THE DEMOCRATIC National Convention is two months away, and already it's causing headaches.
At least for the Soul.
Get a good look at the boys in powder blue. Though they are less than halfway through the regular season, Saturday is the final true home game of the year. And it's a big one.
The Orlando Predators (7-0), the last undefeated team in the AFL, come to town holding a one-game lead over the Soul (6-1) in the American Conference. Saturday's winner will gain a significant tiebreaker.
"When you start talking about points and head-to-head stuff," head coach Clint Dolezel said, "yeah, it's huge."
Renovations being done to the Wells Fargo Center ahead of the July 25-28 DNC is forcing the Soul to play the second half of its season on the road. After Saturday (7:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network), the Soul will play at Cleveland, Jacksonville, Arizona, Portland, Tampa Bay and Orlando (to close the season).
There are two home games, but in name only. On June 11, the Soul play Los Angeles in Trenton. On July 9, they take on Cleveland in Allentown.
But first, it's Orlando, which is coached by former Soul defensive back Rob Keefe. Larry Brackins, the last active arena player who was a member of the Soul's 2008 title team, has five receiving touchdowns this season for Orlando.
"Special teams," Soul defensive back Dwayne Hollis said when asked about Saturday. "They have a really, really special special-teams group. If we can come out even on special teams, we'll have a pretty good day."
Dolezel called versatile defensive lineman Jake Metz the team's MVP thus far. Veteran defensive back James Romain said his vote would go to Hollis. Either way, the Soul's defense has been the catalyst. Philadelphia leads the league in fewest points allowed per game at 41.4.
"Not to take anything away from (previous Soul teams), but overall this is the best defensive team I've been on since I've been here," said Romain, in his fourth season with the Soul. "When we watch film, (teammates) pick out tendencies and key points that I don't see. And I'll pick out things they don't see. How we've meshed is different. There's just a different energy with this team."
The Soul and Orlando have separated themselves from Jacksonville (2-4) and Tampa Bay (0-6) in the American Conference. Arizona (5-2) has done the same in the National. The rest of the season is really about jockeying for homefield advantage in the postseason.
Even after the DNC, the Soul would have to host playoff games at satellite sites (i.e., Trenton/Allentown), because the Wells Fargo won't be ready until late August. They would get back into the WFC if they were to host the ArenaBowl title game on Friday, Aug. 26.
This could be a long three months.
"After a while, (being on the road) starts to mess with you mentally," Romain said. "But if you can just overcome the mental part and lock in and do what you do . . . I feel like my guys are more focused when we get on the field when we're on the road. It's more the traveling, preparing, gathering your clothes together - that's the only things that distract us. But when we get on that field, we lock in and we're ready to take care of business."
Clint Dolezel is 7-1 against Orlando since he became the Soul's head coach in 2013. The loss came in the most recent meeting, last June in Orlando, 45-42 . . . Saturday is Military Appreciation Night. In conjunction, the Soul will hold its traditional Friday walkthrough at Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst in South Jersey.