South Jersey Soccer:
Monday, August 30, 1999
By Peter C. Boggs
After a two week wait, the South Jersey Barons now know who their semi-final opponents will be, and where the game will be played. They also know that winning won't be easy. Their opponent, the Charlotte Eagles have been league runners-up two of the past three seasons - (1996 & 1997) and they'll have the home field advantage. Game time is 7:30 PM, Saturday, at Providence High School Stadium in Charlotte, NC.
The Barons finished the regular season with the best over-all point total in the United Soccer Leagues' 26 team D3 Pro League (72), and earned an automatic bye into the semi-finals for doing so, missing two full play-off rounds. The team is currently enjoying its all-time longest winning streak, having finished the regular season with 11 straight wins. Charlotte came on strong at end of the year to win the D3 Pro League's Atlantic Division regular season championship. They then battled through two play-off rounds, beating the Northern Virginia Royals 4-0, and the Wilmington (N.C.) Hammerheads 3-2. Both those games were played in Charlotte, where the Eagles are now 10-1 this season.
The Barons, at 16-2 owned the regular season's best record, as well as the top goal differential in the league. South Jersey scored 63 goals and gave up only 21. Including the two play-off games, Charlotte has scored 50, while allowing 25.
The Barons are lead by forward/midfielder Matt Miles who scored 22 goals and added 11 assists over-all this season. Forward Joe Nick has pumped in 14 goals of his own, while midfielder Matt Brooks has been a major addition with eight goals and eight assists in 18 league games. In all, 19 different players have made the scoring column for the Barons this year scoring goals or contributing assists, including goalkeeper Paul Royal.
Royal has backed a solid veteran defensive corps including James Harvey, Dan Christian, David Holmes and Paul Zgalich. Royal's over-all goals against average is an impressive 1.10, in 1544 total minutes of action.
While the Barons and Eagles have not met this season, they are familiar foes. Charlotte owns a 3-1 edge in the series, which dates back to 1997. Charlotte was actually the first team the Barons ever played in league competition. That game was played in Charlotte, on April 18, 1997 with the Eagles gaining a 2-1 shoot-out tiebreaker win. The Barons lost defender Andy Logar in the final minutes of that contest with a broken leg - the first of a series of team injuries that made South Jersey's first year one to forget. Later that year the Barons defeated Charlotte 2-1 at Carey Stadium in Ocean City, with David Holmes scoring the winner in the 75th minute.
Charlotte took both contests last season, beating the Barons 4-1 in Charlotte, and 2-1 at Eastern Regional High School in Voorhees. Both of those games were U.S. Open Cup qualification games.
Saturday's winner will take on the winner of the D3 Pro League's other semi-final contest, pitting the Chico (CA) Rooks, champions of the Western Conference, against the Western Massachusetts Pioneers. That game will be played in Ludlow, Massachusetts on Saturday night. The D3 Pro League National Championship game will take place the following week-end, at a location and time to be determined.
©1999 South Jersey Sports Online