PDL Preview: Mid Atlantic Division
Rough Riders return strong squad, but will be challenged

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The PDL’s Mid Atlantic Division was a three-horse race last season, with the Long Island Rough Riders emerging to claim not only the regular season division crown but also the Eastern Conference title ahead of Reading United and the Jersey Express. The question now is whether history will repeat itself, or will a new side emerge to challenge for a playoff berth?

BALTIMORE BOHEMIANS – One of the new additions to the PDL, and thanks to a brilliant marketing campaign and uniforms the one generating the most attention, the Bohemians have a strong coaching staff led by Baltimore Bays legend Steve Nichols and Mike Lookingland leading the way that should ensure immediate competitiveness. Keep an eye on Christian Barreiro, who was an MLS SuperDraft selection this January, and had a standout college career in the Ivy League.

BERMUDA HOGGES – Bermuda was a side capable of surprises last season, and with the addition of former MLS player and Bermudan international Khano Smith to their roster they could achieve more this season. There is also the possibility that goalkeeper Daniel Johnson could join him as he aims to keep sharp during the summer, which would be another welcome boost.

BROOKLYN KNIGHTS – After struggling in 2011, the Knights had a major makeover in the offseason. Arriving is new coach Andreas Lindberg from C.W. Post, which reached the third round of the NCAA Division II tournament last fall, and a host of new players including former Chicago Fire player Stefan Dimitrov.

CENTRAL JERSEY SPARTANS – The Spartans saw a coaching change this offseason, with John Newman taking the reins in addition to his role as the Princeton Soccer Academy’s Director of Coaching. Jonathan Aquirre returns after playing 14 games a season ago, while Monmouth standout Ryan Clark arrives after recording three goals and eight assists last fall.

JERSEY EXPRESS – The Express will need to replace standout goalkeeper Ryan Meara, now starting for the New York Red Bulls, but return All-Eastern Conference defender Shawn Foster. Former Seton Hall standout Brayan Martinez has joined the team, as has former Monmouth and Central Jersey Spartan standout R.J. Allen, while Penn State forward Hasani Sinclair will try to make an impact up front.

LONG ISLAND ROUND RIDERS – After a run to the national semifinals a season ago, the Rough Riders have a number of familiar faces back with the team this spring. All-Eastern Conference selection Dominick Sarle is back to lead the attack, while Keith Detelj, Danny Kramer and the University of Michigan’s Tyler Arnone all return as well.

NEW JERSEY RANGERS – The Rangers have three key players returning from a season ago in Pedro Vilar, Luis Andre and Alex Gorskie, who each played more than 1,100 minutes a season ago. Jeremy Cheeseman has moved on to the Dayton Dutch Lions in USL PRO, and the Rangers will be hoping to have more punch in front of goal this season after failing to have a double-digit point scorer a season ago.

OCEAN CITY NOR’EASTERS – The Nor’easters managed to draw half their regular season games a year ago, and could take a big jump forward this season with some better luck. Terry Gibbs returns to the side after recording three goals and four assists a season ago, while Penn’s Stephen Baker joins the side after scoring four game-winning goals for the Quakers this past fall. Penn’s Jonny Dolezal and Duke Lacroix also join the Nor’easters after solid fall seasons, with Lacroix tying Baker with five goals overall.

READING UNITED – Reading will try to return to the playoffs with a very different roster from a year ago, with a number of its former players now in MLS. Returning, though, is midfielder Stephen Okai, while the addition of former ACC Offensive Player of the Year Ryan Finley should help maintain the side’s attacking options. Other important returnees include Ged Quinn, who played in 14 games a year ago, and Georgetown’s Steven Neuman.

WESTCHESTER FLAMES – The Flames finished fourth in the division a season ago, and will be trying to bridge the gap to the top three with the help of Jake Keegan, who returns after his All-Eastern Conference selection a year ago. Goalkeeper Josh Weiner also returns, as does defender Diego Velazquez after playing in 13 games a season ago.