Preview: FC Motown and FCM Portland Battle for Chance to Play for the NPSL National Championship

This weekend’s national semifinal between FC Motown and FCM Portland is going to be one for the ages.  Two talented sides that have been through a grueling postseason will be competing for a chance to compete for a national title.

FC Motown earned the right to host the match after defeating the previously unbeaten New York Cosmos B last week.  They are a team that sprinted to a 9-1-0 record behind a squad that is loaded with world-class players.

Also competing in the Garden State Soccer League, FC Motown won the league and playoff titles along with the New Jersey State Cup. The side also won Keystone Conference and Northeast Region titles over the past two weeks, giving them five titles in 2018 alone.

At Motown it all starts with the talented trio of Julius James, Matt Nigro, and Dilly Duka.  James, who leads a strong Motown backline, is a former pro that has 10+ years of experience at the highest level, spending time with MLS, NASL, and USL teams as well as the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Team.  James amassed 95 appearances (77 starts), four goals, and 7,299 minutes played in MLS alone.

James spoke highly of the Motown organization as a whole, praising the contributions of every member from top to bottom.  According to James, the club has a tight-knit feel, one that resembles more of a family than a soccer team.  Everyone is incredible committed to the beautiful game and the community, from the owners to the players and the staff.  James has been impressed from day one and he isn’t the only one.  Motown was the subject of a recent Forbes feature written by legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg.

Nigro is an explosive two-way midfielder that can make an impact in the attack or in defense.    Duka, who starred for the U.S. U-20 and U-23 Men’s National Teams, has eight years of professional experience with teams like the Columbus Crew, Chicago Fire, Montreal Impact, and New York Red Bulls.  Duka became known for his speed and technical ability after terrorizing MLS defenses, registering 12 goals and 14 assists in 97 starts.

FC Motown is led at the top by Sacir Hot, one of the country’s brightest soccer minds.   Hot got his start as a Homegrown Player with the New York Red Bulls, but also played with the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team.

Hot is very much looking forward to Saturday’s match.

“Our guys understand that we need to quickly switch gears back into ‘survive and advance.’ Saturday will be a special event for our players as we dance under the lights with a tough team in front of family and friends in Madison, NJ. It’s a marquee game for amateur soccer in the tri-state area and our guys are ready to perform.”

Motown are also active off the pitch with players and staff involved in various charitable projects.  James is one of the leaders behind the Can Bou Play Foundation, while Hot has helped Syrian refugees as part of KickStart Joy.

FC Motown must defeat a feisty FCM Portland side in order to advance to the national title.  Like Motown, FCM Portland has a talented squad that includes some big names.

Former Portland TImbers standout Freddie Braun, who also played for Orlando City and the San Antonio Scorpions, is one of the players leading the way for Portland.  He has serious championship credentials, having won a PDL national championship in 2010 and a USL PRO championship in 2013. While Christian Thyron led the team in assists, Braun finished atop of the team in goals.

Braun obviously has high expectations for the match.

“It’s going to be an exciting, hard-fought match. Both teams want to win. This is the semifinals of the World Cup is how we’re treating this game.”

Braun has said this season has been “an absolute blast,” especially when an impressive run in the postseason has put them in contention for a national title.  He credits the team’s unity for their success.

“No team can make it this far without being a great team. From the practice players to the starters, everyone is fighting towards achieving our goal: to win the championship.”

Ryan Middleton is another player with considerable experience.  He got his start with the Bournemouth and Southampton academies before playing with Weymouth FC, Hamworthy United FC, and Orlando City Reserves.

Middleton was also quick to praise the team’s togetherness and unity.

“There’s no doubt that we have a talented group of individuals, and that’s not just our starting 11 but our whole squad, we have depth, and everyone is fighting for a position. But in all honesty, it’s our togetherness that has brought us the success that we’ve encountered so far. We’re a team, we fight together, we lose together, and we keep on playing until the final whistle. When we won the West Region championship and that final whistle blew, it was one of the happiest moments I’ve had in awhile. I’ve never seen so many unused subs run onto the field, grinning from ear to ear bursting with pride. That’s not something you see every day. Whether or not we advance into the finals, we’ve already won in my book, we have nothing to lose.”

FCM Portland Head Coach and President Sergio Medel agreed.

“Overall, the regular season has been a roller coaster.  We had had our ups and downs but one thing remains the same.  We are enjoying every minute of it, even the losses, because we had learned so much from them.  They helped us cure some of the inconsistencies through the season.  We had learned to care and respect each other, especially on the field.  This group likes to fight in our own crazy kind of way and Saturday night’s game won’t be the exception.”

It certainly sounds as if this game will be a battle and easily one of the best matchups of the season.  Be sure to head out to Drew University on Saturday, July 28th at 7:30 or tune in to the live stream to catch all the action.


Photo Credit: FCM Portland, William Capp, Michael Nigro, Matthew Levine/New York Cosmos, MIchael Lewis/

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