PREVIEW: 2017 NPSL NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POWERED BY MITRE
The Elm City Express and Midland-Odessa FC will face off in New Haven, CT on Saturday, August 12. The prize is a big one: the right to call themselves national champions.
For both teams, moving on to the final was a huge accomplishment.
“It felt great knowing we won the semi-final and moving on to the final,” Elm City Express striker Tavoy Morgan said. “It showed that all our hard work was paying off.”
“It’s amazing to make it this far,” Midland-Odessa FC’s Alex VonHolle added. “I don’t know how many times in my life I’ll be able to play in a national championship so it’s a real special honor.”
VonHolle and Midland-Odessa FC won their national semi-final match on penalty kicks at Detroit City FC’s Keyworth Stadium. Winning the semi-final in front of a lively crowd gave VonHolle confidence heading into Elm City Express’ home ground for the final.
“We’ve showed a pretty good amount of grit all season so far,” VonHolle said. “We’ve shown that all season and hopefully we can show some of that in the final and get the result that we all really desire.”
VonHolle, a midfielder going into his sophomore year with the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS), has had a number of accolades over his career, including Rocky Mountain Conference Honorable Mention during his freshman college season, as well as earning NPSL South Region Best XI and All-NPSL Second Team honors in the 2017 NPSL campaign. While VonHolle is honored by the recognition, it doesn’t change his focus from the task at hand.
“Of course I put team success first, none of that matters if the team isn’t winning,” VonHolle said. “So in my eyes the team has always come first and it will continue to come first.”
With the final approaching, VonHolle recognizes the opportunity which lies ahead, and admits that along with the opportunity comes pressure.
“You’re playing for the national championship…so there’s pressure,” VonHolle said. “But we’ve handled pressure throughout the season very well and I think we’ll be able to do the same in the championship game.”
In terms of his personal game-plan, VonHolle is keeping it consistent, saying: “I’m just going to go out there and do what I’ve been doing all season.”
On the other side of the pitch awaits Tavoy Morgan and the Elm City Express. Elm City recorded a 9-1-2 record in the NPSL regular season and continued their strong performances into the postseason, earning their place in the final with a 2-0 defeat of CD Aguiluchos USA in the national semifinal. While Midland-Odessa FC have excelled on the road, Elm City have held their ground at home throughout the playoffs, and Morgan is looking forward to continuing the trend in the final.
“It’s been good to have them support us,” Morgan said. “We want to go out there and execute in front of the crowd and they cheer us on.”
In the beginning of the playoff run, Morgan came off the bench, but even though he didn’t get a starting nod, the forward waited for his opportunity and took it when it arose. In their 2-0 victory over CD Aguiluchos USA, Morgan threaded a through ball past the CDA defense to assist on Elm City’s second goal. Now that he’s in the starting XI and playing well, Morgan is looking to continue his strong run of form.
“I wasn’t starting, so I stayed humble, I watched the other team,” Morgan said. “So I told myself when I go on what I have to do, and I keep it in mind and go out and do it.”
Morgan, a Jamaican native who moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut in his senior year of high school, was playing in Sunday leagues before eventually being discovered by and brought into Elm City Express for the 2017 season.
Morgan went out and made a huge impact for the club, scoring goals both as a starter and a substitute. His goal-scoring ability peaked when Morgan notched five goals over two matches in June, earning him the Mitre National Player of the Week award in late June. Morgan was also voted onto the All-NPSL Third Team and Northeast Region Best XI following the regular season. All in all, Morgan is grateful for his chance to play for Elm City.
“It’s a great feeling to play in the NPSL and be named to the Best XI with all the great players is amazing,” Morgan said, “I am very thankful.”
For both VanHolle and Morgan, winning the championship would mean the fulfillment of dreams and a summer of hard work and dedication.
“It’s a great feeling to go to the championship game, out of all the teams,” Morgan said.
“Winning the final would be a dream come true,” VonHolle said. “We started the summer with the goal of winning a national championship, and it would be absolutely amazing.”
With just two teams remaining in the NPSL playoffs, this weekend’s match between the Elm City Express and Midland-Odessa FC promises to be an intense matchup. Both teams have battled through the regular season and playoffs, all leading up to their chance to become national champions.