Game is First of Four Matches in 10 Days for New Jersey
The Ironmen hope the hometown crowd can help bring them a win (Photo by Rich Graessle)
Newark, N.J. (Thursday, March 26, 2009) – The New Jersey Ironmen (8-8) are undoubtedly playing the best soccer of their season right now, and it could not have come at a better time with four must-win situations staring them in the face. While knocking out four wins in 10 days will be difficult in every sense of the word, the second-year side will find themselves raising the inaugural Xtreme Soccer League championship if they are able to accomplish such an incredible feat.
“During the first part of the season, we lacked the defensive discipline that is required to be a championship team,” Ironmen shot caller Omid Namazi reflected. “As was displayed in our last game, our guys now believe in being disciplined defensively, and they really showed how much they want to win. When you start sacrificing your body and doing everything you can to get a win- that is what championship teams are made of.”
After early season stumbles made them chase the top of the pack for the majority of the season, New Jersey has clawed and scratched their way back into the XSL championship hunt. The terms to get the league crown are about as simple as they could be: win out.
“When we play on Friday, there is no Sunday,” veteran midfielder Chile Farias commented. “Every game is now a final. We must win on Friday, and then we can worry about Sunday.”
The Ironmen kick off the weekend tomorrow night at Prudential Center when they host the first-place Detroit Ignition (10-7) at 7:30 p.m. A victory brings them within a ½ game of the Ignition, and a loss officially eliminates them from contention. It does not get any easier for New Jersey as they head to Milwaukee for a Sunday afternoon pairing with the Wave (9-8).
A recent acquisition for Namazi was the resigning of defender Tim O’Neill, and the move has been paying instant dividends. Fresh off a two-goal effort against Milwaukee this past weekend, O’Neill reiterated how defensive prowess has upped the level of play by the Ironmen.
“It was clear when I first came back that our presence wasn’t there defensively, and indoor soccer is a game where the offense must feel your physical presence,” he remarked. “Even at training now, we are going full force to make blocks and tackles. When you bring that type of physical aggression at the defensive end, it moves throughout the entire team. Not only are we teammates out there, we are friends, and friends always get each other’s back.”
There are a total of four games left on the season slate for New Jersey, and three of them come at the friendly confines of Prudential Center. With no playoffs, the regular season champion will be the inaugural winner of the XSL crown. After the match-up tomorrow night, the Ironmen host a pair of contests next weekend.
Serving as honorary captain for New Jersey against Detroit tomorrow will be five-time MLS Cup champion Jeff Agoos, and tickets are available now by calling 1-800-IRONMEN.