After three months of play, it all comes down to this: Real Euless and Hurst City are set for a near-perennial showdown. Hurst hasn't missed a Final since the Champions Cup was born, but the boys in red have posted a spotty record year-over-year, including last year's loss in penalties and a 2018 upset to none other than Real Euless.
Still, Hurst have won more often than they've lost in these decisive matches – splitting titles between Raiders United and City back in the days before the league was divided into two Tiers.
But Hurst City are far from unstoppable this season. Real Euless stole the #1 seed on Decision Day, erasing a 3-1 aggregate series deficit to pass Hurst City in the table when the latter dropped points against Blackhawk SC. Both teams dominated in their playoff matchups to earn a final showdown, and it will be anyone's game from the opening whistle at this year's Champions Cup Match.
Here's how the matchup breaks down…
|Hurst City FC||The Edge||Real Euless|
|Strikers||Excluding teams that beat up on Tier II competition, Hurst City are by far the most prolific attack in Liga HEB this year, and they'll have a Golden Boot winner leading the way in this one.||The Forwards in the Euless stable are formidable; they just haven't finished at the same rate as their opponents this year. Someone needs to put on a show if they're going to keep pace.|
|Midfield||Teams at Hurst are fairly renowned for their control of the midfield, and their long-term success is due mostly to killer through-ball instinct and speed up top. Lots of key passes in this group.||—||The fact that this is a push should be a testament to the Euless spine. Hurst is almost never matched in the center of the park, but Euless has the team discipline to keep things close if skills can't.|
|Defense||Outside of a veteran captain, the Hurst backline is fairly standard: solid young men who rarely make mistakes but don't tend to make impressions, either.||In terms of individual talent, this is a tight matchup. But Euless plays a disciplined, compact style that puts the weight of the full team behind the ball on defense. And that gives them the edge.|
|Goalkeeping||Another tight matchup here, with both teams contributing a ‘keeper to the All-Star match a few weeks ago. If Hurst has an advantage in their net, it's communication.||While it's true that City and Real Euless each had a netminder in the All-Star Game, only one of them took home the Golden Gloves this season AND won a penalty shootout that night.|
|Intangibles||In spite of a second-place finish and a split decision in head-to-head play this year, Hurst City have an important psychological advantage: the last time these clubs met, City hammered Euless 3-0.||There's a lot on the line for Euless in this one, and the pressure to perform might strain a team strategy that calls for close games and stingy defense. They need to clamp down to win.|
But in the end, these are just words on a screen. The only way to know who deserves the Champions Cup for sure is to play two 30-minute halves in front of a cheering crowd at Pennington Field.
See you there at 5:30 pm.