depositing the winner on a penalty kick he drew himself. A bright BDSL debut by Clarence High School midfielder Taha Ahmed was a major story line, while former Williamsville East striker Ben Woolingham potted Sharpshooters' first tally.
Attendance will be even more thin this Sunday, however, with Ali Shawish and Theo Pencic in Germany and Andrew Crawford, Sharpshooters' best player last season, finishing his semester at Rider. Versatile Cody Rouse is expected to slide into the back four with Ricky Martinez, RJ Grampp and Zack Wood out; goalkeeper James Quinn will be tested quite often, it seems.
Willies update: Despite getting relegated last year, Willies benefited from Soho's drop two divisions to remain in premier. And they looked like they belonged in the top flight on Sunday, snuffing out Queenston, 1-0, behind Justin Bonetto's first-half goal that was created by newcomer Connor Wilkinson, BDSL Rumors' premier player of the week.
Willies management dipped into the pool of Mercyhurst Lakers, adding center midfielder Wilkinson and defender Andy Bennett to returnees Ian Harris and Eric Steinwachs. Williamsville looked lively and creative in the first 45 minutes before bunkering down to protect their lead, absorbing Queenston's second-half pressure without conceding.
How they match up: Sharpshooters, who'd be the favorite in this match if both teams were full strength, will be forced to grind out a result against a Willies team teeming with confidence. Trevor and Brendan Lawler's group has the experience to do so, but fitness will play a role in whether the Reds can hold up for 90.
Manufacturing goals will again by the biggest challenge for Williamsville, which still lacks the poacher required to put games away. Still, the midfield and back four is outstanding, with few weaknesses. With Mercyhurst's graduation set for Sunday, Williamsville might be short some quality. Graham Harris, a longtime Sharpshooter, will play his first match against his former mates.
Prediction: Sharpshooters grind out a 1-1 draw, a result that would likely please both teams.
Lackawanna FCY (1-0) at Celtic United (0-0)
6 p.m. at Crosby Field (Kenmore)
Lackawanna update: FCY destroyed Pendleton United, 4-0, in the biggest margin of victory of the five premier division matches. Nageeb Ali scored once and facilitated another, with Zakaria Shaibi, Mateo Escobar and Abdullahi Hussein joining him on the score sheet.
In a league rife with dynamic offenses, Taha Omar's team can make a case to be the most athletic, as the additions of Shaibi and Hussein help offset Shawish's departure. They'll be without Ali Mohamed, who earned a roster spot for FC Buffalo and has seen action in Germany, but there's depth to compensate. If the back four can hold up, Lackawanna FCY will be a playoff team.
Celtic United update: Despite seeing their opener postponed due to Raiders' tournament match, United blew the doors off fellow Celtic team, D1's Brigade, on Thursday in Tehel Cup, 5-2, with the losing side calling it quits at halftime.
Alex Reid and Pablo Ordonez each scored twice, with Josh Beshaw adding a single tally; five different players collected assists. The Tehel Cup first-round clash served as a nice tune-up for a team with something to prove in 2019. Celtic has all the ability in the world, but intangibles have been their demons in the past.
How they match up: This has real potential to be game of the week, and that's saying something, considering the two games above. We'd put the over-under at five goals in this one, and taking the over would be smart.
Prediction: 4-3, Celtic United.
Southtowns FPFC (0-1) at Wolves FC (0-1)
6 p.m. at Sparky Adams Field (Kenmore East)
Southtowns update: Limiting Sharpshooters to two goals can be seen as a positive for Southtowns, which will likely spend this season fighting to avoid relegation. Colin Archibald, a touted youngster in his first year with SFPFC, snatched a rather fluky goal, but they all count the same.
Scott MacLean's squad saw its leaders rise to the occasion in Phil Pinzone and Will Smith, who worked feverishly to break up attacks and clog the middle of the field, keeping the game close. There's certainly room for growth here, even if Southtowns might not out-possess an opponent all year.
Wolves update: A disappointing Week 1 for Wolves, which dropped a 1-0 decision to Clarence. Missing Joe Vucic, the ballyhooed striker signing this spring, and Francesco Cardillo were two big holes for Andy Renkas' team, which still managed to create enough to worry Clarence. Better days are ahead for Wolves, as Vucic's work rate up front will make life easier for the rest of the side.
How they match up: This is a pretty crucial match for Wolves; dropping to 0-2 against two beatable foes would present an uphill climb. These two teams are very similar in style, preferring to dominate their foes physically rather than with finesse. The Will Smith-Vucic match-up will be one to watch, with the former Hamburg Bulldog often up for 1-vs.-1 challenges.
Prediction: Wolves win comfortably, 2-0. Renkas nabs his first clean sheet of the season.
Queenston FC (0-1) at Pendleton United (0-1)
8 p.m. at Sweet Home High School
Queenston update: It wasn't that Queenston played poorly in Week 1's 1-0 loss to Williamsville, but the lack of finishing was a little worrisome once they got on the ball more second half. Attendance will be weak Sunday thanks to State Cup matches for New York West, meaning the Parliament's veterans will be asked to play more minutes.
Aside from the game's lone goal, center backs Marcus D'Aguiar and Adam Winkworth looked comfortable in their roles and could have an easier time of it Sunday, which means Queenston should feel comfortable taking more risks going forward. Expect Ross Suitor to get on the score sheet for the fluorescent yellow.
Pendleton update: A shaky premier division debut by PUFC wasn't wholly unexpected, but the 4-0 scoreline against Lackawanna FCY was still a little shocking.
With no Nick Dumond and KJ Maldiner in the squad this Sunday, goals might be hard to come by, and Alfredo Gallo's injury in Week 1 means former UB goalkeeper Mike Juszczak will get the call in net. He'll be protected by a sturdy back four that includes Kyle Harrington, AJ Wade and Kevin Loftus, who was just named a captain for SUNY Fredonia for this coming fall. Matt Pickard, a former Syracuse recruit, will pull the strings in the midfield and try to urge his side forward.
How they match up: Neither side is expected to be close to full strength in this one, which could lead to a rather ugly affair. Queenston is the favorites and should prevail.
Prediction: 3-0, Queenston.
BSC International (0-0-1) vs. Clarence Coyotes (1-0)
6 p.m. at Medaille Sports Complex
Inter update: While Willies' Wilkinson stole POW honors in Week 1, it could have easily been Inter's Rahim Melon, who played a major part in shutting down BUSS' vaunted attack. The looming center back, who just wrapped up his college eligibility at Medaille, won virtually every aerial duel.
Jenaro Akeh found the back of the net for Ross Karipidis' team off exquisite service from Otto Boussag. Dangerous winger Mo Hussein, a transfer from BUSS, will make his debut for Inter Sunday. It's possible that we underrated Inter considerably in our division preview.
Clarence update: The Coyotes will look back fondly at the three points gathered in the opener against Wolves, with the rather unlikely duo of David Martinez and Greg Bennett hooking up for the game's lone goal and Len Previte recording the clean sheet. Clarence will again be without talisman Gary Boughton, in Germany with FC Buffalo, but J.J. Hughes and Mike Antkowiak's squad knows how to play without him.
How they match up: Blessed with a deep attack in its front six, Clarence will still have its hands full breaking down a tough and organized BSC Inter defense that proved its mettle last week. At the other end, especially on the counter, Inter can expose a Coyotes back line that faced little threat in its first match.
Prediction: 2-2 draw.