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The Eagles can secure a title with a win on Saturday against Cincinnati Sirens

Rivals and defending champions Cincinnati come to town to close out the PASL season.

There’s one match left in the Premier Arena Soccer League season and the Columbus Eagles sit in second place in the standings. With the team’s 4-4 draw against the Chicago Mustangs on March 6, the Eagles kept pace with the first-place Cincinnati Sirens and are in a position to win the PASL Great Lakes Conference, down one point to Cincinnati. The title situation is easy: if the Eagles win on Saturday, they’re champions.

Chicago Brujas planned to travel to Columbus on March 13, but the Eagles announced the night before that the game was canceled. The Brujas weren’t able to make the trip and the match will not be rescheduled.

Columbus welcomes Cincinnati with the Sirens having the upper hand in the 2021 PASL season. The Eagles came back from a three-goal deficit to earn a 6-6 draw in their first match against Cincinnati on Feb. 6. Cincinnati won the second contest 7-3 in the first match of the PASL tournament on Feb 27. That was the Eagles' last loss of the season.

Since that game, Columbus won its next two matches against the Grand Rapids Wanderers and Brujas 16-3 and 6-3 respectively. Even though the Eagles earned just a single point against the Mustangs, that result showed how much Columbus has improved over a short season. In the team’s first matchup in Chicago, the Eagles lost 9-2 with a depleted roster. This Saturday, the team that’s available is going to play a big part in its chances of winning.

One position to watch for the Eagles will be in goal. Lauren Demarchi has started every match for Columbus this season and makes big saves. She returns this weekend, which is good news for a side that doesn’t have a true backup goalkeeper on the roster. The defense in front of Demarchi won’t change much either.

In the past four matches, former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Ohio State’s Morgan Wolcott, has played a big part in limiting opposition chances. The only matches where Columbus gave up four goals or less were the last three where Wolcott was the primary defender. Fellow defender Monique Reventlow missed the trip to the Cincinnati PASL tournament due to injury but had a strong performance against the Mustangs. In the fourth quarter of that game, Reventlow made a mistake that almost turned into a potential game-winner for Chicago, but recovered and cleared a ball off the line.

In the midfield, Alivia Milesky shined this year. Outside of the PASL tournament, she’s had two assists and three goals in two matches. Not only has Milesky been involved statistically for Columbus, but her play has also brought a calm to an indoor game that is generally hectic. Alongside Milesky, in the midfield, captain Ashley Gogolin and Michaela Powers brought strength to the midfield. In the Eagles’ March 6 draw, Powers had two goals. The pressure that these two put on opponents is what has the team in a position to win the league.

Joining Gogolin and Powers in the midfield will be two trialists. Sheryl Shope and Mariah Whitaker both made the trip to Chicago earlier in the season. They will provide depth to the team this time around but will work with a much different roster than they saw before.

One area to be concerned about is when the team takes its foot off the pedal. Columbus had three leads against Chicago, but there was a noticeable change in pace that kept the home team in the match. That could boil down to not enough substitutions or getting comfortable with a lead. Either way, the defending arena champions in the Sirens are strong and can exploit those moments.

Cincinnati lost the team’s first match of the season 9-3 to the Mustangs and had the draw against the Eagles. Since then, the Sirens have won three straight, scoring 23 goals while giving up a combined five goals.

Madison Costner will be key to breaking Cincinnati down. She’s a forward that isn’t afraid to make contact, going straight at defenders. Even if she hasn’t scored as many goals as her peers this season, Costner is a forward that finds the open teammate and created multiple chances against Chicago that weren’t fortunate enough to make it into the goal.

If Columbus wins, the Eagles will secure a league trophy for the first time in the team’s seven-year history. A draw or win for the Sirens secures back-to-back PASL titles for Columbus’ rivals to the south. Supporters can watch the match live on the Eagles website on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET. The Eagles are also selling virtual match tickets for a chance for supporters to win prizes from the team and team sponsors.