USOC: Mass. State Final Preview

Looking for one, last taste of live soccer before winter sets in, New England soccer fans?

Well, you’re in luck. On Saturday, East Providence Sports (LUSA) and Mass Premier Soccer (BSSL) will face off for the Massachusetts U.S. Open Cup state final at Madison Park High School in Boston. Kickoff is set for 1pm, and admission is free.

Although the stakes are already raised – the winner advances to the USASA Region 1 portion of the tournament – East Providence enters the match with a bit of unfinished business against a Mass Premier squad that’s proven to be a recent nemesis.

In May 2011, the clubs met at Citizens Bank Park in Lancaster, Mass. for the opening round game in the USASA Region I tournament. At the time, East Providence, which is based in Rhode Island, entered as the Ocean State’s lone entry. It made little difference, though, and Mass Premier walked away with a 4-1 win.

Later in the year, they renewed acquaintances – this time with East Providence entering the Massachusetts tournament due to its affiliation with the Commonwealth-based LUSA – and played a Round 1 thriller. With both teams knotted at three, overtime was employed, but each club scored to leave it 4-4 before penalties. Mass Premier converted the requisite shots and advanced to the next round, leaving East Providence empty handed for the second time in less than 10 months.

This time around, East Providence comes into the match riding the momentum of a 4-3 win USOC win over Battery Park Gunners, the best amateur club in the country by virtue of its 2012 National Amateur Cup championship.

Coincidentally, the same Battery Park squad that fell to East Providence beat Mass Premier 2-1 last weekend in the National Amateur Cup state final.

East Providence will rely on LUSA scoring champ Kyle Teixeira to pave the way. Teixeira, who’s especially dangerous on free kicks, will look to link up with forwards Jimmy Hernandez and Armando Gomes to get the attack on track. Between the sticks, veteran keeper Jimmi Underhill is sure to keep the communication lines with his backline open.

While East Providence’s bread and butter is offense, Mass Premier prides itself on defense. Former Revolution defender Sam Brill anchors the back four, and also provides a scoring threat on corner kicks. Meanwhile, midfielder/manager Nick Christman is always looking for chances, and could make it a busy afternoon for the East Providence backline.

Regardless of the outcome, it’s likely that two of the strongest amateur sides in New England close the book on 2012 in exciting fashion come Saturday afternoon.

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About Brian O'Connell

Brian O'Connell serves as editor and staff writer at New England Soccer Today. He's also the Revolution beat writer for ESPNBoston.com, and is Officer at Large for the North American Soccer Reporters. He regularly contributes to The Associated Press, and has been featured on MLSSoccer.com & RevsNet.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianOConnell21 or contact him via e-mail at BOConnell21@aol.com