FC Wichita started this season on a seven-game winning streak, and if it can replicate that success, beginning with Saturday's 7:30 p.m. regular-season finale against Demize at Trinity Academy, a national championship will be in store.
Regardless of Saturday's result, FC Wichita will be crowned champion of the Heartland Conference for the second straight year and third time in four years. The club is currently ranked No. 7 in the power rankings of the 98-team National Premier Soccer League.
But FC Wichita is coming off back-to-back losses for the first time in franchise history. So while this year's version of FC Wichita may very well be a national title contender, it will have something to prove to its home fans on Saturday.
"We're looking at it like we've done a seven-game winning streak before, so we feel like we can do it again," FC Wichita manager Blake Shumaker said. "This game is extremely important for us to get another win under our belts and getting back to the style we know we can play."
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FC Wichita has already clinched homefield advantage throughout the Heartland Conference playoffs, which begin next Wednesday and conclude Saturday at Trinity Academy. But FC Wichita (7-2-0) must win to hold off Midland-Odessa Sockers FC (7-2-1) for the No. 2 seed in the South Region down the road.
Before FC Wichita can worry about that, it must concern itself with reclaiming the form that produced a seven-game winning streak in the first place.
Shumaker points out that the club did not have leading goal scorers Franck Tayou, Matt Clare, Leo Sosa or Thomas Wells for a 2-1 loss to Saint Louis Club Atletico, a poor performance he believes carried over into last week's 1-0 loss to the Little Rock Rangers.
Tayou, who was signed by Fresno FC of the United Soccer League, won't be back, but Clare, Sosa, and Wells are expected to be fully healthy for FC Wichita's stretch run.
"That's a whole lot of goal scorers and we feel like we have the band back together," Shumaker said. "Those guys work really well together and give us a dynamic offense."
Saturday begins with a 4 p.m. match between the FC Wichita women (4-3-1) and Fortuna Tulsa (3-2-4) for second place in the Southwest Conference.
Fans can attend both matches for $5 with a donation at the gate to Harbor House, a charity aiming to end the cycle of violence against women and children. Items requested include boxed and canned food, women's clothes, laundry detergent, small kitchen appliances and toiletries.