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Riding momentum from strong regular season, Pittsburgh Hotspurs turn focus to NPSL playoffs

It’s been a breakthrough summer of 2021 for the Pittsburgh Hotspurs men’s senior team, as they completed regular season play in the NPSL’s Rust Belt Division with two wins at home last weekend, beating both Erie Commodores and Rochester Lancers to put the icing on the cake of a successful regular season campaign.

The club completed a 10-game division slate with an impressive 8-2-0 record, with its only two losses coming to Rust Belt Division front-runners, Cleveland SC.

Now, they’re gearing up for their first-ever NPSL playoff game with a potential third meeting against Cleveland SC.

On Sunday evening, the Hotspurs were led by Robert Morris University’s rising sophomore Bryan Akogo, who had a goal and an assist, as they handled Rochester Lancers in a 3-0 win. (NPSL Box Score: Pittsburgh 3, Rochester 0)

Former Allegheny College standout Danny Reid and Anthony DiFalco, who has starred with Franklin Regional High School and with Beadling 03, also scored for the Hotspurs in the win.

The Hotspurs had a tougher battle against Erie on Thursday, pulling away with a 2-1 win, as Akongo and former Pitt Panther, Josh Gaspari each scored. (NPSL Box Score: Pittsburgh 2, Erie 1)

To add to the accolades, team captain, Nicky Kolarac, one of the club’s veterans who scored three goals and has been a key play maker for the Hotspurs, was named to the NPSL Team of the Month.

Up next, the Hotspurs will begin the NPSL’s Midwest Region playoffs on Tuesday, July 20, in a quarterfinal round match-up against the closet geographical opponent.  It’s most likely that Cleveland SC will be one of two teams to earn a bye, so the Hotspurs are still awaiting to find out their seeding and opponent as one of the teams in the 4 to 6 seedings.

After a tough, 2-1 loss to Cleveland on June 25, the Hotspurs took care of business to win three straight matches to complete the regular season schedule, earning a first-ever playoff berth and putting themselve in position to face Cleveland SC once again.

The club has continued to progress and grow more confidence as a group.

“We started with some individuals and talented players, but there’s a togetherness now,” Head Coach Tom Campbell said after the 2-1 loss to Cleveland. “It shows in the way we play.  Our lines stay closer together.  We go up together, we drop off together.  Everyone backs each other and praises each other.  It’s been a fantastic thing to see.”

The Hotspurs players are feeling a sense of camaraderie, are enjoying their success and look forward to the challenge that the NPSL playoffs will bring.

“Honestly, we want to go as far as we can and we know we’ll see them (Cleveland) again,” Kolarac said. “Anything can happen.  We love hanging out with each other.  I hope we can go far with this team.”

UPDATE: The official playoff brackets won’t be revealed until after the final regular season games are played.  Pittsburgh Soccer Now will have updates over the weekend when details become available.  

NPSL Midwest Region Playoff Schedule 

2021 NPSL Midwest Region Quarterfinals – July 20: Each game hosted by higher seed
#3 seed x #4-6 seed closest geographically
Highest remaining seed x Lowest remaining seed

2021 NPSL Midwest Region Semifinals – July 23: Hosted at one to-be-determined location
#1 seed x Lowest remaining seed
#2 seed x 2nd Lowest remaining seed

2021 NPSL Midwest Region Final – July 25: Hosted at the same to-be-determined location as the Semifinals
Highest remaining seed x Lowest remaining seed

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).

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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