ACL Postseason Preview

You want to talk about playoffs!?… PLAYOFFS!? YES. I. DO. It is playoff week for ACL X, and this is the last week of ACL competition for the remainder of FIFA 15. This week, 8 of the best teams in North America will face off in a clash to see who will be crowned “Champions of ACL X”.

The postseason will feature 3 rounds of play, the quarterfinals, the semifinals, and lastly the finals. Each matchup is a Home-and-Home series using the aggregate score, with a Golden Goal game in the event of a tie – additional Golden Goal games are played until 1 team scores.

For those unfamiliar with the format, a Home-and-Home series requires each team to play a Home game and an Away game. The highest seeded teams in the quarterfinals, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th all play their Home games first, and then are Away for the final leg of the matchup. In the event of a tie in aggregate scoring, both teams will play a Golden Goal game – a game that ends immediately upon a goal being scored and that team being declared the victor of the series. The host of the Golden Goal game is the team which was the home team for the first leg in the series.

 

Meet Your Contenders

  1. viv – The 1st seed in the playoffs, this team ran the tables from Week 1 to Week 7, never surrendering their hold on the top spot of the league all season long. They have to be considered the favorites to win it all. Strong play all around, anchored by the League’s best defense which allowed an immaculate 0.63 goals per game. The team also led the league in team scoring with 2.24 goals per game. Led by Managers Viva Pep, Viva Suarez, and Draxler x10 this team is a force up and down the pitch. It has the strongest possible lineup of any team in the competition and proved it all season long.
  2. d238ad188edae89bc52bb0353a914fa7 – Seeded 2nd going into Tuesday night’s quarterfinals, Elusive are a relative enigma that no one knows how they are going to do in the postseason. The team broke the stranglehold the “Big Four” had on the top of the table, and locked up the 2nd seed with 2 strong weeks of play in the end. The team allowed the 3rd most goals of any team of the playoff teams allowing exactly 1 goal per game. However, their ability to outscore opponents with an impressive 2.08 g/pg makes them a dangerous team offensively. Manager Fiddleton is an aerial threat that gives this side an important extra dimension to their attack that few teams have, even in the postseason.
  3. 0bc51375f7df6cfe47c495d8eab0066b – Our 3rd seed in the postseason, Divine struggled for a goal scoring identity for much of the beginning of the campaign. However, Manager streets1014 has emerged as the leading goal scorer for his squad coming on with a strong second half surge that pushed him into contention for the Golden Boot in the final week of the season. Fellow Manager Dirty l 6 l carries this defense and has all season. The team boasted the second best defensive united going into the homestretch, but a rough set of games saw Divine surrender 7 goals in their final 6 games, with 6 coming in their last 3.
  4. ser – The defending champs locked up the 4th seed, but apathy and a lack of motivation derailed what looked to be a strong opportunity to take a top 2 spot in the final weeks of the season. Members of the squad seemed comfortable with heading into the playoffs in the 4-spot ready to take on all comers and reclaim their trophy. Struggling or not down the final stretch, you cannot discount the abilities of the defending champions to knuckle down and get the results they need to win back-to-back ACL titles.
  5. ucf – The 5th seed was probably seen as a disappointment by Manager eXo Cavani, however an impressive final stretch of the season should give this team confidence going into Tuesday night. The team has all the pieces capable of making a deep postseason run, but they need to come together now. The team was one of the better defensive units for much of the season. Hiccups along the way will raise question marks, but this team has the talent and experience to put together a championship season.
  6. fh – Never quite able to crack the top 5, Harmony settled for the 6th The squad, on paper boasts one of the better defensive units but has often failed to live up to expectations in game. All season I have declared the need for FH to find consistency in their performances. While holding 6th place all season long is a sign of consistency, it is not quite going to be enough against the best the ACL has to offer. Viva Reyes put on an absolute thriller of a goal scoring campaign, and nearly secured a Golden Boot for his personal trophy case, but the squad needs to find a secondary outlet to keep the pressure off of him now.
  7. fhz – A cavalcade of Mexican stars secured FHz 7th place after the club folded just 1 season prior. Winning a spot in Division 1 through the promotional tournament, this team surpassed the other 4 squads also promoted to Division 1 by a mile. A slow start to the beginning of the season left FHz with only one place to go… and that was up. And up this team did, climbing nearly into the Top 4 before they were brought back down to Earth. The talent is all over the midfield and attack for this team, question marks and exclamation points cover the defensive unit however. The team may find itself needing to outscore their opponents if they want to advance in this tournament.
  8. sub – Warriors to the bitter end, locking up the 8th seed on the final day of competition of play no team had a more dramatic year than Sublime Skill. They managed to turn themselves around from a relegation threatened team into a huge wave of momentum that leaves many people talking about the “What if’s?” for the side. Scoring threats Midget l 23 and Aclrian provide complimentary attacking options to each other that enable this team to thrive and succeed in a way few teams are capable. Their defense is considered the weakest of all 8 playoff teams, and has proven unable to keep goals out of the back of the net against the elite ACL teams.

 

The Matchups

viv (1) v. sub (8) – Two forces collide here, both pushed by the momentum of their efforts this season. Viva have the weight of inevitability behind them and seem to be on a march bound for glory. Sublime are riding a tsunami of emotion into the postseason following a roller coaster of a regular season for them. The matchup between the 2 sides saw Viva Futbol win both clashes by a dominating score of 3-0.

Viva have been the all-around juggernaut all season long, capable of doing it all, suffering just 3 defeats along the way to capturing 1st place in the ACL. The only stumble they took along the way was failing to secure Gringo ST 7, what seemed to be his Golden Boot to lose. Whether the team altered their tactics as a way to test out potential playoff strategies is only speculation. The drought does raise questions if the team’s best scorer is entering a slump at the worst possible time. I am looking for them to attempt to dominate Sublime in every facet of the game, set pieces, possession, shots, defending, transitional play, everything. It could get out of hand fast, and with 2 guaranteed games, a blowout could be a possibility.

Sublime have momentum, but they are running full speed into a brick wall propelled by a tank at top speed. The results could be devastating. Sublime will need to play the ABSOLUTE BEST 2 games of FIFA they have ever played as a squad to pull out the upset here. I am expecting Manager Aclrian to put on a scoring clinic if this team is going to have a chance. The defense will need to withstand the pressure long enough to give their midfield a chance to create opportunities that put them on top and Viva on the back foot.

Prediction: Viva scores fast and early, putting Sublime in the inevitable position of opening up their play and creating more opportunities for Viva to kick open the door and burn the house down. Someone’s momentum ends tonight and I cannot see it being Viva’s. 3-0 Viva, 3-1 Viva: Viva Futbol advances on aggregate 6-1.

d238ad188edae89bc52bb0353a914fa7 (2) v. fhz (7) – Two very strong offense-focused teams clash tonight in our 2nd quarterfinal matchup. The sides feature the top 2 goal scorers in ACL regular season play in Hype razor (29 goals) and x0 Re1uK Xx (26 goals). Both have experience rough games defensively as well. The season head-to-head between these teams saw a dominant 6-1 win by FHz over Elusive in Week 2, with the return leg going in the favor of Elusive 2-0.

Elusive enters this matchup with a lot to prove. Many, including this writer doubted the team’s abilities all season long to compete against the best. Now tonight is their opportunity to prove they belong. Look for their stars up top to put the team on their shoulders and overcome their shortcomings defensively. The focal point of this defense, Fiddleton will need to come up big and keep his backline together against a very offensive-minded squad, in FiFa HoLiCz. If there was ever a night to grab a clean sheet or two, this is it.

Fc FiFa HoLiCz enter the series with something to prove. Consistently all season they struggled for positive results against the best teams in the league. One of the exceptions, was their commanding 5-1 win over Elusive in Week 2. They need to find that mojo once again and pull together behind their superstar striker. Defensively, it is the same story as it is for Elusive. They need to secure control of their defensive area, make smart clearances and grab a clean sheet or two. If either team is able to outperform the other defensively at any point in the series, they’ll have the upper hand no doubt.

Prediction: Elusive start of strong and take an early lead over FHz, game is a back-and-forth affair as the teams struggle to assert offensive dominance. Game 2 swings decisively in FiFa HoLiCz favor as experience in high pressure situations shows itself. 3-2 Elusive, 3-1 FHz: Fc FiFa HoLiCz advances on aggregate 5-4.

0bc51375f7df6cfe47c495d8eab0066b (3) v. fh (6) – A last season slip up by Divine against Sublime Skill and Sync Futbol turned, what looked like a 2nd seed in the playoffs into a 3rd seed against a much strong opponent. While the regular season played out as a complete demolition by Divine, with a pair of 3-0 wins over FIFA Harmony, this matchup is close and both teams will need strong competitive performances tonight.

Divine needs to continue building on what it started in the beginning of the season. The team’s roster has grown stronger with each passing week, and while a late stumble makes their road to the finals that much harder it is still definitely something they are expected to achieve. Divine’s offense is lacking a key figure in Kev l 11 l, a true creative force that helped give the team an extra attacking dimension. However, the squad is deep enough to absorb his loss but it is something to look for if they struggle tonight offensively. Their defense while it suffered a few blunders is still one of the best in the league and needs to remember it.

FIFA Harmony can get some results here and make a real statement. A team that seemed dead, just days before the season started, reemerged as a playoff caliber team and one I believe is still a championship caliber side if they play like it. Viva Reyes needs to lace up his best pair of boots because he is going to need to be lethal in front of That Bottleface. Defensively this team could find itself opened up by the incisive dribbling of streets1014 and DTG x Snubnoze if they are not careful. The defensive pairing of Blend x 13 and Zephy l 7 l will need to chew up a lot of passes and make some huge stops in the midfield to help out their backline.

Prediction: Divine’s midfield is too quick and precise for FH to compete and an overextension leads to a quick-hitting goal that shifts momentum completely towards Divine. They pour on the shine and wax FIFA Harmony right out of the competition. 3-1 Divine, 2-0 Divine: Divine Footwork advances on aggregate 5-1.

ser (4) v. ucf (5) – A rematch of the ACL 9 finals! This is a matchup both teams probably feel could have come either in the 2nd or 3rd round of the competition as both sides struggled to capitalize on opportunities to climb higher up the standings in the regular season. Now one will pay for these shortcomings as these two sides are as even as it gets to me. During the regular season that was very much the case, with Serenity drawing first blood with a 2-1 victory, but on the return trip Unleashed got the better of LickMyBalotelli’s side with a 1-0 win.

For Serenity this game is all about realizing their potential, on paper they have a top 2 roster and the absolute best midfield player-for-player in the ACL. But none of that has mattered this season as they have struggled to put all 11 starters on the field at the same time. Tonight is the one night where they absolutely need to find a way to get their best playing with each other. Otherwise, they risk Unleashed shutting down a successful title defense. The failure for a standout goal scorer to emerge in the absence of Dylshkin67 x leaves this team in the unenviable spot of having no one to lean on in big games.

Unleashed will enter this matchup looking at Serenity’s inability to field their best as a chance for them to grab a win that should have been a lot tougher to earn. eXo Cavani has had no trouble fielding the best possible lineup each week and should look to exploit mismatches in talent around the pitch should any exist. The spotlight will ultimately fall on his shoulders though as his team will look to him in the biggest spots with the game on the line. His defense has often collapsed at the worst times however, and tonight would be the absolute worst time to repeat themselves.

Prediction: Contested to the bitter end, I see FC Serenity squeaking out small advantages over the course of both games that allow them to grab tight victories and win the series. 2-1 Serenity, 1-0 Serenity: FC Serenity advances on aggregate 3-1.

 

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Tonight starts the most exciting week in ACL play as 8 teams battle it out to be crowned ACL X Champion on Thursday night. It all starts tonight at 10pm Eastern.