ACL Semifinals Preview

Last night we saw some incredible action out of North America’s best. Intense moments up and down the quarterfinals were had. Four teams advanced to the Semifinals, which take place tonight at 10pm Eastern.

All four of the top seeds in the bracket advanced into the next stage of competition. Viva Futbol (1), Elusive SC (2), Divine Footwork (3), and FC Serenity (4) all vanquished their opposition to find themselves 2 games away from playing for FIFA glory.

 

Quarterfinal Recaps

viv (1) v. sub (8) –

GAME 1: An early corner kick in the 10th minute for Viva Futbol is taken by Viva Suarez, who plays a left-footed in-swinger to the back post. It finds teammate Gringo St 7 in the 6 yard box, and he heads it into Sublime’s goal! Unlucky, it appears the ball goes off the hands of Itz Hotpants, the Sublime keeper but it still counts as Viva leads 1-0.

In the 13th minute, OP Knock tries to find someone, and under pressure fires a poor pass directly at Viva’s defensive midfielder FHz Vallejos 8, who finds Gringo ST 7 in space. Just like that Viva has transitioned back into attacking football. Gringo ST 7 finds Viva Suarez for a quick, short pass. Viva Suarez takes a touch, turns and fires a pass down the right wing for midfielder Omar l 1 l, who is glides past the Sublime midfielders. He finds Viva Suarez waiting at the corner of the 18, and Viva Suarez one-times a pass into the box for Draxler x10. Draxler x10 sends in a belt-high cross from the corner of the 6, and it deflects off a Sublime defender, but right to Gringo ST 7 who volleys it home! Viva Futbol up 2-0 early.

HALFTIME SCORE – 2-0 VIVA FUTBOL

Sublime has done a better job in the second half and has even put a little pressure on Viva’s defense at times, however they were unable to put together any meaningful scoring chances all game long. Viva at this point has already kicked in the door, but is threatening to burn the whole house down if Sublime does not sort itself out defensively.

A scoring chance for Viva in the 72nd minute comes as Viva Pony fires a giant throw-in to the Sublime touchline. It is flicked on by Ramani x to Draxler x10 who is taken down hard in the box.

Viva Suarez stepped up for his team, and this penalty kick would surely be curtains for Sublime this game if he connects. He jogs to the ball and smashes a hard-hitting left-footer into the left side of the goal. Viva leads Sublime 3-0.

In the 85th minute, Viva Suarez finds Viva Pep on a free kick right in the middle of the box, he hits a killer ball off his head but it strikes the cross bar. So close! The ball struck Itz Hotpants though and Viva had yet another chance to reign terror down on Sublime’s defense. Nothing comes of it though, and the last meaningful chance of the game passes.

FINAL SCORE – 3-0 VIVA FUTBOL

GAME 2: Into the 29th minute Sublime managed to keep Viva quiet, but they surrendered a free kick in a dangerous part of the pitch. Viva Pep found his way to every good ball played into the box this game, and Sublime continually failed to find an answer.

Viva Suarez takes the free kick. Viva Pep, yet again hanging around at the back of the 18. He slowly walks towards the penalty spot, and suddenly dashes towards the 6 as Viva Suarez plays a great ball in and Viva Pep connects with a near-post header to give Viva a 1-0 lead!

HALFTIME SCORE – 1-0 VIVA FUTBOL

In the second half of this game, Sublime started to move the ball a little bit better. It certainly seemed too late for them to win the series, but if they had managed to pull out a game off Viva that would have been quite a feat.

A turnover in the 69th in transition by Sublime’s Turan l 10 l to the feet of Omar l 1 l puts Sublime quickly on the defensive as Viva surges forward sensing a good opportunity. Omar l 1 l passes to Draxler x10, who quickly passes back to Omar l 1 l, and the ball is moving at a blistering pace as Sublime is backpedaling just trying to stay whole. The ball finds its way to Viva Suarez who plays a quick pass to Gringo ST 7, and he plays a sweet little ball through to Draxler x10. He shoots the ball across the face of goal past Itz Hotpants for Viva’s second goal of the game. Viva up 2-0 late in Game 2.

Life for Sublime Skill in the 74th minute right off the kick off following Viva’s goal. A wayward pass by Rewind l 7 l is intercepted by a Sublime defender, who passes quickly to o2DaTruth3o. He finds Turan l 10 l, who dishes it wide to Midget l 23, and he one-times a belt-high cross into the 6 for Sublime Striker, Aclrian. He volleys it home with authority! They still trail Viva 2-1 at this point.

FINAL SCORE – 2-1 VIVA FUTBOL

Viva Futbol were simply the better team across the entire pitch all series long, and Sublime was overmatched right from the start. Viva looks destined to march right to another championship, especially if they can keep beating opponents like this.

AGGREGATE SCORE – 5-1 VIVA FUTBOL

d238ad188edae89bc52bb0353a914fa7 (2) v. fhz (7) –

GAME 1: Elusive suffered a major setback in their debut season playing in Division 1, as Fc FiFa HoLiCz really put the screws to them in the 1st game.

A brace by Golden Boot runner up x0 Re1uK Xx helped set the tone, while a second brace by FwC Zombie was capped off with him also providing the assists for x0 Re1uK Xx.

Rav l 10 l grabbed his team a very important lone goal in this matchup, and it may have been the most important goal in the series.

FINAL SCORE – 4-1 FC FIFA HOLICZ

GAME 2: Elusive reversed the devastation of Game 1, and found themselves controlling the tempo of the game against Fc FiFa HoLiCz.

Hype razor finally emerged in the series, slotting home a brace for himself on his way to helping himself to Man of the Match for Elusive.

Rav l 10 l continued his fine form grabbing a brace of his own, as well as an assist in the rout over Fc FiFa HoLiCz.

lll ADRIANO lll and icyjunior provided good service for their teammates each nabbing an assist of their own.

This game has to be a tremendous disappointment for FHz who were up by 3 goals, and looked destined to be making an appearance in the next round. On the flip side, it had to be sheer jubilation for Elusive SC who rallied down by a huge margin and not only dominated the game but found a way to hold it together and not give up.

FINAL SCORE – 4-0 ELUSIVE SC

A great rally by Elusive showed the rest of the league that they are a force to be reckoned with. This performance was the sign of a true championship caliber team, and one worthy of recognition. Not quitting when it looked as bad as it did is impressive and noteworthy, without question.

AGGREGATE SCORE – 5-4 ELUSIVE SC

0bc51375f7df6cfe47c495d8eab0066b (3) v. fh (6) –

GAME 1: The pressure from FIFA Harmony builds in the 4th minute as Divine’s left mid, Luka Lockup, passes to their attacking mid, Cheeky Vision, at midfield and he is immediately stripped by Blend x 13 who takes 2 or 3 touches and slips a pass in behind Divine’s defense to Viva Reyes who slots it in the right corner for the first goal of the game, giving FH the lead at 1-0!

In injury time, a bad header by FH on a clearance leads to a turnover as Luka Lockup finds the ball at his feet and cuts into the middle to play a pass to Cheeky Vision’s feet. James l 15 l makes the stop but cannot find the time to clear it as Divine’s CAM recovers the ball. He turns and shoots a left-footed shot low and to the right… BUT IT CLANGS OFF THE POST! Divine is denied an equalizer as the first half of Game 1 ends.

HALFTIME SCORE – 1-0 FIFA Harmony

A chance by Harmony in the 56th as igi Dom l7l finds himself with the ball at his feet in Divine’s 18, only 1 defender to beat. He is looking to play it across to Viva Reyes but holds the ball too long allowing Divine’s keeper to create a stop and make a goal-saving play.

A corner opportunity for Divine comes in the 64th minute as Cheeky Vision takes and plays a short pass to streets1014 who plays it to SwainAFC at the corner of the 18, and he plays a beautiful curler to the back post to find Dirty l 6 l, who heads the ball into the upper 90 across the face of goal to tie it up 1-1!

FINAL SCORE – 1-1 TIED

GAME 2: A foul by SwainAFC on Zephy l 7 l in the 40th minute gives FIFA Harmony a free kick in dangerous territory. Zephy l 7 l hooks a great cross to far edge of the 18 yard box onto the dome of Viva Oscar who flicks the ball into the middle. But Viva Reyes overruns the first ball, he manages to recover and fire a rip at the right corner of the goal but it bangs off the woodwork. The ball rebounds across goal to the man who started the play, Zephy l 7 l as he finds a wide open net for an effortless stroke to put FH up 1-0 on the eve of halftime.

HALFTIME SCORE – 1-0 FIFA HARMONY

Both sides struggle to establish supremacy for much of the game and it leads to some messy passing late in the second half. A loose ball in Harmony’s box leads to DTG x Snubnoze being hacked down by centerback DoN l 2 l for a Divine Penalty!

DTG x Snubnoze then steps up, looking to equalize for his team as he slots it into the lower left corner to tie the game up at 1-1!

The referee gives a lot of injury time, the maximum of 5 minutes as both teams scramble to get that last opportunity to win the game before we head to a Golden Goal match. A great sequence of passes finds Divine with a chance to end the game, but Cheeky Vision is unable to play the right pass and FH clears it.

The ball lands on the head of Dirty l 6l, the referee still has not blown the whistle as we are deep into injury time now. Dirty l 6 l heads the ball down and forward, somehow he manages to find co-manager streets1014, who is 20 yards up field. The forward turns and plays a volley through to the feet of Cheeky Vision in on goal and slots the ball past the keeper, on the edge of the 6 yard box to give Divine a 2-1 lead with no time left on the clock!

FINAL SCORE – 2-1 DIVINE FOOTWORK

A heartbreaking loss for FIFA Harmony who for much of the series dominated play, especially early on, with Divine registering just 2 shots in both first halves of the series. Divine rallied each time in the second half, and capitalized on Harmony mistakes to create their goals and punch their ticket to the next round.

AGGREGATE SCORE – 3-2 DIVINE FOOTWORK

ser (4) v. ucf (5) –

GAME 1: This was a close game despite the score line. It easily could have went a different direction if plays fell differently.

Central midfielder tgpdtp for FC Serenity found himself on the receiving end of two similar scoring plays by fellow central mid Boateng x. For his efforts tgpdtp was awarded Man of the Match of FC Serenity.

A quiet game for Unleashed CF on the scoresheet left them in a bit of a hole as they headed into Game 2 of this Home-and-Home series.

FINAL SCORE – 2-0 FC SERENITY

GAME 2: A much closer affair, and one that could have gone Unleashed CF’s way if not for some timely defensive clearances, and a couple clangers off posts.

A goal for FC Serenity’s defender, Aztecas l 8 l clinched the night for the defending champions, as he was set up with a great opportunity by LickMyBalotelli.

Unleashed would not go down without a fight, as they supplied their own noise in the form of a WarMachine199 goal who helped keep Unleashed in it until the end.

FINAL SCORE – 1-1 TIE

FC Serenity and Unleashed played a pair of great games. Unleashed at the end of the day, simply made too many costly mistakes on defense as they had been prone to doing at the worst times all season. Scrambling play, and erratic passing hallmarked their performances tonight, for a team that had all kinds of potential this has to be considered a disappointment for Unleashed CF’s manager given where he expected his squad to be given how well last season went for them. FC Serenity continued doing what it does well, great defensive work with efficient scoring pushed by a strong possession game in the midfield.

AGGREGATE SCORE – 3-1 FC SERENITY

It was simply not enough, as Unleashed were unable to muster additional chances and felt short in this ACL 9 Finals rematch. They now will sit at home as the defending champs look to continue a successful title defense.

 

The Semifinal Matchups

viv (1) v. ser (4) – This is a clash between 2 very good FIFA teams. This may be the best 2 games we see all season in ACL X. Both squads are relatively even on paper, with both boasting strong midfields, top tier forwards, and good defensive units. The regular season matchups were almost dead even, with a Week 3 clash settling at a 1-1 draw, and the return trip going in favor of Viva Futbol 1-0.

Viva Futbol needs to use the small advantages they do possess over FC Serenity, and use them to pry this game open. Viva Pep is an aerial monster, and Serenity does not seem to have a good answer for him. He will be vital to a Viva win if he can successfully convert headers on free kicks and corners. Their defense is better than Serenity’s and that’s not debatable. Using their strong backline to their advantage to silence the Serenity attack will go a long way towards them securing victory in this semis clash.

Serenity will need Dylshkin67 x to return to form, and show up in primetime fashion to give LickMyBalotelli’s team the best chance at winning. Their midfield matches up really well with Viva’s and may be capable of holding possession against them for extending periods of time, but they need to avoid costly turnovers as Viva is lethal up top, and will take advantage of any opportunity they are given on the attack. Keeping Viva Pep contained on set pieces will go a long, long way towards getting the wins that they need to take this series.

Prediction: Viva looks to dominant right at the whistle, but Serenity is a stronger team than Sublime and withstands the early pressure. Serenity does not make the costly turnovers that sunk Sublime. Both teams go back and forth deep into Game 1, when a set piece puts the ball on Viva Pep’s head who seals Game 1 for Viva. Game 2 has FC Serenity against the wall and they need to play riskier passes to breakdown a solid Viva defense, more numbers going forward means more opportunities for counters and Viva opens the door with an late 1st Half goal and walks into an ACL X finals appearance. 1-0 Viva, 1-0 Viva: Viva Futbol advances on aggregate 2-0.

d238ad188edae89bc52bb0353a914fa7 (2) v. 0bc51375f7df6cfe47c495d8eab0066b (3) – Two teams with very different styles meet on this pitch. One focused on playing solid all-around good football, the other concerned with winning the offensive battles and overwhelming an enemy’s defenses at the expense of their own. These two split their seasonal matchups with Elusive winning 2-0 in Week 3, but Divine earning revenge during the return trip 2-1.

Elusive needs to start strong, if they struggle against Divine like they did against Fc FiFa HoLiCz in Game 1, this is going to be a wrap because Divine will not surrender 4 goals in Game 2. This means Elusive wants to get an early lead and force Divine to come to them, this will allow them to hit on the counter and use their dynamic duo up top to supreme effect. Look for Elusive’s strikeforce to try and slice up Divine’s backline which proved to be a little bit leaky against FH in the Quarterfinals.

Divine have to play better tonight, last night they were lucky to escape with a 3-2 aggregate score. Their first half play, as I said before, was atrocious in both Game 1 and Game 2 against FIFA Harmony. Elusive are a better offensive team, and will take every inch they are given. Divine needs to tighten up its midfield play or it will be in for an ugly series against a good offensive opponent. Their defense needs to find the holes and fix them, because they are putting a lot of pressure on their offense to perform if they continue to give up goals like they have been.

Prediction: Divine turns around their struggles and performs like the championship caliber team they are. Elusive has a tough time against a better all-around team than FHz, and they pay for it with a pair of early goals that close the door on Game 1, a consolation prize late will make it a competition. Game 2 sees Elusive come at Divine with an all-out-attack. They are hungry, and they want results. That Bottleface puts his team on his back and his stalwart goalkeeping allows Divine to keep it goose eggs, as they pad their aggregate lead. 2-1 Divine, 2-0 Divine: Divine Footwork advances on aggregate 4-1.

 

My Quarterfinal Predictions

viv (1) v. sub (8): 3-0 Viva, 3-1 Viva: Viva Futbol advances on aggregate 6-1.

d238ad188edae89bc52bb0353a914fa7 (2) v. fhz (7): 3-2 Elusive, 3-1 FHz: Fc FiFa HoLiCz advances on aggregate 5-4.

0bc51375f7df6cfe47c495d8eab0066b (3) v. fh (6): 3-1 Divine, 2-0 Divine: Divine Footwork advances on aggregate 5-1

ser (4) v. ucf (5): 2-1 Serenity, 1-0 Serenity: FC Serenity advances on aggregate 3-1.

HOW I DID: I went 3-1 overall, with my only missed pick coming in the Elusive/FHz game which ended up being an offensive eruption like I predicted. I got the aggregate right for Serenity/Unleashed but was off on the individual games. I missed badly on Divine/FH as I felt Divine would be far more dominant than they were, and they very easily could have been sitting at home rather than advancing to the Semis. Viva Futbol I was fairly close, missing the correct score by 1 goal in Viva’s favor. All-in-all I had a good night, I could have done better predicting closeness of games I feel.

The intensity is rising, we are almost at the end of the line. The orchestra is ready to play, the curtains are ready to close, but the fat lady is still in the dressing room. We have only 2 more nights of great FIFA 15 action and I have a feeling we are in store for some great games of competitive North American Pro Clubs.