August 6-7 in Portland, Ore.
USL Feature - PDL Championship Media Guide
August, 5 2010
By Peter Kidd
For one Premier Development League team, this summer’s hard work is about to pay off.
The 2010 PDL Championship kicks off at PGE Park in Portland, Ore. on Friday evening, and what better time to preview the teams that have battled within two games of claiming the title?
Each year, the postseason tournament has a favorite. This year, that honor goes to the top-seeded Portland Timbers U23s.
Portland, which completed a 16-0-0 regular season, steamrolled through its competition on the way to becoming the first undefeated and untied team in the regular season since the Jackson Chargers in 1998. If the Timbers win both games during the weekend and claim the championship, they will be the first team to finish the season with a perfect record (without a loss or a tie).
The Western Conference champions are led by their two PDL All-League selections in Brent Richards and Freddie Braun.
Richards, a forward, has had a phenomenal summer, totaling 14 goals and finishing as the PDL’s second-leading scorer while being named a finalist for the league’s Most Valuable Player award. On top of that, Richards is also a finalist for Rookie of the Year honors. The midfield glue for the Timbers U23s, Braun tied for third in the league in assists with eight. Braun and Richards have formed a lethal combination for opposing squads to defend.
In net, Portland boasts one of the top statistical leaders in the PDL in Jacob Gleeson. Not only did Gleeson allow the fewest goals in the league with five, but the goalkeeper also boasts the best goals-against average and is tied for second in shutouts with eight. Throw in the fact that the championship is being held in the team’s home stadium of PGE Park, and the Timbers have a recipe primed for success.
Hailing from Ontario, Canada, the 2008 PDL champion Thunder Bay Chill bring with them from the north a potent attack. Winners of the Central Conference, the Chill will try to repeat their success of two years ago and are also led by a pair of standout players.
Up front, Thunder Bay forward Brandon Swartendruber led the PDL in total points with 35 and goals with 15. To support this prolific attacker is fellow forward Gustavo Oliveira-Araujo, who boasted a league-leading 13 assists. A team which knocks off the Chill will have to contain these two players and limit their interplay.
On their way to Portland, the Chill won both of their playoff games by a single goal. First, a 1-0 win against Forest City London in the Central Conference Semifinals, followed by a 2-1 victory against the Michigan Bucks in the Conference championship.
The third member of the final four, Reading United AC, had to defeat a strong Ottawa Fury side in the Eastern Conference Championship to get this far. Reading came into the Algonquin College Soccer Complex to face Ottawa, which up to that point was undefeated at home, and left with a 3-2 win and a ticket to Portland.
Reading, which also claimed the Mid-Atlantic Division title for the third year in a row, rides a balanced attack on its way to victories. Midfielder Luke Mulholland led the team in points with 12, while Mulholland, Corey Hertzog, Charles Sapong and William Schuler tied for the team lead in goals with four apiece. Goalkeeper Jeremy Vuolo anchors the squad in the back and tied for sixth in the PDL with five shutouts.
Rounding out the group of four are the Baton Rouge Capitals, who are the only team in the quartet that failed to finish first in its division. The Capitals defeated the Houston Leones 2-1 in the conference finals to advance to Friday's PDL semis.
Considered the biggest underdogs in Portland, the Capitals have been boosted by the attacking talents of forward Ben Callon all season-long. Callon led the team with 19 points and nine goals.
The Louisiana side also has arguably the most unique coaching and general manager setup of any PDL club. Defender Stuart Hayers is the club’s head coach, while Callon pulls double duty as Baton Rouge’s general manager. Both will be on the field playing a critical role as they try to lift their organization to new heights.
Friday, August 6:
#3 Baton Rouge at #2 Thunder Bay, 5 p.m. PT (8 p.m. ET) AVAILABLE LIVE ON www.usllive.com
#4 Reading United at #1 Portland, 7:30 p.m. PT (10:30 p.m. ET) AVAILABLE LIVE ON www.usllive.com
Saturday, August 7:
Consolation, 1 p.m. PT (4 p.m. ET) AVAILABLE LIVE ON www.usllive.com
Championship Final, 4 p.m. PT (7 p.m. ET) AVAILABLE LIVE ON FOX SOCCER CHANNEL