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Playoff Preview: Conference Finals

By Staff, 07/22/21, 2:00PM EDT


Eight Teams to Compete to Earn a Spot in the 2021 League Two National Semifinals

TAMPA, Fla.- The 2021 League Two Playoffs Presented by Motel 6 continue this weekend with the Conference Finals and National Semifinals. As the Path2Pro players prepare to travel to Des Moines, Iowa and Statesboro, Ga. to take on their respective conference opponents, here is how the competition stacks up. 

Eastern Conference Final:

West Chester United SC vs. Western Mass Pioneers @ 5:30pm ET on Friday, July 23

Erk Russell Park, Statesboro, Georgia

West Chester United SC and the Western Mass Pioneers will face off on Friday night in Statesboro, Ga. to determine which team will become the title-winners of the Eastern Conference. 

New Path2Pro members West Chester United SC found themselves facing two very competitive opponents in the first two rounds of the 2021 League Two Playoffs. In the Conference Quarterfinals, the Predators squared off with New York Red Bulls U23 where a Spencer Burkhardt assist and Troy Amspacher finish was the difference maker in the 2-1 victory. However, the roles were reversed the following night as West Chester’s Burkhardt put away a close-range strike to end the Ocean City Nor’easters’ playoff run in the Conference Semifinals. Heading into the Eastern Conference Final, West Chester will be challenged with facing the No. 2 seed in the division, Western Mass Pioneers, and will have to rely on the full force of its team to secure a Conference title in its inaugural 2021 season. 

The Western Mass Pioneers’ road to the Eastern Conference Final has been marked by one dominating victory and one intense round of penalty kicks. The Pioneers first faced off against the Cedar Stars Rush in the Conference Quarterfinals where they put up a dominant performance in the offensive half, recording a 4-0 win in which Samir Regargui put up two goals off of free kicks from 25 yards out. The next round of the playoffs wasn’t so simple for the Pioneers as they found themselves in a 0-0 draw with the Seacoast United Phantoms at the end of 90 minutes. The team pushed on through two 15 minutes halves of extra time and ultimately found themselves mentally and physically exhausted before taking on penalty kicks. Luckily, Pioneers’ goalkeeper Blake Mullen was up for the test making a huge save on the Phantoms first penalty kick and ultimately helping his team advance to a tough Eastern Conference Final against West Chester United SC. 

Southern Conference Final:

South Georgia Tormenta FC 2 vs. North Carolina Fusion U23 @ 8pm ET on Friday, July 23

Erk Russell Park, Statesboro, Georgia

South Georgia Tormenta FC 2 will take its home field on Friday night to challenge North Carolina Fusion U23 for the Southern Conference title. 

Tormenta FC 2 showed off its mental and physical strength in the first two rounds of the 2021 League Two Playoffs. In the Conference Quarterfinal, Tormenta faced a rowdy Lionsbridge home crowd as they fought their way to a 2-0 victory over the home side, where an impressive performance from goalkeeper Drew Romig earned him a clean sheet on the night. The team’s playoff journey continued and led them to a double overtime match with The Villages SC after the Florida-based team forced a 2-2 tie in the 33rd minute of the match. However, the Tormenta lads dug deep and found the back of the net twice in the second half of extra time to end The Villages SC’s season in the final minutes of the Conference Semifinal match. As Tormenta FC 2 prepares to take on North Carolina Fusion U23, all eyes will be on the Tormenta defense as Fusion U23 has proved to be a scoring machine in the 2021 regular season. 

North Carolina Fusion U23’s first match of the playoffs was marked by their usual dominance in the offensive half. The team kicked off the Conference Quarterfinals with a 5-0 victory over Tampa Bay United, which saw Adam Burchell pick up a brace while Fusion U23 goalkeeper Josh Perryman maintained a clean sheet. The second round of the playoffs proved to be more of a challenge for the Fusion U23 as they faced a competitive opponent in the SC United Bantams. The Bantams picked up the first goal of the night in the 19th minute, forcing the Fusion U23 to find an equalizer if they wanted to see their season continue. Thankfully, Tino Miguez saw his opportunity to slide one into the back of the Bantams’ net in stoppage time of the first half forcing both teams into extra time. Ultimately, the difference maker was a Henrique Santos goal in the 96th minute of play that earned North Carolina Fusion U23 a ticket to the Southern Conference Final. 

Central Conference Final: 

Des Moines Menace vs. Kalamazoo FC @ 7:30pm CDT on Friday, July 23

Valley Stadium, Des Moines, Iowa

The Des Moines Menace are hosting the 2021 League Two Playoffs for the second weekend in a row at Valley Stadium. The Menace’s first match of the weekend will ask them to face new League Two club Kalamazoo FC to compete for the Central Conference title. 

In the Conference Quarterfinals, the Des Moines Menace proved why they deserve a spot in the Conference Finals having beaten Texas United in an impressive 5-0 victory, which saw striker Nils Ayats score a hat trick to bring his season total to eight goals, earning him the title of top goal scorer for the Menace. The Menace hit the ground running in the first round of the playoffs, boosting their confidence as they prepared for one of the toughest games of the season against the 2019 League Two title-winners, the Flint City Bucks. Both teams struggled to find an opening in the first half of the match with control of the ball pretty evenly split between the two sides. However, Sivert Haugli saw an opportunity to bring his team to the Central Conference Final in the 51st minute as he tracked down a high floating ball and struck a jaw-dropping half-volley into the back of the Bucks’ net to secure a 1-0 victory for the Menace. Although the Menace look to be the favorite coming into the Central Conference Final, Kalamazoo FC is out to prove that maturity in the system does not always translate to easy wins. The Menace will need to be in prime condition both mentally and physically heading into the final if they hope to secure a title-winning season in 2021. 

New Path2Pro club Kalamazoo FC has made a significant mark in its inaugural season having found themselves in the Central Conference Final against all odds. Kalamazoo’s playoff journey started with an intense Quarterfinals match against Corpus Christi FC and saw the Michigan-based team defeat the Texas-based team in a 3-1 victory. However, the challenges did not stop there as Kalamazoo FC faced off against long-time League Two club Mississippi Brilla FC in a Conference Semifinals match that forced both sides into penalty kicks after a grueling 120 minutes of play. Ultimately, Kalamazoo rallied up its last bit of energy to defeat Mississippi Brilla in penalties, which were highlighted by the dominant performance of Kalamazoo goalkeeper Parker Smith, who made two crucial saves for the away side. As Kalamazoo looks to take on the mighty Des Moines Menace in the Central Conference Final, the Kalamazoo defense will need to stay on their toes and hold down their line to prevent the Menace from running up the scoreboard in its usual fashion. If Kalamazoo can manage to secure the win, they will head into the National Semifinals as Central Conference title-winners in their inaugural season, an accomplishment that deserves recognition. 

Western Conference Final:

Portland Timbers U23 vs. Park City Red Wolves SC @ 4:30pm CDT on Friday, July 23

Valley Stadium, Des Moines, Iowa

The Portland Timbers U23 and Park City Red Wolves will square off on Friday night for their first appearance in the 2021 League Two Playoffs. 

The Portland Timbers U23 have had a successful regular season run in 2021 having earned a first place finish in the Northwest Division table. The team managed to finish its season with a record of 10-1-1 having only lost one game in the regular season to OVF Alliance. Since then, the Timbers U23 has been on a five-game undefeated streak and hope to continue their winning ways to secure a Western Conference title in the 2021 season. However, standing in its way are the Park City Red Wolves, who had quite a different path to the finals having only narrowly qualified for the League Two Playoffs on a record of 5-3-1. The Red Wolves struggled at the beginning of their season to find their stride, but halfway through the season they hit the ground running and haven't stopped since. The team is coming off of a six game winning streak from its regular season and hopes to continue that momentum heading into what is expected to be a tough Western Conference Final on Friday night. 

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