WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM It’s the second edition of the Bull City Gridiron Classic, with new crosstown rivals
The Blue Devils won the first meeting 49-14 in 2009, and the teams are set to play in four of the next five years with the exception being 2014.
Both teams are 1-1, and each is coming off a rough loss last week — Duke falling 50-13 at No. 25 Stanford and NCCU bowing 34-14 at Elon. The Dunkel Index has Duke as a 50-point favorite.
Duke will get an emotional list from the return to the sidelines of Blair Holliday, the wide receiver who suffered a brain injury in a jet ski accident on July 4 weekend.
Before the game both schools’ cross-country teams — men and then women — start their dual meet on the stadium track before heading out into the woods. Duke wins the men’s event 15-50 and the women’s 15-44.
Duke leads by 17 at halftime, then uses a couple of turnovers to blow out the final score in a 54-17 win.
According to UNC sports information, it was Carolina's first 0-0 draw since the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament against Georgetown. But lest any of the 3,165 in attendance depart thinking the outcome was one only a soccer purist could love, UNC coach Carlos Somoano has some thoughts for you.
“I think the game was a very, very high paced, intense game from both teams,” said the Tar Heels’ gaffer. “There was a lot of quality in the match. I think that’s a good college soccer game. People can say whatever they want about not executing plays to score a goal here or there. We tried, they tried...that was a high quality game right there. That’s going to be at the top of the list in terms of quality of soccer games at the end of the season.”
And because they signed a contract to extend the series earlier this week, it’s the first of many more to come. NCCU will visit Wallace Wade Stadium for both teams’ season opener next year, and future meetings are scheduled for 2015, 2016 and 2017.
It’s one of three games involving Triangle Division I teams tonight. And typically, all four Triangle teams are 1-1 through their first two games of the season.
N.C. State will return home to Carter-Finley Stadium for the first time this season, taking on South Alabama (1-1) — which is in its final season as an FCS opponent - at 6 p.m.
Meanwhile UNC will try to bounce back from its road loss to Wake Forest, traveling to No. 19 Louisville (2-0) for a 3:30 contest to be shown on ABC and ESPN2.
With the start of the NASL playoffs just over two weeks away, teams are finalizing their rosters in advance of today’s 5 p.m. roster freeze deadline. Today, the RailHawks announced a trio of signings in advance of this season's stretch run: Matt Luzunaris, Jordan Graye and Henry Kalungi.
Luzunaris, a 23-year-old striker, joins on loan from Orlando City S.C., where he appeared in 18 matches this season and netted nine goals. Before joining Orlando, Luzunaris spent time in Austria and with the San Jose Earthquakes. Graye, a former North Carolina Tar Heel defender, spent two seasons in MLS and trialed with the RailHawks this preseason, appearing in the second half of the friendly win over the Vancouver Whitecaps. The 24-year-old Kalungi, also a defender, is a Ugandan national who joins via loan from the Richmond Kickers of USL Pro.
These signings are in addition to midfielder Luke Sassano, formerly of Sporting KC, who made his RailHawks debut as a substitute during the Edmonton match on Wednesday.
However, these announcements are tempered by the curious news that the RailHawks’ other late-season addition, Konrad Warzycha, had been recalled by Sporting KC from his loan to Carolina. Warzycha, who only joined the RailHawks on Aug. 28, played 18 minutes for Carolina last Saturday against San Antonio after coming on as a second-half substitute at right back for an injured Greg Shields.
I spoke to Johnson about the Warzycha recall. Our discussion also touched on a variety of topics, including the team’s on-field performance and morale, as well as the split-season format adopted by the NASL for the 2013 season.
In its first two seasons, the eight teams of NASL have played 28-game seasons, followed by a three-round, six-team elimination playoff. But beginning next year, the league will play two short round-robin competitions of 14 games apiece. The winners of the two competitions will meet in a single-game championship final.
As Neil Morris noted last week, the new format bears a strong resemblance to the Apertura and Clausura format seen in several Latin American countries. (Until NASL settles on a naming convention, Triangle Offense plans to use these words, which mean “opening” and “closing,” to refer to the two short seasons. Help us make it stick!)
There has been spirited discussion about the changes, including the institution of a month-long July break, which would reduce the number of games played in Code Red conditions.
Here at Triangle Offense, we’ve long discussed the value of playoffs in soccer. A strong argument can be made that there is little or no relationship between a team’s performance in the regular season and in the post-season. Three years running, in fact, the winner of the second-division post-season playoffs has been a low-seeded team (fifth-seed Montreal in 2009, eighth-seeded Puerto Rico in 2010, sixth-seeded Minnesota in 2011).
Today’s post is concerned with a different issue. Many online commentators have worried that attendance will suffer late in the year as fans of poorly performing teams lose interest. We’ll be as interested as everyone else to see if those fears are realized.
In an effort to imagine the effect of the new system, we decided to take this season’s results and put them into Apertura and Clausura tables.
First, the Apertura:
Unsurprisingly, early-season colossus San Antonio wins the Apertura. They are now assured a place in the single-game post-season championship. Puerto Rico, with a four-point edge over third-place Tampa Bay, is in the driver's seat for staking a claim to the best overall record should San Antonio also win the Clausura.
Here’s the Clausura, updated through last weekend’s results:
What we see is very interesting. Tampa Bay is in first place, but barely. With three games to play, Tampa Bay has yet to play second-place Carolina, who have a crucial game in hand. That tie is scheduled for Sept. 19 (in Tampa) and Sept. 22 (in Cary). These two games would be hugely important for determining the winner of the Clausura—almost like an in-season two-legged tie.
Indeed, the RailHawks had every expectation they could avenge the 1-0 loss to San Antonio back on April 28. Carolina came in on a three-game winning streak, including road wins at Atlanta and, most notably, Puerto Rico. The team has been displaying aggressive, positive soccer entering the season’s end stretch, and it held self-declared aspirations of not only going unbeaten for the rest of the regular season but perhaps making a run at the top spot in the NASL table.
Unfortunately, the affect and energy of the RailHawks side that finally took the field following a 90-minute weather delay (the third such this season in Cary) was not of a team looking to compensate for a one-goal loss in April but one still petrified of the side that trounced them 8-0 a little over a month ago in San Antonio. Consequently, April’s result remained intake as the Scorpions again downed the RailHawks 1-0 off an 84th minute goal from Jeff Cunningham.
The Atlantic Coast Conference released its women’s basketball schedule this week, and tipoff time is just two months from today.
Duke won’t open for real until its Nov. 17 game against Presbyterian, a 7 p.m. contest that precedes a 2 p.m. home game against Iona the next afternoon. The Blue Devils’ first performance for the public will be their annual Blue-White Game on Oct. 28, with Shaw coming to Cameron Indoor Stadium for an exhibition contest on Oct. 30 and Queens visiting for another on Nov. 4.
Both the MEAC member Eagles (1-0) and the Southern Conference member Phoenix (0-1) are playing their only Division I-FCS non-conference game of the season.
NCCU, which snapped a two-game losing streak with a 54-31 romp over former CIAA rival Fayetteville State in its opener, is looking to get some momentum going.
Elon, meanwhile, is licking its wounds after getting a big check and a 62-0 whipping in its historic first meeting with UNC.
The Phoenix won last season’s meeting 23-22 in Durham, but the renowned Dunkel Index has Elon as a 26-point favorite.
Elon gets a huge first half and holds the lead, comfortably prevailing 34-14.
It’s Week 2 of the college football season, and unfortunately for Triangle-area fans all the local Division I teams are on the road today.
Fortunately for road-trippers, a couple of them are not too far away.
UNC (1-0), fresh off a 62-0 season-opening win over Elon, will visit Wake Forest (1-0) at 3 p.m. in the ACC opener for both. That game will be shown on Fox Sports Carolinas.
Then at 7 p.m. N.C. Central (1-0), which drubbed former CIAA foe Fayetteville State 54-31 in its opener, will be at Elon in the only non-conference FCS game for both teams.
The other games are on the road.
N.C. State (0-1) will try to bounce back from its 35-21 season-opening loss to Tennessee when the Wolfpack visits Connecticut (1-0) at noon.
And Duke (1-0), which got a surprisingly easy 44-14 win over Florida International in the Blue Devils’ opener, will travel to No. 25 Stanford (1-0) for a 10:30 p.m. contest.
While I agree with both concerns, particularly the lack of a two-leg final, the practical answer to both criticisms are probably the same: TV and travel. Holding a one-game final would be an easier, more practical package for potential television partners as opposed to trying to sell them on (or buy) two games a week apart. Moreover, a perennial problem with prolonged playoffs at the lower divisions of U.S. soccer are travel costs, particularly travel that must be arranged and purchased on short notice when airfares can be highest. Cutting the postseason to a single game eliminates those short-term costs for all but one team. Moreover, knowing the site of the championship final months in advance allows potential media partners, league officials, referees and even fans to plan for that location. Moreover, if the winner of the Fall session clinches their "title" several weeks before the end of that session, they can begin to arrange travel plans then as opposed to potentially having to wait until the week before the final to determine the team with the best overall record and, thus, the host site.
There's one more oddity this format could create: it's possible that the team with the best overall record over the entire year may not be able to participate in the championship final if it doesn't win either individual session.
In advance of tomorrow morning's self-described "major announcement" from the North American Soccer League, the Puerto Rico Islanders appear to have jumped the gun by posting the league's press release of the news, dated for Wednesday, Sept. 5, on their club's website.
In the premature posting—which has since been taken down—the NASL announces that beginning next season, the regular season will be divided into two parts, a spring and fall championship. The spring session will run from late March or early April until Thursday July 4. After roughly a one-month break, which clubs can spend as they see fit (including scheduling exhibitions, friendlies, etc.), the fall session will begin in late July or early August and run through November 2. Each session will comprise a round-robin schedule, during which each NASL club will face every other club both home and away.
The weekend following the end of the fall session, the winners of each competition will face off in a one-game league championship match, being billed the Soccer Bowl, for the right to be crowned the NASL's 2013 champion.
“Our Scheduling Sub-Committee arrived at this recommendation after an exhaustive review of a number of alternatives,” said a statement from NASL Commissioner David Downs, “and the new format takes into consideration a variety of factors including fan and player comfort in our many warm-weather cities." "But the bottom line,” Downs added, “is that we believe this new competitive format will bring more excitement and meaning to each of our regular season matches for all of our teams throughout the year.”
Soccer observers will note that this new regular season format is largely patterned after the Apertura and Clausura tournaments now held in many Latin American football leagues. According to the press release, the month-long, mid-season break is designed to coincide with the international transfer window open throughout Europe, Latin America and North America. One additional benefit for Southeast U.S. soccer fans will be avoiding competitive matches during the bulk of July, when erratic weather changes forced delays during several matches in Carolina and elsewhere this year.
Many who expected more momentous news from the league may shrug off this announcement. However, it is an interesting, innovative revamping of the league's schedule in a way that places increased emphasis on the regular season and less on a prolonged, costly and overly inclusive playoff format.