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Preview: It’s Pittsburgh vs Cleveland in NPSL Rust Belt Division showdown for first place

Photo Credit: Anouck Heyer
NPSL Midwest Conference — Rust Belt Division

Pittsburgh Hotspurs (5-1-0, 15 points) vs FC Cleveland (5-0-1, 16 points) 

Friday, June 25, 2021 |  Founders Field, Pittsburgh, PA )  7 p.m.

PSN Coverage Team:  Reporting John Krysinsky (@JohnKrysinsky) and Ed Thompson (@ThompsonFoto12)

In the aptly named Rust Belt Division in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL)’s Midwest Region, it will be a Pittsburgh vs Cleveland showdown that very well could decide which team will earn the divisional crown on Friday night at Founders Field.

It’s a rematch of an early season encounter when FC Cleveland scored late in the first half, then poured on a number of additional second half goals to win going away, 6-1 at Baldwin-Wallace University in Berea, OH on June 4.

Tate Mohney scored the lone goal for the Hotspurs in that match.

Since that loss, the Hotspurs have won four consecutive matches to surge comfortably ahead of the rest of the division and into second place, just one point behind front-running FC Cleveland.

Pittsburgh Hotspurs captain Nicky Kolarac celebrate a goal vs Syracuse FC (Photo Credit: Anouck Heyer)

Leading the way for the Hotspurs this season has been its 29-year old captain, Nicky Kolarac, a veteran midfielder who’s had a knack of hitting shots from distance, scoring three big goals this season.

Despite having a player with Kolarac’s experience, the Hotspurs actually have blended together a roster with a nice mix of young college players, some recent college standouts and a few players from the Hotspurs Youth Academy under the direction of Head Coach Tom Campbell and assistant Dan Brower.

In our preview before the Hotspurs season opener, we provided a full glimpse of the team’s roster.

Pittsburgh Hotspurs visit Erie Commodores FC to kickoff NPSL season

This season’s turnaround has been impressive considering that in its inaugural season in NPSL in 2019, the Hotspurs finished at the bottom of the standings with a 1-7-2 overall record.

During 2020, while the NPSL season was cancelled, the Hotspurs built some confidence by walking away with the 2020 NPSL Members Cup, which included a 2-2 draw against FC Cleveland.

Here’s how the Hotspurs lined up in the first match this season vs FC Cleveland:


On Friday, they’ll get their chance to turn the tables, playing at home at Founders Field, where they’ve been unbeaten thus far this season.


John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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