The Turf and Boards is putting it all on the line for its First Annual MASL Forecast. It wasn’t easy and there are still a lot of unknowns (for example, as of press time, the Turlock Express had yet to announce any players signings at all), so we did our best to look into our crystal ball to reveal every team’s final record and who will win the 2017/18 Ron Newman Cup. Enjoy (and if we turn out to be wrong, be nice)!

EASTERN DIVISION

Baltimore Blast
2016/17: 14-6, 1st Eastern Division, Newman Cup Champions
Major Additions: Marco Nascimento (rookie from Brazil)
Major Losses: None
Player Worth the Price of Admission: Vini Dantas – Look for the intense Brazilian to break into the mainstream with a big offensive season.
Outlook: The Blast are the two-time defending champions with the bulk of their roster intact, but things will get interesting this year after the Blast’s move to SECU Arena in Towson where the field will be as many as 50 feet shorter than their old field at Royal Farms Arena. The Blast have dominated defensively the last several years but on a smaller field the molecules will heat up and jump around and offensive players like Tony Donatelli and Vini Dantas should get their time in the spotlight.

Harrisburg Heat
2016/17: 10-10, 2nd Eastern Division, lost Division Finals
Major Additions: Douglas Dos Santos (Chicago), Azat Bikbulatov (rookie from Russia), Sandro Costa (rookie from Brazil)
Major Losses: Chile Farias (Monterrey), Fernando Gatica (Rio Grande Valley)
Player Worth the Price of Admission: Thiago Freitas – Last year he showed off some fancy moves, but this year look for more output from Freitas on the scoresheet.
Outlook: Like the Blast, the Heat kept their roster mostly intact. Harrisburg went 10-10 after a 1-18 2015/16 season, and pushed the Blast to the brink in their playoff series, before buckling under. How much further this group can go is the question. Baltimore didn’t lose any steam and Florida is charging hard from behind. Part of he Heat’s potential depends on how much talented second year players Frietas and Hugo Silva can improve.

Florida Tropics
2016/17: 8-12, 3rd Eastern Division, missed playoffs
Major Additions: Mauricio Salles (Sonora), Guilherme dos Santos and Raphael Schlemper (rookies from Brazil), Miguel Gallardo (Jacksonville Armada)
Major Losses: None
Player Worth the Price of Admission: Freddy Moojen – Moojen is one of the most established indoor players on the Tropics roster and he has a track record of scoring goals and making things happen.
Outlook: The Tropics brought back their top dozen scorers from last year and added Salles and some intriguing newcomers. Just how intriguing they turn out to be will determine whether the Tropics can become a playoff team or not this year. Salles will turn 40 by the end of the season. Gallardo should push Piotr Sliwa for the starting goalkeeper spot and could overtake him at some point.

Syracuse Silver Knights
2016/17: 8-12, 3rd Eastern Division, missed playoffs
Major Additions: None
Major Losses: Antonio Manfut and Moises Gonzalez (Rio Grande Valley), Jerjer Gibson (St. Louis)
Player Worth the Price of Admission: Kenardo Forbes – Forbes is a complete player, who may not have hit his peak yet.
Outlook: The Silver Knights withered from 11-9 to 8-12 last year and blew several big leads in the midst of a three-headed coaching carousel. Ryan Hall will lead the team into the 2017/18 season with a roster that is still in flux. The Silver Knights are heading in the opposite direction of their three division rivals.

CENTRAL DIVISION

Milwaukee Wave
2016/17: 13-7, 2nd Central Division, lost Conference Finals
Major Additions: Jonatan Santos and Angel Curiel (Cedar Rapids)
Major Losses: None
Player Worth the Price of Admission: Ian Bennett – The ball will find him and he will find the back of the net and expressively celebrate.
Outlook: The hard charging Wave should have a healthy Marcio Leite back as well as a rejuvenated Jonatan Santos, who had a resurrection last year in Cedar Rapids. They were able to re-sign their unstoppable duo of Ian Bennett and Max Ferdinand, and rising stars Drew Ruggles, Daniel Chamale, Robert Renaud and Josh Lemos should push the Wave to the upper echelon of the MASL.

Cedar Rapids Rampage
2016/17: 12-8, 3rd Central Division, missed playoffs
Major Additions: Taylor Bond, Oswaldo Rojas and Edwin Rojas (Chicago), Mohamed Kenawy (US Fustal Team)
Major Losses: Jonatan Santos and Angel Curiel (Milwaukee), Hewerton Moreira and Robert Acosta (St. Louis), Patrick Kelly (Kansas City)
Player Worth the Price of Admission: Taylor Bond – Bond has a knack for creating something out of nothing, by taking long, indirect routes to the goal. He has improved each year.
Outlook: The Rampage will feel the losses of Hewerton and Santos, but the addition of Bond is a huge piece. Gordy Gurson needs to stay on his feet and continue the play rather than looking to draw fouls. Cedar Rapids will debut several new rookies, including Kenawy, who could make an immediate impact. The Rampage have one of the toughest schedules in the league and will need Bond, Gurson, and second year goalkeeper Brett Petricek to put the team on their shoulders for new coach Jonathan Greenfield.

Kansas City Comets
2016/17: 15-5, 1st Central Division, lost Division Finals
Major Additions: Patrick Kelly (Cedar Rapids)
Major Losses: Ramone Palmer, Robert Palmer and Alain Matingou (Tacoma), John Sosa (San Diego)
Player Worth the Price of Admission: Leo Gibson – Gibson is entering his eighth year with the Comets and his 93 points in 2014/15 is still a PASL/MASL record.
Outlook: The Comets endured a turbulent offseason complete with lawsuits, ownership changes and a coaching change. Kim Roentved returns to the Comets bench after four years away from the team. In the meantime, the Comets have lost at least four major players from last year and Gibson is not the dominant player he once was.

St. Louis Ambush
2016/17: 1-19, 5th Central Division, missed playoffs
Major Additions: Hewerton Moreira and Robert Acosta (Cedar Rapids), Jerjer Gibson (Syracuse), Nestor Hernandez (Dallas)
Major Losses: None
Player Worth the Price of Admission: Hewerton – The crafty Brazilian can post up or take on players one-on-one. He can score on restarts or catch the goalie off his line from midfield, and he has amazing vision on the field.
Outlook: The Ambush had a quiet offseason for a team that won only one game last year. The major move was hiring Hewerton as a player/coach. He is instantly the best player on the team, as well as a good tactician, who should be able to get more out of the team than Tony Glavin was getting. Besides adding Hewerton, who will be 38 at the end of the month, the Ambush only made a few modest signings.

SOUTHWEST DIVISION

Monterrey Flash
2016/17: inactive
Major Additions*: Carlos Hernandez (Reynosa LMFR), Damien Garcia, Wilo Martinez and Miguel Vaca (Chicago)
Major Losses*: Genoni Martinez, Yotsi Martinez, Erick Tovar (San Diego), Alex Caceres (El Paso)
Player Worth the Price of Admission: Miguel Vaca – Vaca is one of the best dribblers in the MASL and can make defenders fall down trying to stop him.
Outlook: After two years away, the Flash return from limbo to defend their 2014/15 Newman Cup championship. The Flash and Head Coach Mariano Bollella have assembled a top notch roster that should put them among the MASL’s elite teams. Goalkeeper Diego Reynoso had a rough WMF World Cup in Tunisia, but has been the starting goalie in the last three Newman Cup finals.
*Additions and losses from the 2014/15 roster

Soles de Sonora
2016/17: 17-3, 1st Southwest Division, lost Newman Cup Finals
Major Additions: Anibal Echeverria (Turlock)
Major Losses: Diego Reynoso, Damien Garcia and Victor Baez (Monterrey), Hiram Ruiz and Raymundo Contreras (San Diego)
Player Worth the Price of Admission: Enrique Canez – Canez is one of the slightest players in the MASL and his skinny legs don’t look like they would withstand the physicality of arena soccer, but before you blink he’s turning on you and putting the ball in the net.
Outlook: The Soles lost back to back finals to the Blast and may have missed their window to capture a championship. Two-time MASL MVP Franck Tayou is still at large and the Soles roster has already taken a major hit. Sonora still has strong players like Canez and Daniel Lopez and their arena is one of the toughest on visiting teams, so a return to the playoffs is not out of the question.

El Paso Coyotes
2016/17: 0-20, 4th Southwest Division, missed playoffs
Major Additions: Christian Gutierrez, Daniel Villela, Ernesto Luna and Manuel Rojo (Baja), Jesus Molina (Syracuse), Omar Tapia (free agent), Alex Caceres (Ontario)
Major Losses: None
Player Worth the Price of Admission: Christian Gutierrez – Gutierrez became an elite goalscorer last year and his 51 goals and shooting prowess make him one to watch.
Outlook: Head Coach Jose Luis Trevino is excited about the Coyotes chances this year with a revamped roster and more time to implement his system. Trevino absorbed 11 of the Coyotes record 20 losses last year, though the team came close to winning more than once or twice under his watch. If not fully a contender, El Paso should at least be an interesting team to watch this year.

Rio Grande Valley Barracudas
2016/17: inactive
Major Additions*: Antonio Manfut (Syracuse), Fernando Gatica (Harrisburg), Cesar Saldivar (outdoor free agent)
Major Losses*: Victor Parreiras and Ricardo Diegues (Florida), Luis Angel Landin
Player Worth the Price of Admission: Moises Gonzalez – Gonzalez was a two-time 30-goal scorer in his previous stint with the Barracudas.
Outlook: The Barracudas return, in a new home, after sitting out the 2016/17 season and moving from Brownsville to Hidalgo, a move of about 70 miles west.
*Additions and losses from the 2015/16 roster

PACIFIC DIVISION

San Diego Sockers
2016/17: 14-6, 1st Pacific Division, lost Conference Finals
Major Additions: Hiram Ruiz and Raymundo Contreras (Sonora), Peewee Ortega (Chicago), John Sosa (Kansas City)
Major Losses: Scott Martin (retired)
Player Worth the Price of Admission: Kraig Chiles – He’s the Sockers all-time leading goal scorer and he is clinical in how he baits and trawls defenders.
Outlook: The Sockers did a good job of turning over their roster last year, but their free agent bonanza has yet to pay off. The Sockers have at least 17 players with arena soccer caps for the US, Mexico and Brazil.  Ruiz and Ortega are strong on ball possession and  controlling the tempo and Sosa is a First Team defender. San Diego needs to strike while Kraig Chiles is still in the back side of his prime years. The Sockers have two #1 goalkeepers in Chris Toth and Boris Pardo. With Las Vegas out of the league and Sonora diminished, San Diego will now have to overcome Monterrey to advance out of the Western Conference for the first time since 2013.

Ontario Fury
2016/17: 12-8, 2nd Pacific, Lost Division Finals
Major Additions: None
Major Losses: Joey Kapinos (released), Alex Caceres (El Paso)
Player Worth the Price of Admission: Leonardo De Oliveira – Shades of Stan Stamenkovic, the stocky forward makes magic with the ball and finished strong with 34 points over his last nine games last year.
Outlook: The Fury will start life under new coach Jimmy Nordberg after president Bernie Lilavois stepped down to focus on team business. De Oliveira and Nick Perera do the offensive heavy-lifting. The team still needs to replace goalkeeper Joey Kapinos, but Lilavois may have some surprises up his sleeve.

Tacoma Stars
2016/17: 10-10, 3rd Pacific, missed playoffs
Major Additions: Robert Palmer, Ramone Palmer and Alain Matingou (Kansas City)
Major Losses: Micheal Ramos
Player Worth the Price of Admission: Danny Waltman – Starting with the pregame backflip off the boards and continuing with the gravity defying saves, Waltman is the Stars franchise goalkeeper and most important player.
Outlook: If the Stars can win they will have to do it with defense, so how Waltman responds from offseason surgery will be a key. Coach Darren Sawatzky got a 13-7 record out of a 2015/16 team that was greater than the sum of its parts, but the Stars came crashing down with a 1-7 finish last year. The addition of Ramone Palmer roughly cancels out the loss of Ramos, so the offense is still a weakness.

Turlock Express
2016/17: 8-12, 4th Pacific, missed playoffs
Major Additions: None
Major Losses: Anibal Echeverria (Sonora), Chris Welch
Player Worth the Price of Admission: Ivan Campos – Turlock’s portly superstar went out in the world to Detroit and Las Vegas, but came home again last year and had a career-low 26 points, but still tied for second on the Express. Turlock needs Ivan to get his mojo back if they are going to have any shot at contending.
Outlook: The Express are the MASL’s small market team and haven’t contended in a while, but they give opponents fits at home, going 7-3 at Turlock Indoor Soccer last year. Turlock relies on local talent for better or worse, but the losses of Echeverria and Welch put them further behind the 8 ball.

Projected 2017/18 MASL Standings
Eastern Division Record
Baltimore Blast 15-7
Harrisburg Heat 12-10
Florida Tropics 11-11
Syracuse Silver Knights 6-16
Central Division Record
Milwaukee Wave 15-7
Cedar Rapids Rampage 13-9
Kansas City Comets 11-11
St. Louis Ambush 6-16
Southwest Division Record
Monterrey Flash 16-6
Sonora Soles 12-10
El Paso Coyotes 9-13
Rio Grande Valley Barracudas 6-16
Pacific Division Record
San Diego Sockers 15-7
Ontario Fury 13-9
Tacoma Stars 11-11
Turlock Express 5-17

Playoffs
Division Finals
Baltimore>Harrisburg
Milwaukee>Cedar Rapids
Monterrey>Sonora
San Diego>Ontario

Conference Finals
Milwaukee>Baltimore
Monterrey>San Diego

Newman Cup Finals
Monterrey>Milwaukee

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