Black Rock FC wins PDL Northeast Division title in first season
The Great Barrington-based outfit claimed a Northeast Division title over the weekend with a 2-1 win over Boston Bolts, and in the process Black Rock FC booked a spot in the Eastern Conference semifinals next weekend.
Black Rock FC went 9-2-3 in its inaugural Northeast Division campaign, finishing on a three-game winning streak capped by the win over the Bolts on Saturday.
In that final game, Komar Martinez-Paiz scored the opening goal for Black Rock in the 9th minute, then Jacob Shaffelburg — a rising senior at Berkshire School — converted on a pass from Ifunanyachi Achara in the 22nd minute to put the team up 2-0.
Trevor Davok scored once in the second half to cut the deficit in half for the Bolts, but that was as close as the Bolts got.
Giovani Riello had four saves in the win.
"I'm obviously very excited and pleased with the outcome," Black Rock coach Jon Moodey said of winning a division title. "I think our best is yet to come, truly. I think we were just starting to find our rhythm at the end."
Black Rock FC finished the year with a goal differential of plus-14, with the team scoring 33 goals and giving up 19. The 9-2-3 record gave Black Rock FC 30 points on the year, six better than second-place GPS Portland Phoenix, which still has one game in hand.
Achara and Shaffelburg finished the year as the joint-leading scorers for Black Rock FC, with each player scoring eight goals. Both made their impacts in a short amount of time. Achara played in nine of Black Rock FC's 14 games this year, while Shaffelburg only played in seven games after joining the team midway through the season.
Shaffelburg, who was named the No. 41 prospect on the PDL's 2018 Top Prospect list, also notched three assists this year, good for third on the team. Theo Quartey notched six assists to lead the team, and also scored three goals. Achara was second on the assist list, dishing out four helpers so far this season.
Moodey said that throughout the season he has been most impressed by how his group of players came together and put aside their egos to make the collective unit stronger.
"A lot of successful college athletes coming in used to being at or near the top of the totem pole," Moodey said, "seeing some of them become role players. Putting egos aside and really bonding together. Seeing guys buy into the team culture, play for each other, play for the club.
"When you have a lot of talent sometimes it doesn't always mesh. I think at the beginning we were feeling each other out, the hierarchy and understanding of who the leaders are, it takes a while. I'm happy that we settled and everyone is comfortable with one another."
The success has also come despite a quick start-up period. With Black Rock FC joining the PDL roughly a year ago, the organization had to put things together quickly in order to take the field for 2018 — from field location, to sponsors, to practice locations and everything in between. Moodey said that the headaches along the way have been worth it.
"Everything has been on a shoestring. It creates a bit of stress internally," Moodey said. "But it really hasn't blocked us, and that's what I'm proud of. Everyone has gotten beyond themselves and realized that we are working towards a goal of building this club and brand. They are investing time and energy, which is all we have right now — personal investment. It kind of came together nicely in that way.
"That was the hardest part, but also the best part."
Black Rock FC now has a bit of a wait before the playoffs. Black Rock's schedule worked out that the team has a "bye" this week as the rest of the league plays in its final games. Reading United AC will be one of the other semifinalists, as Reading United has 35 points in the Mid-Atlantic Division and a seven-point lead over New York Red Bulls U23. In the South Atlantic, Myrtle Beach Mutiny has 24 points with 12 games played, while North Carolina FC U23 had 22 with 13 games played.
The fourth team to make the semifinals is the second-place team with the highest point totals. Currently, that is New York Red Bulls U23, but the Red Bulls only have a three-point lead over long Island Rough Riders, and those two teams are scheduled to meet on Friday and each team has one more game remaining after that.
The semifinals are scheduled for the weekend of July 20-22.
With college soccer teams slowly reconvening for the collegiate season, Moodey said the team is not training this week.
"A lot of our guys are in college now, have gone back to college for training or in camps," Moodey said. "So we aren't training this week. It will be interesting to see how it all works out."
In addition to his players, Moodey also has a busy schedule before the team plays in its semifinal. Moodey is currently in the process of moving up to Lake Placid, N.Y. as Black Rock FC prepares to start its residential academy at Northwood School — another inaugural season for a Black Rock program — and a group of Black Rock FC youth players are about to head to Sweden for an international tournament.
Geoff Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @GSmith_Eagle on Twitter and 413-496-6254.
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