TST Update: Several Strykers Inch Closer to Million Dollars

by Gunnar Berndt

Four Empire players advance to knockout stages

Cary, N. C. — Four players of the Major Arena Soccer League’s (MASL) Empire Strykers have advanced to the knockout rounds of The Soccer Tournament, thereby staying in contention for the one million dollar grand prize. Brandon Gomez, Garrett Blume, Justin Stinson, and Stefan Mijatovic all advanced from the group stage with their respective teams. Meanwhile, the team boasting the heaviest Strykers presence exited the tournament in agonizing fashion.

The squads of forward Lucas Roque (Nani FC) and netminder William Vanzela (North Carolina FC) also advanced from their respective groups. While the Strykers retain the MASL rights to both players, neither has spent any significant time with the club.

Having debuted last year, TST is a World Cup-style 7v7 tournament held in Cary, N. C., and featuring an expanded field of 48 participating squads, which have been divided into 12 groups.

Midfielder Stinson and Newtown Pride FC finished atop Group G with a perfect record of 3-0. After an emphatic 4-0 win over DC Hyper, Stinson and his mates downed Supra United FC 2-0, followed by a 4-1 victory against ZALA. Newtown Pride FC is set to face off with Hashtag United in the round of 32 on Friday evening local time.

Goalkeeper Gomez and Saturdays Football advanced from Group F as one of the eight best third-place finishers. After leading his side to a 3-1 win over Desimpedidos with six saves, the Empire backstop sat out the 0-1 loss to Wrexham Red Dragons and returned to the field for the final 11 minutes of a 2-3 defeat to FC Roha Eagles, making two saves and giving up one goal. In the round of 32, Saturdays Football took care of Dueling for Lincoln F.C., 3-0, on Friday morning local time, the clean sheet being powered in part by six saves from Gomez.

Forward Blume and Tenfifteen FC also advanced as one of the eight best third-place finishers. After a 1-3 loss to Sire 7 in Group L, Blume and company downed Kingdom FC 1-0, with the Strykers ace registering five shots — four of them on target. The side then fell 0-1 to Toronto Athletic FC, neither of Blume’s two shots finding the net. In the round of 32, Tenfifteen FC emerged victorious, 3-2, against FitBodega Vancouver on Friday morning local time.

Forward-defender Stefan Mijatovic has been playing a key role for The CONCAFA SC. After firing two shots on target and bagging his side’s only goal in a 1-4 defeat to Reggae Rovers, the 27-year-old tallied again on his only shot on frame out of three attempts in a 6-1 thrashing of Nati SC. The CONCAFA SC rounded out Group B play with another convincing win, downing Burnley FC 4-1, with Mijatovic unleashing three times and sending two of his efforts on target. Having finished second in the standings, the Illinois native’s side takes on Supra United FC in the round of 32 on Friday evening local time.

The team with the heaviest Empire presence, Tranqui10 FC, suffered a premature tournament exit in heartbreaking fashion.

Coached by the Strykers’ executive vice president, Jimmy Nordberg, Tranqui10 FC was handed a 3-9 loss by KwikGoal FC but looked much improved in its next two games. Against Pasha FC, the side that features two Empire players in defender Momo Gueye and midfielder Alan Perez rode a 2-0 advantage into target score time, where the first team to three goals would bag the win. A strategic choice to surprise the opposition by sacrificing the goalkeeper and fielding an additional attacker backfired, as Pasha FC netted three consecutive times, leaving Tranqui10 FC stunned and empty-handed.

While a victory in the match would have meant comfortable advancement to the knockout stages, given Tranqui10 would go on to defeat Sneaky Fox FC 4-3 in its third match, the side instead finished last in Group H. Strykers star Marco Fabián, who had been slated to lace up for Nordberg’s squad as well, was unable to participate in the tournament due to unexpected visa issues.