Folks, we’ve got a new writer among us today! For the first time in a while, smallworld has brought in a guest writer.
Ronan Briscoe takes charge of this post summarizing the UPSL Mid-South Conference in what will surely be seen as its most exciting season yet. He’s the voice of Nashville-based Music City SC, and he’s got plenty of insight on how the season went for every club and how things might go in the future this fall. Without further ado, here are his musings!
As the guy that does commentary over Music City SC matches, I’ve learned quite a bit about the division, and with our champion about to take the stage in the National Playoffs, I thought it’d be a good time to take you on a brief season review of each UPSL Mid-South club, with a short preview of the Fall season as well. We’re gonna take this by the final regular season standings, so we start with the club that did the double.
- Bowling Green FC:
Bowling Green made quite the impression in their debut season in UPSL, losing just one solitary game away at AFC 615 and finishing with 27 points and a 9-0-1 record. “The Pit” in Bowling Green became quite the fortress as the season went on; the club amassed impressive levels of support by the time I made my trip up for the Conference Semifinals, with an attendance at that game of over 700. Until their first matchup with AFC 615, a 3-2 win at home, the Golden Lions looked absolutely unstoppable. Even after their defeat at the hands of Desmond Armstrong’s side, it seemed much more that a result like that was merely an exception to BGFC’s reign of terror over the division. They stormed their way through the Conference Playoffs as well, beating my Music City SC 3-1 and We United FC 5-2 en route to capturing both trophies the division has to offer.
Looking forward to the fall, depending on how far they get in the National Playoffs, the short break may either help the Golden Lions or hurt them. Last fall’s champions, AFC 615, who also did the double and only played one National Playoff game (a loss to eventual National Champion Atletico Atlanta), slid from first down to 5th. Time will tell if Bowling Green can keep up their impressive form.
(Note: BGFC staff if you’re reading this, beat Moros for us! You guys deserve your spot!)
2. We United FC:
The club that finished second in the division in the regular season, and runners up in the playoffs, We United actually bubbled under the radar of the contenders for the first few matchdays, and it wasn’t until their well fought 3-1 loss to AFC 615, and their (much deserved thanks to their performance) 3-1 victory over my Music City that the rest of the division started to take notice. That loss to AFC 615? It came in their second game, and they wouldn’t lose another game for the entire rest of the regular season, only conceding 2 goals the entire time. We United are a well-drilled unit who know what they’re expected to do, and they have the individual brilliance to challenge any side in the division.
I’d look for We United to be one of the frontrunners for the Fall Regular Season title, as they will have a longer break than Bowling Green, and have shown the ability to beat every team in the division.
3. Pumas Premier:
The second of the two Kentucky clubs, Pumas far and away had the best supporters in the division. I witnessed this firsthand when Pumas played Saints FC at the stadium in Siegel Soccer Complex in Murfreesboro, TN and brought what must have been upwards of 300 fans. To give you an idea of how impressive that is, most UPSL clubs have trouble bringing in that much support for a home game, let alone an away game two and a half hours from home against a team who would finish in sixth of eight. On the field, Pumas also looked very capable against everyone in the division, finishing on 21 points, a 7-0-3 and having scored the most goals of anyone in the division with 43 (!) in 10 games, with We United and Bowling Green the only sides to get the best of them, twice each.
Pumas have a lot to build on in the Fall, and their amazing fans will definitely give a big boost to them. They definitely look like a contender for the Fall, in both trophies, and the rest of the division need to stay on their toes when Pumas comes to town.
4. Music City SC:
A club I know a thing or two about, Music City, I’d argue, made the most improvement of any club in the entire division. Much improved from a 10 points in eight games performance in the fall (then known as Nashville Knights FC), Music City finished with 21 points, and a 7-0-3 record, but a slightly lower goal differential than fellow 7-0-3 finisher Pumas Premier, who MCSC also lost to. Over the offseason, MCSC recruited several new players (and a very handsome commentator) who helped MCSC become a contender in the division. Only losses to the aforementioned Pumas, We United and Bowling Green blighted what was a good season for the club, who will be looking to push for a trophy in the fall.
Speaking of the Fall, MCSC will have 3 major contributors to replace, in center back Aaron Farmer and wingers Nehemiah Lazo and Preston Price. However, as this spring has shown. MCSC has the ability to recruit the talent that should keep them a contender for trophies this coming fall season.
5. AFC 615:
The reigning champions coming into the Spring 2021 campaign, Desmond Armstrong’s side showed that they were very much still a contender in the division, most notably being the only team to best the Spring Champions Bowling Green FC 3-1 and grabbing a 3-1 win over We United early in the season as well. However, in their losses to Music City (x2), Pumas, Bowling Green, and We United, the chips just didn’t fall the way of the former Champions, who finished 6 points off their Nashville rivals, Music City. Only their 4-0 loss away to We United late in the campaign came by more than a 1 goal margin.
Looking forward to the fall, Coach Armstrong can definitely feel that his side are talented enough to keep the division a five horse race, but he will definitely be pushing to not be the fifth horse next go around, as only the top four secure playoff positions.
6. Saints FC:
Saints were very much the “best of the rest” in the Spring 2021 campaign, as they finished with nine points, six off fifth-placed AFC 615 and 12 off fourth-placed Music City, and a 3-0-7 record. All three of their wins came over the two teams that finished below them: 615 Heroes twice and United SC Revolution once. At times Saints looked like a side that could offer a challenge to the upper echelon of the division, scoring first against both Pumas Premier and Music City, but at other times they capitulated and looked like mere cannon fodder.
For the fall, Saints will have to hope more of the positives shine through if they are to challenge for any position higher than where they finished this go around. They’ve shown they can beat the bottom of this conference, now they have to show they can both contend with and beat everyone else.
7. United SC Revolution:
United SC once again occupied a bottom slot in the conference, finishing 1-0-9 with 3 points and earning a solitary win over 615 Heroes, which was really a forfeit. Worse, they finished the season having conceded 63 goals and scored just 11. However, that lone win is very much a positive for the club, who lost all eight games last fall and allowing 65 goals and only putting 7 past the opposing goalkeeper in the process. Fortunes did improve for the Memphis-area club, but much work is still needed for the club to climb out of the cellar.
United SC are very much in a similar position to Saints FC going into the fall, where they’ve shown the quality necessary to not finish last, but still have much room for improvement going forward.
8. 615 Heroes:
We finally reach the bottom of the table, and the only team to not record a point over the fall. They actually recorded -3 points due to their forfeit against United SC Revolution, though one must wonder how much of that has to do with Heroes simply being a second team for fifth-placed AFC 615. Heroes actually managed to play their senior counterparts closely, only losing 2-1 to AFC 615, though that was one of the few promising moments in Heroes’ season.
Their quality is obviously limited by being a second team, as with every second team, so not much can be expected of Heroes, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Heroes occupied this same table spot at the conclusion of the fall season.
Bonus FC Birmingham:
The division will gain a 9th club going into the fall, FC Birmingham, from, you guessed it, Birmingham, AL. The club appointed Birmingham-Southern College’s former head coach Preston Goldfarb to be their first manager, and with that appointment, it would be fair to speculate that Coach Goldfarb would be able to guide the new club to a good finish next season, given his 38-year track record with soccer in the city. Birmingham will hope their debut goes much the way of this season’s debutants Bowling Green and Pumas Premier, and I look forward to the away day should the schedule allow!
The Mid-South developed into one of the most wide open conferences in the whole of UPSL’s Premier Division. It likely will remain that way going into the fall, with five (maybe six, good luck Birmingham!) clubs within a real shout of both trophies. This conference is definitely one to keep an eye on heading into the Fall.