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Opportunity: Lohja Crusaders 2024 Season Outlook

The 2024 Maple League season is a few days away, and the Lohja Crusaders are looking forward to a fresh start. In addition to using their home city in their official name, the Crusaders have high expectations to compete in the Maple League this season.

The Only Constant is Change

New name, new coaches, and new players, what else is New? For the Crusaders this is an every year occurrence for a team that has not had the same coaching staff and/or players consecutively since their inception. Since their promotion into the Maple League in 2021, the Crusaders have consistently finished in the bottom of the standings. 

Early last season the Crusaders looked to be on a path to their first playoff appearance, but injuries & player depth derailed one of their historically best teams. Unfortunately, most key players from that team will not return this season, making this a season of more change.

Anything is Possible

Robert Johnson is a living legend in the Finnish Football community. He pioneered the adaptation of the air raid system in the early 2010s that has heavily influenced the offensive style of play in the Maple League pre-covid. Since his playing days, Johnson has always had success using his offensive playbook to score points. That offensive success hasn't always resulted in team success, but a team led by Robert Johnson always has a chance.

As a head coach, Robert Johnson has had a few successful stints in the lower divisions of Finland's football leagues. But Johnson has plenty of experience as a coordinator in the Maple League, and last year was the catalyst for the Crusaders being in the playoff race. The Lohja Crusaders can expect to have similar success offensively with Robert Johnson leading the team. How his coaching affects the defensive side of the ball is yet to be seen.

Offense Scores Points

The Crusaders offense will be heavily influenced by the performance of their import players. Similar to last season, if the Crusaders imports can play at an extremely high level it will offset their lack of depth. 

Quarterback Bryce Macina (Franklin Pierce University) is new to the international football world, but possesses the skills to thrive in the Crusaders offense. Macina is extremely athletic and will be able to make plays that are not in the playbook to help his team have success.

Running back CJ Leggett (Alabama State/Mercer University) bounced around in college, so his stats are not impressive to the naked eye. But Leggett is an explosive runner who is difficult to tackle, and will be a valuable asset for the Crusaders offense. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield will make him a difference maker in the Lohja offensive scheme. 

The receiving room for the Crusaders is thin, but as long as veteran RJ Long is on the roster, points will be scored. Long is a playmaker that can run every route, catch the difficult balls, and get yards after the catch. Whatever the situation calls for, Long will make sure the Crusaders have a chance.

The Crusaders offensive line unit will be a combination of domestic players and European imports. American Import Brandon Unangst (Brevard College) should provide some stability for the group and allow the quarterback Bryce Macina peace of mind that he won’t be on his back too often. 

Defense is Where the Heart Is

The Lohja Crusaders will be using most of their local talent on the defensive side of the ball. The linebacker group is deep, but only Henri Nordström returns as a legitimate weapon for the Crusaders. Fortunately, Monte’ Williams (Saint Augustine’s University) joins the team this season, and will make their linebacker group a point of pride this season.

Tyran Dixon (Newberry College) will lead a defensive line unit that needs all the help it can get this season. Hopefully Dixon can provide run stopping abilities for the group, as well as be a consistent pass rusher. The rest of the group does not give much room for optimism they will be competitive against their Maple league opponents. 

The Crusaders secondary is an issue. Besides the option of having RJ Long make plays (which he is more than capable of doing), this group is inexperienced and most likely not very good. The group has some young prospects who could step up and surprise the league, but that is yet to be seen.

Perfect Pervis Analysis

The Lohja Crusaders have a difficult season ahead of them. Outside of a few outlier players, the team doesn’t have the talent to compete against their Maple league counterparts. Talent alone could win them a couple games, but it will take some extraordinary performances for this team to win enough games to make a playoff appearance. The Lohja Crusaders roster does seem to have more Finnish players than previous years, so this could be a great rebuilding season in which they lose a lot of games but gain a ton of experience.


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