Team: Chicago Mustangs
Location: Lake Barrington, Illinois
First year as an 11-a-side team
Home Field: Canalan Sportsplex in Lake Barrington, Illinois
The Canalan Sportplex features a full-sized turf soccer field in an indoor facility and seating for several thousand.
Coach: Armando Gamboa
The Chicago Mustangs are well-known in the Chicago area for their indoor MASL team where they have collected many titles over the last few years, including Eastern Division Champions, National Champions, and US Open Cup (indoor) Champions. This year the team is offering outdoor soccer to their fans and hope to build on their indoor success.
The Mustangs will bring many of their indoor players with them which Assistant Director of Soccer Operations and Player Operations Manager Ermanno Rossi, says should create a lot of speed up top. “Playing on the turf field, it should be very exciting, but we also have a pretty strong back line that should be able to get behind the ball. I think we are going to be surprising a lot of teams.”
That strong back line will be made even stronger by Jesus Flores from Guadalajara, Mexico. Flores has been the Mustangs goalkeeper for the last five years. Ricardo Gomes Dos Santos De Carvalho is another indoor player who should strengthen the back line of the squad.
Goal scoring forward Alexis Camarena is another player who will move to the outdoor team with the Mustangs. Gamboa who is also the president and CEO of the organization, praised Camarena and said he’s been with the team since day one.
The team is still hoping to sign a few more players with international experience and are still looking to pick up a few younger players just out of college.
Strengths: Even though the Mustangs are moving from indoor to outdoor, they know the game well, and they’re used to playing under pressure in front of big crowds.
Challenges: Rossi says he believes the team’s biggest challenge comes from the business perspective – sales and marketing. “Our fan base it used to the quicker indoor game and we are trying to widen our market and appeal to different people,” said Rossi.
Team: LC Aris FC
Location: LaCrosse, Wisconsin
Home Field: Viterbo University Outdoor Complex
Coach: Antonio’s “Tony” Lepitsas
LC Aris FC has not always been LC. Team founder Greg Saliaras started his team in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. When he accepted the job as Viterbo University men’s soccer coach, he moved his team to LaCrosse which he says is “absolutely gorgeous” and that “the people are wonderful.”
It makes perfect sense that the team uses the Viterbo Outdoor Complex for their home matches. “It’s a great venue for us to be honest,” Saliaras. “Many teams struggle to find a good home field but we have full access to fields here.”
After moving the team in 2014 he took a year off. So in many ways LC Aris FC is a new club in the NPSL.
Saliaras is assembling the roster, but he has asked a former professional goalkeeper from Greece, Tony Lepitsas, to coach this year’s squad. Saliaras says Lepitsas has plenty of experience as a player and a coach who is currently part of the Olympiacos School in Greece.
LC Aris FC will feature a number of bright young players. Juan Sebastian Flores is a Venezuelan forward. Saliaras calls him a wonderful and skillful player. Flores played for Saliaras the last two years at Viterbo and won Offensive Player of the Year in the North Star Conference this past fall season.
Goalkeeper Quinten Ludwig is another player to look for on LC Aris. He will be a sophomore on his college team this fall. Last year, as a freshman, he made the All-Conference Team and kept his team in many games.
The squad will also feature two Brazilian brothers, Lucas and Matheus Beato, who are both midfielders from Luther College.
Saliaras says Aaron Wagner, a center midfielder from Eau Claire, is another player he expects good things from. “He’s still figuring out the game, but he’s very athletic and getting better and better all the time.”
Strengths: The team should have a very good core of players up the middle.
Challenges: LC Aris has two: one will be how quickly the team will gel, the other is finding enough quality players in a smaller community like LaCrosse. “The level of players you can attract in a small town is a little bit behind the rest of the teams that are in bigger regions,” said Saliaras.
Team: Milwaukee Torrent
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Home Field: Uihlein Soccer Park
Coach: Andreas Davi
Soccer runs through the veins of Milwaukee Torrent owner and coach Andreas Davi who is passionate about the game and just as passionate about soccer in Wisconsin. The 39-year-old German played professionally and moved to Wisconsin in 2009. The optimistic and enthused Davi has brought professional outdoor soccer back to Milwaukee after a 10-year hiatus.
The Milwaukee Rampage were active from 1993 to 2002 and had players like Tony Sanneh and Brian McBride on their roster. Milwaukee Wave United tried their hand at outdoor soccer starting in 2003, but lasted only two seasons.
Davi’s wants to bring soccer to Wisconsin for a different reason. He says Wisconsin has loads of good college programs, but there are no professional outdoor soccer teams that youth players can aspire to.
“The main reason I started the Torrent is for our kids in Milwaukee. They have nothing to look up to for professional soccer, said Davi. “In Wisconsin, we have four Division I programs, a good Division II program, and so many Division III programs as well as NAIA schools. For many of those players, when they are done with college, their career is basically over. I don’t want that. Your career shouldn’t be over until you are in your thirties.”
Watch for James Webber, the captain and forward for the team. He returns to Wisconsin after playing professionally in Sweden.
Defender Dustin Ashley was a former standout at U-W Milwaukee and should strengthen the back line.
Declan Rodriguez, a holding midfielder as well as Tony and Austin Patterson will strengthen the midfield for the Torrent. All played DI college soccer.
Strengths: A strong base of players to choose from with all the college and universities soccer programs in Wisconsin. All but three of the Torrents players have studied at schools in the state.
Challenges: The Torrent have sold more than 400 season tickets. That’s outstanding, but Davi said that’s not easy in the town of Milwaukee. He says it is a soccer town, but fans are not used to having a higher level of soccer in the area and aren’t used to supporting it. Davi says one season ticket holder is Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett. “Who else actually has their mayor coming to their games?” questioned Davi.
Team: Minnesota TwinStars FC
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Home Field: Hopkins High School
Coach: Youssef Darbaki
The TwinStars FC will bring loads of experience with them into the Midwest Central Conference of the NPSL this season. Their coach, Youssef Darbaki, was a pro himself and played for the Moroccan National Team. He’s been coaching in Minnesota for 25 years and has his ear to the ground on emerging soccer talent reaching adulthood.
The team plays at Hopkins High School field, which is where his TwinStars Academy is also based. The TwinStars Academy, started several years ago, has been one of most successful youth soccer clubs in Minnesota under Darbaki’s lead.
Darbaki coached the TwinStars from 2004-2013 when former Canadian international Alex Bunbury managed the team. No stranger to the organization, Darbaki is back in charge again this year.
Leading the way on the field will be captain and Darbaki’s son, Karim. Karim Darbaki attended Shattuck-St. Mary’s Academy in high school and then played Division I college soccer for the NIU Huskies. Most recently he has played in both Brazil and Sweden.
Darbaki also singles out left footed midfielder Ali Arafa, a player from Salem University who comes from Giza, Egypt.
Fans should also watch for Juan Montealegre, who is originally from Bogota, Columbia. He currently attends Ashford University, where he will be entering his senior year this fall.
The TwinStars coach will also be trying to get minutes for three of his youngsters who he believes have great promise. While all will be freshman this coming college season, one will be attending Northwestern, one at NIU, and another at Xavier.
Strengths: The TwinStars will try to use their experience to force their type of soccer on other teams, which is a possession style. “We should be very well-balanced,” said Durbaki.
Challenges: There will be a number of younger U-18 players on the team who will be entering college this next fall. “Getting younger guys to adjust to the higher level of NPSL play will be difficult but something most teams have to deal with. Some teams are new to the league and conference but they still have experienced players. It will be a big adjustment for them,” concluded Durbaki.