Three National Premier Soccer League clubs will test their metal this weekend in the Neighbor Nations Showdown against the reserves of Monarcas Morelia of Liga MX and Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico.
FC Buffalo will host the club on Friday, May 3 ahead of Monarcas visiting Cleveland SC on Sunday, May 5 and Kalamazoo FC on Tuesday, May 7. Monarcas Morelia is one of the largest clubs in Mexico, founded in 1924 as Oro Morelia. The club was once a Liga MX champion as well as one-time winners of both the Copa MX and Supercopa MX.
Forward Kendell McFayden, a former full-time pro in the USL and a tenured veteran of FC Buffalo, is moved by the idea of playing a larger club like Monarcas after seeing the way his club has grown.
“I’ve been around the team for a while now and we’re grateful for the opportunity to have our team be associated with a bigger club such as a Liga MX squad,” McFayden said. “We hope that when they come we put on a good performance.”
Cleveland SC, an NPSL club that is entering just its second year in existence, has a player that spent time in the Mexican division when he was younger and recognizes the challenge that will take place Sunday. Midfielder Antonio Manfut trained with C.F. Pachuca when he was 18 for about five months.
“It was just a great atmosphere and a great training environment for a lot of players to grow and it was a much different style of play than in the United States,” Manfut said. “It will be a nice little challenge for us and we’re looking forward to it.”
Veteran defender Carson Brinks and Kalamazoo FC will welcome Monarcas for the last leg of its trip up north. Brinks believes the matchup will be a good test to see where the team is at ahead of the NPSL season, but a victory over the Liga MX side would loom large.
“It would be great for the guys and just good for morale in general,” Brinks said. “Obviously for the community and the KZFC organization, it’d be huge.”
Brinks’ teammate, Mario Diaz will play at the highest level of soccer yet in his career on May 7. The game will take on extra meaning for him, as his parents immigrated from Mexico and he has spent time watching Liga MX.
“I know a lot of my friends and family are excited just because of the fact that it’s a Mexican team,” Diaz said. “I’m going to have a few people there from my side like my family. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this, so I can’t let it go to waste.”
By Jeff Helfrich/NPSL.com
Photo Credit Richard Kruszynski/ISNSoccer.com, Jay Pike Photography, and Chris Carlin/FC Buffalo