CHARLESTON, W.Va. — One game will determine the fate of the 2014 West Virginia Chaos, and it just so happens to be against the club’s biggest rival.
The Chaos travel to Bluefield on Saturday for the second leg of the West Virginia Coal Cup Clash against its in-state rival, the Southern West Virginia King’s Warriors. A spot in the Premier Development League playoffs is up for grabs. A win or a draw puts West Virginia into the postseason for the first time in franchise history.
West Virginia (7-3-3) leads the PDL’s South Atlantic Division with 24 points entering the final day of league play while the King’s Warriors and the Cincinnati Dutch Lions are tied in second place with 21 points (teams receive three points for a win and one for a draw) each. Wins by Southern West Virginia and Cincinnati (which plays at the River City Rovers in Louisville) would create a three-way tie with the majority of the PDL’s tiebreakers not favorable for the Chaos.
The league’s first two tiebreakers, head-to-head wins and total wins, would be thrown out by the three way tie and all teams having identical records. The third, goal differential, would favor Cincinnati. Should the Dutch Lions lose and King’s Warriors win by two or more goals, Southern West Virginia would take the tiebreaker from the Chaos on total goals scored.
Chaos general manager Dan Rollins said the team would like to avoid scoreboard watching or relying on math to determine its playoff fate.
“We’re not thinking like that,” Chaos general manager Dan Rollins said. “We want to go down there and win to take care of business on the field.”
The Coal Cup Clash is an added twist to the final-day drama this season. The Chaos beat the King’s Warriors 1-0 on May 31 at Schoenbaum Stadium in the first leg, meaning Southern West Virginia has to make up that difference in Saturday’s game to claim the trophy for the second straight season.
“(The Coal Cup) is definitely there too,” Rollins said. “It’s almost the same scenario. They would have to win by two to win that as well.”
Success has not been a common theme for the Chaos in its 12 seasons of existence. The club’s highest finish in a division has been third place, which occurred twice (2006 and 2012). Last season the team finished in fourth place in the South Atlantic Division with a 5-7-2 record.
Rollins credits team unity and familiarity with the clubs’ up-tick in wins in 2014, but also the ability the ownership group has given the team to field a higher caliber of player compared to previous seasons.
“We are not charging the first team (the league’s $250 per player fee),” he said. “We’re not charging them full price for housing which attracts better players. You can’t pay the players but you can do other things around expenses to attract better players.
“I think we have a higher percentage of players from previous years back and a lot of the players know each other. That helps. The majority of the time, 90 percent of the players are brand new and never played with each other. Now they’re used to each other. They played with each other for a few years and that’s the biggest difference.”
The site of the game and opponent is still to be determined should the Chaos qualify for the PDL playoffs. Each of the PDL Eastern Conference’s three division winners along with the best second-place team advance. Hosting responsibilities are determined by the league.
“(It’s decided by) who wants to do it,” Rollins said. “Each team puts in a bid with what they’re willing to give. We’d love to do it if we could get enough support from the city and get a good deal set up with hotels. We’re going to pursue that option and put up a bid but they (the PDL) want a lot.
“It would take probably 60 hotel rooms. They’d be here two or three nights.”
Before any of that can become an option, the matter of beating the team’s Mountain State rival is the first order of business.
“It’s all or nothing,” Rollins said.
Contact sportswriter Tom Bragg at email@example.com or 304-348-4871. Follow him on Twitter @TomBraggSports.