Both Midland-Odessa FC midfielder Isaac Sanchez and Inter Nashville FC midfielder Liam Collins are looking forward to this weekend’s South Region Final.
From a fan perspective, it is one of the most highly anticipated matches of the entire NPSL Playoffs powered by Mitre. Inter Nashville (6-2-4) has been on an impressive run as of late, defeating the likes of Chattanooga FC, Knoxville Force, and New Orleans Jesters on their way to the region final. Midland-Odessa (10-3-0) has downed tough opponents of their own, including Dutch Lions FC, Shreveport Rafters FC, and FC Wichita.
It’s easy to see that this one is going to be a great match for all involved. The players believe it will be a tough match. No blowout or goalfest is expected here.
Sanchez is excited about the opportunity, knowing that his team has been working hard to get to this point in the postseason.
“The team has finally found the chemistry we lacked at the beginning of the season. We have a very good team with lots of young players, who are eager and have a passion for the game.”
Sanchez sees the combination of solid defending and the finishing of chances as the recipe for their success. He has also been impressed with the team’s depth.
“Everyone on this team has a role. The players off the bench have definitely made a difference.”
The Mexico City native is a veteran presence on the Midland-Odessa FC side, one of only two players that have already graduated from college. The rest are currently enrolled and playing in college. Simply put, the former Embry-Riddle standout has been there before.
“This is the first experience in a summer league for many of our players. I try to help my teammates as I have felt the pressure before.”
Sanchez is often the general on the field, organizing his teammates and making sure the team’s gameplan is put into action. When asked about their next opponent, Sanchez said that they wouldn’t be focused on the other team, but rather working to “be better at doing what we do.”
He’s also looking forward to playing at home again, knowing it is a definite advantage.
“We’re expecting a big crowd. The club has been doing a lot of work with marketing and promoting this game. We want to be offensive-minded, to create chances. We want to give the fans all we have, put on a show for them.”
That show will likely come from a plethora of talented attackers, including Ricardo Palomino (seven goals, three assists), Jamie O’Grady (six goals, five assists), Darius Strambler (four goals, seven assists), and Memo Diaz (two goals, five assists).
While Midland-Odessa FC will enjoy a clear home-field advantage, Inter Nashville will be traveling a long distance for the second consecutive week. But Collins is not worried.
“We have proved that we can go places and get results. We have shown resilience and toughness. We are clearly not afraid of anyone. We’re not worried about traveling affecting our performance.”
Nashville traveled 15 hours by bus to face Miami on July 22nd and faces a potentially similar trek this weekend, heading west to Texas. Yet the three-year NPSL veteran, who spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons with Nashville SC, is very happy with their chances moving forward.
“A lot of people had written us off early. They didn’t give us much credit. But now more and more people take notice as we advance in the playoffs.”
According to Collins, Nashville’s success can be attributed to a team “built from the back,” a strong backline and goalkeeper that keeps the opposition honest. He also credits the team’s possession-oriented style and good technical players for their recent run of victories.
“We have big weapons, who can get the ball down and play. We can control the tempo of the game.”
Those weapons include Andrew Chamberlain (five goals), Cristian Gomez (four goals), and Danny Dunleavy (four assists).
Collins’s role is very defined in his opinion: “My job is to get the guys in good position so they can finish their chances.”
No wonder the former University of Memphis standout leads the team in assists with seven on the season. He’s all about creating opportunities and leading Nashville to victory.
Regardless of who you are rooting for this weekend, Isaac Sanchez and Liam Collins are two players to watch for in the South Region Final, a matchup that is sure to be one of the season’s best.