Shreveport, LA

Long Road For Shreveport United With GCPL Championship Trip Has Paid Off

Under The Radar NWLA

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CABOSA

It’s been a long road for Shreveport United in the semi-pro realm but they will host the pinnacle game in the Gulf Coast Premier League next week at Loyola’s Messmer Field against Gaffa FC out of Jackson, Mississippi. United took care of Hattiesburg FC 5-2 at Messmer this past Saturday night. Coach Radi Baltov has seen this team grow in the past two years. “We play in the finals here next week and it’s been breaking records,” Coach Baltov said. “Last year was the first time we went to the semis, this year is the first time we are going to the finals. We have a good group of players. They are positive and from all around the world. We’re excited to come to play and host. I like our chances.”

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Shawn White

Baltov sees that the difference is the depth available to the team. “We’ve got more players, more experienced players than in the past,” said the United coach. “Four years ago we just had youth player 15 or 16 years old. We had a lot of kids and not many adults playing. It was a rough season. Progressively we got better and better and we got most of the local talent to play. When you have players like that, coaching is easy. That’s the difference. This year we have 50 players from the roster that I have to cut to 18 every week. There is a lot of competition for playing time and competition to be on the A-Team. That’s tough but a good situation for a coach.”

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Shawn White

Dan Hofler mustered a hat trick in the semi-final match.

“It was good fun to come out to

play with the boys,” Hofler said. “It’s been a good season. I love to score and to get three tonight is really great. We are undefeated on this pitch. It’s been a good adventure. First time I’ve played with these boys. We’ve done very well.”

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HofflerShawn White

Hector Hernandez and Dan Martinez each popped a goal.

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Shawn White

Shreveport came out in control of the ball and meant to keep it for the first half. Hector Hernandez got a close shot in the 6th minute. Hattiesburg finally broke the backline and snuck a shot in the next minute but to no chance. The aggressive offense finally paid off in the 11th minute as Dan Hofler raced down the line and fired a shot that popped the back of the net to take a 1-0 lead. Shreveport continued the attack into the 16th minute as Steven Bush took a shot on target but was barely blocked by the goalkeeper. The rare instances that Hattiesburg had chances were dangerous. In the 18th minute, a throw-in by Hattiesburg into the middle of the box fired a kick to the goal only to be saved by the United goalkeeper. United struck back in the 23rd minute as Hector Hernandez gets a second touch to tap into the goal and give United the 2-0 lead. Hofler looked to extend the lead with an angled shot that bounces off the top corner of the goal. Hofler would get a second chance as a United shot was blocked by Hattiesburg only for Hofler to fire it back into the goal for a 3-0 lead and his second goal of the night. Hattiesburg snuck a goal in the 37th minute. Shreveport United took a commanding 3-1 lead into halftime.

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Shawn White

Torres Alvaro continues the Shreveport United assault as a shot hit the crossbar and barely missed. Hattiesburg found an opening and broke through the backline and took a shot on target but rose above the goal. Hattiesburg gained the ball again and took to their third. A corner kick opportunity came for them. Fighting off the defense, United saw some yellow cards and escaped some close calls. A bit of bad luck for United hit when a header from Daniel Meza went the wrong direction and scored an own goal for Hattiesburg in the 57th minute to close the gap to 3-2. The momentum shift towards Hattiesburg continued as a shot to tie the game was blocked by Adam Williams. Frustrated play by United saw another yellow card a free kick on the right side of the box. Another block by Williams in the 60th minute. United finally took to their third where Hofler was open and gained his hat trick in the 63rd minute. The two stayed midfield the remainder of the match. David Martinez snuck one more goal for United in extra time to send Shreveport United to their first GCPL Cup final.

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Shawn White

The road has been long for United as they joined the GCPL IN 2018 and stayed near the bottom of the standings for the next couple of years. In 2021, they received their first playoff berth and reached the semifinals. This year they won a Western Conference title, No. 1 overall seed, and will host their first appearance in the GCPL Cup.

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Shawn White

Not only has the team been waiting for a cup appearance, but the two captains Steven “Bushy” Bush and Sean “Frenchy” French have been waiting patiently for this moment. The two have been a staple of Shreveport/Bossier semi-soccer since their inaugural days in 2016 playing for the Rafters FC. They’ve bounced around and played for Shreveport United these past two years. This will be their first chance to play for a semi-pro cup in the Shreveport area. “It’s unbelievable,” Steven Bush said. “Where this team has come from basically at the bottom of the league and now being one of the top teams and making the finals and having a home game. It’s a dream come true. Credit to the entire team we built, Gary (McCormick) and Radi (Baltov) putting us together. I’m excited with just one more game to go.”

“It’s definitely been a long road,” Sean French said. “Last year’s playoffs, we were lucky enough to make it: When we traveled we only had 13 or 14 on the squad. This year is a lot better because we have depth in the squad. Not to say we were bad last year, but we have more depth on our bench.”

The championship home could be more than just a trophy for the GCPL, it could be an entrance into the chase for the US Open Cup. The US Open Cup is the American equivalent of the UK’s FA Cup. The winner could qualify to compete in the 2023 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The boys say don't get ahead of themselves. “One game at a time.” both Bush and French said.

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Shreveport United

The GCPL Cup Finals will be held on Saturday, July 30 at 7 pm at Loyola’s Messmer Field against Jackson, MS-based Gaffa FC.

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