The inaugural season for the Joplin Demize of the NPSL did not go 100 percent to plan, but the groundwork for a successful 2015 campaign has already been laid. With a talented roster and a great community presence, the Demize are certainly contenders for a conference championship next season.
As it is with any expansion team in sports, the first season is usually a tough one. Finishing the season with a 3-5-2 record, the Demize were able to put a quality team on the field week after week. In a season where almost every game was competitive, the ball just did not bounce in the Demize’s favor on multiple occasions.
“We had the potential to win all of our games, except the Tulsa Athletics, who won our division,” Demize head coach Chris Hanlon commented. “When they played us they were the stronger side. I think their experience really shined through. The rest of our games we were the better team, but the beauty with soccer is the best team doesn’t always win. The team that executes and finishes their chances can determine the outcome of the game.”
One of the main struggles that the Demize had this season was putting the ball into the back of the net. In a division where the club competes against the likes of the Tulsa Athletics and Oklahoma City FC, having a star forward is key for Hanlon next season.
“We need to find a big-time finisher. We have guys that can create opportunities, but what we really missed is someone up top that can consistently put the ball into the back of the net…We had games where we had 15 shots and scored one goal, and our opponent had five chances, but scored two goals, so we lost the game 2-1.”
In addition to adding a striker, Hanlon also would like to add some size to his defense. Playing in the NPSL, there could be different size fields from game to game. This past season the Demize were playing with a relatively small defense, especially at center back. For Hanlon, this is not much of a problem on a large pitch, but when a field is smaller, it creates a lot more contact and physicality. On several occasions the Demize were at a disadvantage height wise, something that could have potentially impacted the match.
Reflecting on his talented group of athletes, three players in particular stood out as leaders throughout the season. Captain David Paul stood out to the coaching staff as a true leader. One of the most consistent defenders on the team, he played a large role all season long. Despite playing as an outside back, the former USL PRO star showed his class and quality as the side’s leading scorer.
Hanlon also mentioned that Jesse Ortiz, who plays collegiately for Valparaiso, was lights out as a central midfielder. Running the midfield in every game this season, he was the most effective midfielder according to the coach. After the two field players, goalkeeper Mattia Maggioni was of extreme importance.
“In two or three games, Maggioni was Man of the Match. He was almost the NPSL Player of the Week as a result of some of his performances…When he went back to Italy, I believe he got signed to a second or third division for a pro contract.”
Part of what made the Joplin Demize inaugural season so successful was the support of the community and owners Ed and Alision Hershewe. Averaging close to 300 people per game, the Demize had a great presence around town. From running television ads to newspaper feature articles or just word of mouth, the Demize were extremely well thought of. It was this support that helped shape the style the club played. Hanlon wanted his team to play attacking soccer, which is more exciting for the fans and supporters.
One sponsor that Hanlon could not thank enough was Annie’s Homegrown. Following the Joplin tornado disaster, the company brought a factory from California to the town to help recreate jobs and get Joplin back on its feet. Now a key sponsor of the Demize, Hanlon could not be more thankful.
Much of the optimism surrounding the club can be traced back to their supporters’ group, the Orange Armada. This group was with the club through thick and thin, tailgating before games and donning flags and drums for the match itself. Hanlon spoke highly of their influence and he was sure to address them with a postgame speech at every home game.
With a young and talented roster, the Demize have much to look forward to. With the addition of just a few positions, coach Hanlon believes the Demize can fight for a major title sooner rather than later. With a goal to bring in close to 500 fans per match next season, the Joplin Demize could be one of the most exciting teams to watch in the NPSL.