As we approach this website’s first anniversary, the Turf and Boards is proud to present the first annual Boards Awards in recognition of excellence in the Major Arena Soccer League. The 2017/18 Boards Awards will include Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, Defender of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year and, finally, Most Valuable Player. Rather than picking one definitive winner in each category, our panel of Matt Huber (aka Merlin, the Knight Writer), Greg “Ponto” Suttie (Sockers Locker, Ponto Off the Wall) and Sydney Nusinov will each weigh in with their own choices for each award. Plus we want to hear from you in our poll.
Matt Huber, Knight Writer
The MASL Coach of the Year is a tough call. You have coaches that have led their teams to great regular season records, and you also have some coaches that have vastly improved their teams from the year before. Narrowing this down to three is tough, but I’m going to go with the following three: Luis Trevino (El Paso Coyotes), Mariano Bollella (Monterrey Flash), Ryan Hall (Syracuse Silver Knights)
Coach Trevino took an El Paso team that was 0-20 in 2016-2017, and transformed the Coyotes into a team that could have easily made the playoffs, if not for the division they were in with Monterrey and the Sonora Soles. At an 11-11 mark, a +11 win difference from last year is highly commendable in my book.
Coach Bollella compiled a 20-2 record with the Flash this season, the best in the MASL. Most fans saw this coming. They are the team to beat come playoff time as all roads lead to Monterrey.
I’m sure most of you know where I’m going with all of this, but my vote is going to Syracuse Coach Ryan Hall. This is his first full year with a team that A.) went 8-12 last season and B.) many people had low expectations for them this year (I had a sneaky suspicion about them, so I will exclude myself from that list). When the season started, Syracuse was without several key contributors from the previous year, including Jerjer Gibson, Antonio Manfut, and Moises Gonzalez. Coach Hall took this team, and molded them into a playoff contender, and most recently, taking the Baltimore Blast down to the wire in both playoff games.
Greg Ponto Suttie, Sockers Locker
The Syracuse Silver Knights play in arguably the toughest division in the MASL.
They endured a late season push by the Florida Tropics and ultimately played the Blast tough in two single goal playoff losses.
My feeling is that the Syracuse Silver Knights were the greatest over achievers in the league this season and that is why I am going with Ryan Hall as my choice for Coach of the Year. While that is clearly to the credit of the players, I have always felt that when a team consistently plays beyond their expectations, that is on the shoulders of the coach.
Sydney Nusinov, Turf and Boards Publisher
My outlook for Coach of the Year comes down to three candidates: Mariano Bollella (Monterrey), Ryan Hall (Syracuse), and Luis Jaime Borrego (Sonora).
Nothing against Danny Kelly, Giuliano Oliviero, and Phil Salvagio, but only one of the four predicted division winners went high above and beyond expectations and that was Bollella’s Flash, who were also the only team of the four that did not play the last two years.
Borrego returned with the Soles after going 34-6 the last two seasons, but did so without Diego Reynoso, Hiram Ruiz, Raymundo Contreras, Victor Baez, and Damian Garcia, who all left in free agency. It showed on the field as the team struggled to a 2-6 start, but Borrego was able to pick up the pieces and lead the Soles to a 13-1 run down the stretch and a return to the playoffs for the third straight year.
But only one coach blew my expectations out of the water and that was my pick for Coach of the Year, Ryan Hall. Hall was a little salty when I predicted a 6-16 finish for Syracuse. At the time, the team had not re-signed Slavisa Ubiparipovic or traded for Nick Perera. Perera turned out not to be a great fit and was traded to Tacoma after playing only three games (all on the road), but after a 1-3 start, the Silver Knights went on an 11-4 run and finished 13-9 overall, a five win improvement over last year and seven-win bump over our predictions.