We know. The season didn’t go quite as planned.

The past two NPSL campaigns, Boston City has been pushing for the playoffs with two matches to play, but not this year. For the first time in club history, we’ll be watching from the sidelines with a tinge of envy.

This Saturday’s opponents the Kingston Stockade might well find themselves in a similar position having struggled to repeat the form that saw them capture the division in 2017, as the Lions claimed the runners up spot.

The Stockade has eight points in the bag and nine points to play for to target third or fourth spot in the postseason race. But with Brooklyn Italians and Greater Lowell both on 16 points behind already uncatchable New York Cosmos and Hartford City FC, the outlook for a playoff run is bleak.

So, the Lions and Stockade will be focused on a great rivalry between the two clubs that has built up since both made their National Premier League debuts back in 2016. Boston City leads the series 3-1. Let’s take a look back to the four previous meetings…

It all began at Dietz Stadium in Kingston on Saturday, June 5, 2016. Coming off a terrible 2-0 home loss to New York Athletic Club, having dominated but conceded two late goals and picked up two red cards at the final whistle, Boston City didn’t know it, but they were poised to make a dramatic run at the playoffs. Having blooded three goalkeepers in six matches, the 2-3-1 Lions gave a debut to Vitor Scariot, a Brazilian who had arrived following trials with the Atlanta Silverbacks and would play well enough to earn the Ironsides Crew supporters’ player of the year award.

Kingston’s Matt Duam and Boston’s Michael Bustamante traded goals before halftime, when a 59-minute lightning delay sent fans off to a local bar and the players remained in the locker room wondering whether the second half would be played or if a 1-1 result would be agreed. Both teams opted to play the second half and Kingston quickly took a 2-1 lead through Corey Phillips.

Two goals that defined the spirit of that season followed. But it was still a little rocky.

Scariot made a crucial save with his legs to deny Dylan Williams at the end of a swift Stockade counter attack before Boston City coach Palhinha was sent off. The former Brazil international had barely vacated the touchline when substitute Yaw Addow rose high at the far post to power home a header for the equalizer on the end of a Jhonata Batista cross in the 77th minute.

Michael Bustamante capped an impressive performance in midfield with a solo goal in the final minute of regulation time to grab all three points, triggering a nine-match unbeaten run to the NPSL playoffs.

On Wednesday, June 22, 2016, in the return match, Boston City’s unbeaten run was extended to five matches in the race for a NPSL Northeast Atlantic Conference playoff spot with a convincing 2-0 win over the Stockade.

The home crowd looked like being disappointed as possession and probing from midfield failed to produce a goal until strikes in the 68th and 73rd minutes settled the tie. The first was worth waiting for as Homero Morais unleashed a bullet from 30 yards out that found the top corner then Michael Bustamante scored a rebound after his penalty kick had been saved.

So, the Lions owned the rivalry at 2-0 heading into 2017, but the title-bound Stockade fought back in 2017.

On Saturday, June 10, 2017, Boston City were unbeaten and flying high with 15 goals scored in five matches featuring three wins and two draws, but the Stockade brought them back down to earth with a 2-0 win in front of 992 fired up fans at Dietz Stadium. (The Stockade could have easily claimed to have broken the 1,000-crowd barrier for the first time but announced an accurate 992 people who were actually in the stadium, rather than tickets distributed or – as some leagues do – include players, officials and ball kids in the count. No, really, that happens at the highest level!)

Arguably the game’s crucial goal came with only a minute remaining in the first half. Defender Gabriel Paganini’s clumsy challenge on Michael Creswick gave referee Jared Simons no alternative but to point to the spot and Matt Koziol fired his penalty high past Anthony Ferrera.

The Lions had done enough to go into the break on level terms, but instead came out chasing the match in the second half. Just before the hour mark, Marco Kloster glided through three challenges in midfield and laid the ball off to Pedro Espindola, who curled a fine first-time finish beyond a stranded Ferrara.

Substitute defender Leonardo Carvalho set up a tense final nine minutes later with a powerful finish to halve the Stockade’s lead, but there was to be no equalizer.

Some entertaining social media banter between the clubs led the rivals into the NPSL Game of the Week for the return match on Saturday, July 8, 2017. The Stockade (7-3-1, 22 points) had already clinched the division tile, while the Lions (5-3-3, 18 points) had secured a home playoff match, so both rested key starters.

Isaac Addai grabbed his 12th goal of the 2017 campaign in the dying seconds of a fast-paced first half to take the advantage before the interval. Left back Jadson Leite delivered a long free kick from ten yards inside his own half that Addai controlled and struck on the swivel with a spectacular finish that flashed across keeper Steve Skonieczny into the far corner.

Three minutes into injury time at the end of an equally enjoyable second half, substitute Leonardo Carvalho again scored against the Stockade as he poked home a Kevin Herrera cross on the counter attack to secure three points.

So, we’re nicely poised for the only meeting between Boston City FC and the Kingston Stockade of 2018, and if previous clashes are anything to go by, a match that will feature goals and plenty of excitement.