Saturday April 16th brings the first installment of the game every soccer fan in San Diego has been waiting for. The North County Battalion host Albion Pros in the first meeting ever between the two National Premier Soccer League franchises. Albion Pros, the newest expansion team in the Southwest Division, travel up the I-15 to Del Norte High School on Saturday to face NC Battalion in a battle for San Diego soccer bragging rights.
Why is this match so important for the San Diego soccer community you ask? Well, both are expansion teams in 2016 that started as a result of realizing an opportunity to build a soccer culture in San Diego. There was a lack of compelling soccer product from the formerly great and now defunct San Diego Flash. Both NC Battalion and Albion Pros have gone out to graft a new, improved soccer culture by learning from the poor management of the San Diego Flash.
Inspired by the European model of soccer player development, Albion Pros used their considerable youth club foundation and resources to grow the awareness of their new Pros team. Meanwhile, NC Battalion has recruited from the wider existing soccer community to kick-start their 2016 NPSL campaign. Both teams vie for the attention of the San Diego soccer fan in hopes of creating a culture that would realistically attract the interest of Major League Soccer. Both have started brightly with each team achieving a 2-0-0 record to start their seasons. Who will come out on top after the dust settles at approximately 9pm on Saturday?
Here are three things to watch for in the inaugural meeting between both San Diego teams.
- Top Defense vs. Top Offense
The famous line says, “Offense wins games, but defense wins championships.” Saturday’s matchup will put that theory to the test. Albion Pros have the best defensive record in the division after keeping clean sheets through the first two NPSL league games. Led by the stellar play of GK Jean Antoine and a stout backline, Albion Pros have not conceded a goal yet. However, the backline will be put to the greatest test yet as NC Battalion have the best offensive record in the league, having scored 6 goals in the first two games. As they say, something has to give. Look for Albion to remain resolute at the back while Battalion throws numbers forward in search of a win front of their fans.
- Electric Atmosphere
NC Battalion will play host to the first San Diego Derby (Pronounced DAR-be) and budding rivalry in front of a loud home crowd. Last week was NCB’s official home opener and generated a lot of buzz despite the rain. This week there will surely be a more electric atmosphere, as many San Diego soccer fans will be looking to see both teams on the field for the first time. You will hear cow bells, music, drums and hundreds of people cheering for the home team. The Deep End, Albion Pros official supporters group, will look to be the loudest group in the stadium and are sure to bring the noise, passion and energy for the visitor’s side. It will be an electric atmosphere where you will be able to sense the rivalry.
- Game within the Game
It will be interesting to see how former teammates interact on and off the pitch prior to the game. Current Albion Pros Captain Luke Staats is a former SD Flash player. Staats left many of his former teammates, who subsequently joined NC Battalion, in search of a new challenge. Saturday will be the first meeting between the two San Diego based teams, which will surely have all the players and staff absolutely pumped. Can the players keep their emotions under control to produce the style of soccer they are accustomed to, or will it be a “battle” of attrition?
It will be a great matchup between the two teams with both teams ready to give it their all to claim bragging rights as the best soccer team in San Diego county.