[Editor’s Note: This article was written on 11/26/18 before MASL league play began on 11/30/18]
The playoffs are a mere four and a half months away, and teams need to play 24 games before the playoff nitty gritty begins. For eight teams, that dream will become a reality. The eight teams I have boldly predicted are as follows: Baltimore, Utica, Milwaukee, Orlando, San Diego, Tacoma, Monterrey, and Rio Grande. My final four match-ups are Utica/Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference and San Diego/Monterrey in the Western Conference. So, what happens next? Time for some more bold predictions!
Utica vs. Milwaukee: Milwaukee will sweep Orlando, while Utica will have a tougher time defeating the three-time champion Blast at SECU Arena, where the Blast were undefeated last season, but when it’s your time, it’s your time. I suspect whatever happens during that series, the Semifinal will take place at UW Panther Arena in April. Utica has gone out and brought in several key pieces to fill the holes left by Kenardo Forbes, et al, with Stephen Deroux, Andre Braithwaite, Mohamed Kenawy, Mauricio Salles, and Lucio Gonzaga coming in. Salles and Gonzaga, who recently joined Utica City FC, scored nearly 20 goals apiece last season for Florida and Harrisburg respectively, and have years of experience in the game. Milwaukee will be stacked as well with the fearsome trio of Ian Bennett, Max Ferdinand, and Robert Renaud, who if healthy, could have guided the Wave over the Blast in last season’s divisional final. Both goalkeepers are very dangerous, with Josh Lemos and Andrew Coughlin being in the top 10 in goals against average last season. In my opinion, this game will come down to the wire, with Utica pulling off another upset and advancing to the MASL Ron Newman Cup final! If that’s the case, I will be traveling to either San Diego or Monterrey to cheer on Utica City.
San Diego vs. Monterrey: Well, where will I be going? San Diego and Monterrey met last season in the divisional final, with Monterrey defeating the Sockers at home. Just like Milwaukee and Utica, these teams will meet early in the season in Monterrey. San Diego will be out for revenge, and with the additions of Taylor Bond, Christian Gutierrez, Christian Segura, and Leonardo de Oliveira, the Sockers will be out for blood. Monterrey hasn’t stood idly by either. They went out and picked up Franck and Uzi Tayou, which gives them a huge boost on both ends of the field. I think this game will come down to the goalkeepers: Boris Pardo vs. Diego Reynoso. Both are outstanding goalies who can stand on their heads to help their team to success. I’m going to give a slight edge to Pardo and the Sockers. Pardo was half of the best goalie duo in the MASL, posting a league leading 3.70 goals against average, to Reynoso’s 5.06. Both road teams move on after San Diego gets revenge over the Flash.
I’d imagine San Diego is wonderful in May. It’s definitely better weather than Central New York. So, I’ll hop on a plane and travel cross country, with several jerseys and a ticket for the final in my possession. My eyes will be set on the Valley View Casino Center as I watch my Utica City FC take on the 14-time champion San Diego Sockers. I may be the only away fan in the building, so winning this title will be extra special. The only time these two teams have met was last season, where San Diego won 6-5 in extraordinary fashion. Of course these teams didn’t have the extra firepower I mentioned in the previous match-ups. As I sit here writing this article, I keep changing my mind on who will win this game. Do I go homer and pick Utica, or do I go with the obvious answer of San Diego? Well, my predictions are supposed to be bold, so here goes. UTICA CITY FC WILL WIN THE RON NEWMAN CUP! GM Tommy Tanner is all in this season, bringing back most of their core group from last season, and adding valuable assets to compliment the returning players.
Call me crazy MASL Nation. But, in all of the years I’ve covered the Silver Knights, and now Utica City FC, I have never felt as confident that they will have their best season yet. Call it a hunch. Call it bold. Call it whatever you want. I hope this prediction comes true, not just for the players, but for the fans.