Dutch league has kicked off 2020 season

The American Football Federation of the Netherlands, AFBN kicked off this past weekend with the eight teams all in action.

The defending champion Amsterdam Crusaders are competing in Pool A together with the Arnhem Falcons,  Groningen Giants, and Utrecht Dominators. Pool B consists of the 010 Trojans, Almero Flevo Phantoms, Hilversum Hurricanes, and Lelystad Commanders.

Pool A

Amsterdam Crusaders 0-1 (2019: 12-0, Dutch champions)

The perennial Dutch champions winners of three of the four last Dutch titles (did not compete in Holland in 2018) would have been the heavy favorites for the crown. But they have undergone a major overhaul in the offseason with at least two thirds of the team having retired. With new head coach Alejandro Alfarez at the helm, the Crusaders will be trying to find their way. They lost their opening game last week 17-10 to the Flevo Phantoms, their first loss to a Dutch team since 2015.

Expect a different Crusaders effort this coming weekend when they take on the Arnhem Falcons.

Arnhem Falcons 0-1 (2019: 6-4 Dutch semifinalists)

Arnhem, who reached the semifinals in 2019 where they were eliminated by the Lelystad Commanders 34-10, also opened the 2020 season in disappointing fashion. They dropped a 21-7 decision to the very same Commanders. They will be looking for some revenge this weekend when they face the Amsterdam Crusaders. Under head coach Christian Heister, they will again rely on their running game. This might not be enough against a Crusaders team bent on restoring their pride. Still, Arnhem has the weapons for another run to the playoffs.

Groningen Giants 0-1 (2019: 4-6)

Last year, the Giants came out of the gate with a bang, winning three straight games. They then proceeded to lose six in a row before beating Utrecht in the final game of the year. Head coach Raymon Niewold and his team will not have such a travel-heavy schedule this year, however. They were on the road for five of the last six games of the year including the last four. Last week they were blanked 20-0 by the 010 Trojans at home. They are on the road this week and need a win. They will be facing Utrecht however, a team they beat twice last season.

Utrecht Dominators 0-1 (2019: 0-10)

The Dominators returned to the top league in the Netherlands last year for the first time in almost a decade. It was a dismal return as Utrecht lost all 10 games by an average margin of almost 30 points a game. Last week, they were blanked 14-0 by the Hilversum Hurricanes so this was in fact a step forward for head coach Chad Weibel and his players. Weibel has a young team that was put through a season-long ordeal last year. But they learned a great deal and could surprise some teams this year.

Pool B

010 Trojans 1-0 (2019: Division 2)

The Tr0jans have made it back to the top league in Holland after a year in Division 2.  They went unbeaten last year in the lower division and opened the year with a solid 20-0 win over the Giants. Head coach Kevin Boerman and his Trojans will be hard pressed this season however with a roster of only 35, but 30 in a few games.

Almere Flevo Phantoms 1-0 (2019: 2-8)

Head coach Ronald Callenbach and his charges scored the biggest upset in many years in Holland last week when they knocked off the perennial champions, the Amsterdam Crusaders 17-10.  This is a team that had beaten them twice in 2019, 69-6 and 76-0. The Phantoms did this with a teenage quarterback, Martin Salomons, starting. In other words, Flevo has learned from 2019 and could be ready to challenge for a playoff spot.

Hilversum Hurricanes 1-0 (2019: 6-4)

The Hilversum Hurricanes under head coach Markus Zielke only lost to the Crusaders and Arnhem Falcons in 2019 but that was enough to keep them out of the playoffs despite their 6-4 record. The opened the 2020 season by blanking the Dominators 14-0. Quarterback Maurice Tielen has maybe the strongest arm in the league.  Will it be enough to get them back to the final which they reached in 2018?

Lelystad Commanders 1-0 (2019: 9-3, Dutch Finalists)

After reaching the last two Dutch finals, the Commanders look ready to challenge again for a berth in the championship game. They lost only two games in the regular season, and look poised for another run to the final after beating the Arnhem Falcons in the opening game, 21-7. Head coach Michiel Veerkamp is relying on Carlo van Deventer as his starting quarterback again this year.

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