PREVIEW: SUNSHINE CONFERENCE KICKS OFF ON APRIL 30
The Sunshine Conference kicks off league play this weekend and it’s sure to be one of the bright spots for the NPSL throughout the season. This year’s conference is made up of seven teams, four returning (Jacksonville Armada U-23, Kraze United, Miami Fusion FC, Miami United FC) and three newcomers (Beaches FC, Boca Raton FC, and Naples United FC).
Jacksonville Armada U-23, led by Head Coach Pat Cannon and Assistant Coach Tommy Krizanovic, will feature a dynamic squad that will cause opponents to take notice.
UNF goalkeeper Juan Fajardo is tasked with replacing Kyle Nasta, who led the squad in saves in 2016. Nasta has made the move to the first team and will be playing in the NASL this season.
Center midfielders Ciaran McKenna (Duke) and Dener Dos Santos (Akron) will look to replace the offensive prowess of 2016’s leading goalscorer Leo De Smedt.
Jacksonville finished second in the conference in 2016 and is hoping to make an even bigger splash this season.
“We are looking forward to building on our successful 2016 season,” Cannon commented. “We are very excited about the team we have put together this season.”
Kraze United looks to improve from a mid-table finish in 2016 and they will do so under the expert tutelage of Head Coach Fabio Tamayo and Assistant Coach Airon Medeiros. They are expected to field a squad that has a mix of youth and experience.
Miami Fusion FC finished third in the conference last season and will be looking to push even further this season.
Head Coach Ferdi de Matthaeis has already set a goal of reaching the postseason and qualifying for the U.S. Open Cup. He hopes to do this with the help of returning goalkeeper Occenat Peterson and newcomer David Ochoa, a midfielder who played with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers last season.
Miami United FC is a perennial contender for the conference championship and looks to be in the running once again thanks to a talented squad. The club has plenty of postseason experience, something that not every club can claim. The Miami Derby (Fusion vs. United) has become a must-see classic for NPSL supporters in the Sunshine Conference.
Beaches FC will be led by head coach Trevor Adair and assistant coach Levent Guler. Adair is looking forward to the start of the season.
“Beaches FC are extremely excited to be playing in the competitive Sunshine Conference in our inaugural season. It is our goal to be competitive in all our games displaying a brand of soccer that will enable our players to be challenged and reach their potential.”
Players to watch for include center midfielders Medhy Hidane (Young Harris College) and Allan Morgan (Jacksonville University) as well as forward Lucas DaSilva (Manhattan College).
Boca Raton FC will be led by a solid mix of returning players and newcomers. Right midfielder/right winger Bruno Militz is a Brazilian-born Lynn University veteran that will become a threat down the right side of midfield. Militz is effective both in wide areas and when he pushes inside. Militz combines outstanding pace with great vision and technical ability.
Right back/right wing-back Justin Wilbanks is a Florida-born player who spent some of his formative years in Austraila. He is both a good man-marker and a player who can get forward with ease up the right side. He combines well with Militz and can deliver outstanding crosses and score goals in the run of play when he pushes forward.
The Boca Raton FC coaching staff is a star-studded one with Athirson Mazzoli (Head Coach)
Pedro Yunes (Assistant Coach), Jose Moreira (Assistant Coach), and Juninho (Head of Scouting in South America) leading the way.
President/GM Douglas Heizer has high hopes for the season.
“We plan to compete at the highest level in NPSL and continue to grow our footprint among local fans.”
Naples United FC will count on three players to make a major impact for the squad: forwards Felipe Marquez and Juan Carlos Oregon as well as midfielder Kevin Guillen.
The coaching staff includes Head Coach Eduardo Collado and Assistant Coach Manriquez Lopez.
“We will strive to be the team that excites every soccer fan in the region at games and championships,” Lopez said. “We plan to achieve this by providing our players with the best staff necessary to improve and make our team grow.”
President Vicente Sandoval is also excited about the club’s prospects in the NPSL.
“Our purpose is to promote and enhance the game of soccer for the fans in South Florida.”