ESSEX, Md. — It’s the National Premier Soccer League’s East regional finals in our own backyard.
"This weekend you’re going to have some of the best young soccer players on the East Coast playing for two days straight," said FC Baltimore Christos goalkeeper Mike Zierhoffer.
FC Baltimore Christos hosts the NPSL's regional semifinals on Friday and final on Saturday. The NPSL is a semi-pro league that has legit talent.
"It works as a really good off-season league for a lot of really high-end college players and then a good mix of veterans as well," said Zierhoffer.
FC Baltimore Christos will play Hartford City FC Friday at 7:00 p.m. at CCBC Essex in what boils down to the Sweet 16 of this nation-wide league. Baltimore went 8-0-2 this year. They are the No. 1 seed in the East and ranked No. 5 nationally.
After using a handful of Howard County fields for home games during the regular season FC Baltimore Christos is finally back at the pitch they’ve called home since 2018 - CCBC Essex.
"It’s good to be back in the Baltimore area a little bit closer to our fan base," said midfielder Malcolm Harris. "It’s good to be home and it’s good to be having home field advantage for the playoffs."
Harris added that this is a shot at redemption. In 2019 FC Baltimore Christos' playoff run ended in the regional finals. Last year’s season was canceled because of COVID-19, as was the college season for Baltimore native Ben Stitz. He goes to University of Pennsylvania.
"This is like the biggest game I’ve played in in a while," said the forward. "Some of the games I could think of that rival it are the games I’ve had previously in college."
Stitz and his assembled crew look to keep things rolling on Friday.
"There are guys there that are trying to prepare for college. There’s guys trying to stay fit for their pro seasons. There’s guys trying to make it pro. There’s a lot of guys with different reasons why they are here," said Harris. "We all show up to compete. We all show up to win because that’s the natural nature of who we are."
Georgia Revolution FC plays Motown FC in the other semifinal prior to FC Baltimore Christos vs. Hartford FC contest. The winners of those two games play on Sunday at CCBC Essex at 5:00 p.m. in the East regional final.