New England Soccer Today

USOC Preview: R.I. Reds-Mass Premier Soccer

Even before the Rhode Island Reds first strolled onto the pitch for their debut season last summer, club owner/manager Kabba Joof envisioned his side playing in the U.S. Open Cup tournament.

On Sunday, that vision will become a reality when the Reds play their first Open Cup qualifier against Mass Premier Soccer (Bay State Soccer League) at 2pm in Sunday’s USASA Region 1 Final at Cranston Stadium (Cranston, R.I.).

The Reds are the sole representative from the Ocean State in this year’s tournament. They’re eligible to play in the USASA Regional tournament because their reserve team plays in the Southern New England Super Cup league. Meanwhile, Mass Premier’s path to Sunday’s showdown came nearly four months after they claimed a dramatic penalty kick victory over East Providence Sports (Ligas Unidas Soccer Association) in last December’s Massachusetts state final.

In Rhode Island’s first season in the National Premier Soccer League, the club went 4-4-4 (16 points), which gave them a share of the fourth spot in the Northeast Atlantic division. Their lively attack was steered by Wilder Arboleda and Paulo Mendes, with Mendes and twin brother and teammate Pedro, landing contracts with the Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL) before the season finale.

Mass Premier rounded out 2012 campaign that saw them go 13-1-4 (43 points) in the Bay State Soccer League – three points below league champion Battery Park Gunners – with a formidable late-fall run in Open Cup and Amateur Cup action. Although they were overtaken by the Gunners in the latter competition, their stifling defense – led by former Revolution center back Sam Brill – helped them claim their second state final win in the former.

The optimistic upstart vs. the veteran contender. Two very different teams will clash come Sunday. But if both clubs stick their strengths, area fans might very well witness must-see soccer at venerable Cranston Stadium.

Players to watch

(Rhode Island): Jason “Scooter” Garcia, a creative and dynamic midfielder who holds the ball well and helps establish the attacking rhythm. In the back four, Tyler Rosa provided sound defense and smart tackling to bolster Rhode Island’s back line last season.

(Mass Premier): Sam Brill is a smart defender who has the savvy and skill to stifle an attack, then push forward right after. Nick Christman may wear two hats as player/manager, but his offensive skills and relentless runs routinely open up the attack.

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