Utica, N.Y. - Utica City FC was denied the chance to clinch the 2019 Eastern Division regular season title, after a 5-4 shootout loss to the Baltimore Blast on Sunday.
At 16-7 overall, UCFC is now tied with the Blast for first place in the division, with one game left to be played for each team in the regular season.
Utica holds the advantage in the tiebreaking procedures, however, with a head-to-head goal differential of +8 in the six games against Baltimore this season. Both team has won three games a piece in the season series.
While UCFC has already clinched a playoff spot and will play the Blast in the Eastern Division championship series regardless of the final regular season results, the team his highly motivated to dethrone the three-time MASL defending champs of the division title before they focus on knocking them out of the postseason.
"We've got a few guys that have been with this team before it was Utica, when it was Syracuse and we always got knocked down by Baltimore," said Utica City FC defender, Darren Toby. "Just to win the division, it's just going to be a boost of confidence going into the playoffs."
If both teams were to win their final games, as mentioned earlier, Utica would win the division title thanks to the tiebreaking procedures. If Utica were to lose, and Baltimore were to win, then City FC would yield the title back to the Blast.
"We're going to do everything we can to make [winning the division title] happen," said forward, Freddy Moojen. "Then we're going to make the playoffs and do what the fans here deserve, I believe, going through the playoffs and winning everything."
In addition to the on-field success this season, the community has rallied around this squad and embraced having a soccer team in town for its inaugural season.
With all of the support, Utica City FC currently ranks third in the league, out of 17 teams, in attendance with an average of 3,414 fans per home game. That's second only to the Milwaukee Wave (3,934) and the San Diego Sockers (3,711).
That gives the team even extra motivation to accomplish their goals.
"In the first year, to give back to the community and show the appreciation that we have by going out there and winning the division, [it] would mean the world to the guys," said head coach, Ryan Hall.
Utica hits the road to take on the Orlando SeaWolves (8-14) on Friday, April 12 at 7:35 p.m. The Blast face the Florida Tropics (6-16) in their final game on Saturday, April 6 at 7:05 p.m.