On the heels of a resounding victory, Stockade FC enters a significant holiday weekend

Starting goalkeeper Steve Skonieczny makes a save in the game against the Seacoast United Mariners. (Ben Walsh | Stockade FC)

Stockade FC went into last weekend with something to prove. Prove it they did, dispatching Seacoast United Mariners 3-0 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland, Maine last Saturday afternoon on the strength of a pair of goals from Pedro Espindola.

A week ago, Kingston had traveled to New York City’s most populous borough, where they fell in the waning seconds of a tense non-conference battle with the Brooklyn Italians. Though rattled by the result, the long trip up the New York State Thruway that evening lent perspective: Though it had been a tough loss, they’d already equaled their win total from a year earlier in fewer than half the games. This loss was but a bump in the road.

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Kingston had already proven its mettle against top-shelf opponents, so the prospect of a home-and-home series against Seacoast United Mariners must have seemed a good opportunity. On the turf at LIU Brooklyn, Stockade head coach David Lindholm said the team was heading into a short run of winnable games. He’s fond of saying that all games are winnable, and also that the very nature of soccer means any team can win on any given day.

Seacoast United came into the match with just two wins in seven tries, one against New York Athletic Club, currently holding down the bottom spot in the Atlantic White Conference. NYAC was a team Kingston has beaten by a combined score of eight goals to one  in two matches this season. But in proving one of Lindholm’s adages true, the Mariners have also beaten Hartford City FC, an achievement that in two matches early in the season proved impossible for Stockade FC.

Stockade FC held a two-point conference lead as they took the pitch in Portland on a sweltering afternoon start that saw officials stop play twice for hydration breaks. Stockade FC had only had to tend to the matters at hand. The club didn’t have to worry about what Boston City FC and Hartford City FC, the two teams nipping at their heels on the results table, were up to, With four matches remaining, a four-match win streak would mean not just a trip to the playoffs in the team’s second season, but also a coveted first-round bye.

With few fans of either club in the stands at Fitzpatrick Stadium, Stockade faced a different experience than it has grown accustomed to in its home matches at Dietz Stadium in Kingston, where the atmosphere is part of the fun. Fewer than 50 people are on hand in Maine.

Espindola’s first goal came just ten minutes in off an assist from Mikey Lanzetta, and the second a little over 20 minutes later off a dish from Matel Anasta.

In the 88th minute the ball found the back of the Seacoast net again, this time from the foot of David Nkansah-Siriboe with an assist by Josh Maley.

Steve Skonieczny and David Giddings combined to keep a clean sheet in goal for Kingston, which has accumulated a 23-8 scoring differential over the course of the season.

“They did it without any drama, took control of the game and won,” said Lindholm. “It just speaks to the professionalism and the ability of this team. They bounced back right away and just made it look simple. It was great.”

With the win, Kingston had all but locked up a spot in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) playoffs, as the top three clubs in the conference make the cut. Nine matches into a twelve-game season, Stockade FC are 6-2-1, good for 19 points overall. Though New York Athletic Club is mathematically out, both the Seacoast United Mariners and Rhode Island Reds retain outside shots, though their hopes are dwindling.

A match between the two scheduled for Friday, June 16 was canceled due to storms, and it has yet to be rescheduled. With both clubs busy through the rest of the season, that match will likely go unplayed unless a playoff bid hangs in the balance. As coach Lindholm would undoubtedly affirm, anything is possible.

Which brings us to the remainder of the regular season for Kingston Stockade FC. The team will play their final three matches without veteran forward Michael Creswick, who will be out of the country until the playoffs. Even so, all the club has to do is keep winning, beginning with a game against the Seacoast United Mariners at Dietz Stadium this Saturday, July 1 at 5 p.m. Two days later it will host non-conference opponent TSF Academy on Monday, July 3 at 6 p.m.

Stockade wraps up its regular season slate with a trip to take on Boston City FC on Saturday, July 8. By then, Kingston would like not only to have secured a playoff spot, but also a first-round bye.

“Everybody on this team has shown they can step up when asked,” said Lindholm. “Every single player on the roster has done their job when they’ve gone into games.”

The odds are in Kingston’s favor, especially after Saturday’s action. While Stockade was showing why they belong atop the table, both Boston City and Hartford City lost their matches.

That outcome did not go unnoticed by the victorious Stockade FC side. “The team on the bus was keeping track of those results and shouting out the goals,” said Lindholm. “It was nice that we got to play first and watch the rest of the conference play from there.”

Kingston now has 19 points in the standings, Boston City 14 and Hartford City twelve points. With the top team in the conference getting a bye, the second- and third-place teams will have to battle one another to advance. In the first contest between the two, Boston City beat Hartford City 3-1. The rematch between the two contenders is scheduled for this Sunday, July 2 in Connecticut.

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“It sets up well for us to take care of business in the last few games and hopefully win the division,” said Lindholm. “The nice thing about this team is that they have not dropped in energy all season. I think we need to trust that we will continue to play as well as we’re capable of.”

Lindholm doesn’t think he has to worry about his team’s motivation. “The goals that we have as a club now are motivation enough,” he said. “We control our destiny.”