Week 4 of the MASL season showed me that there has been a passing of the torch. No, I’m not talking about a new leader in the Pacific Division. But, my torch has been passed on to Hannah, my five-year old daughter. Last week, she went 6-2, while I went 4-4. Throughout the weekend, I received Facebook messages from the MASL community, as well as general managers of certain soccer clubs, updating me on my demise. I don’t know how she does it, but she’s doing a great job at it. So, what does Hannah have for an encore this week? Let’s find out!

WEDNESDAY 12/26:

SAN DIEGO over Dallas: The Pacific Division was very busy in Week 4, with Ontario playing three games, Tacoma and San Diego two, and Turlock one. San Diego split their two games, beating the Fury, but losing to Danny Waltman and the Tacoma Stars. They start this week against Dallas on the road against a Sidekicks team who last played 11 days ago against El Paso. They will have their eyes set on Friday’s match against Monterrey, so this match might be a close one. Give me the Sockers 6-3. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah is going with her dad on this one and picking San Diego.

FRIDAY 12/28:

MONTERREY over San Diego: This could be a Western Conference final playoff matchup with the Sockers traveling south of the border to face a Flash team that narrowly escaped the Rio Grande Valley Barracudas in overtime 6-5. The Sockers have the firepower to beat the Flash, but haven’t shown that offensive spark just yet. Give me the Flash 5-4. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah went 4-0 picking teams in the Pacific Division last week, and she wants to be right on this one. She’s going with the Sockers once again.

SATURDAY 12/29:

FLORIDA over Orlando: The first Sunshine State matchup of the season takes place on Saturday in Lakeland as the Tropics take on the Seawolves. Florida lost to Milwaukee last week, while Orlando won their first game of the season against Mississauga. Orlando recently acquired Thiago Freitas from Harrisburg in exchange for Dylan Hundelt, so my question is, how much will Thiago help his new team this week? I say he will help, but it won’t be enough as the Tropics go one up in this new rivalry. Florida 7, Orlando 5. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah howls like a wolf when I give her the picks, so she’s going with Orlando.

ONTARIO over Turlock: These two teams met in Turlock last week, with the Express almost pulling off an upset. The Fury, after going 3-0 to start off the season, have lost two out of three games. I expect the outcome to be a lot different than last week with Ontario defeating the Express 10-5. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah thinks the Fury will also win this week.

KANSAS CITY over St. Louis: It feels like these teams have already played twenty times this season, but this will be the third meeting in two weeks between the Ambush and Comets, with St. Louis winning both by one goal each. The cowbells will be ringing at the Family Arena on Saturday as the Ambush look to go 4-2 on the season. I hate to disappoint the St. Louis fans that read this, but Kansas City will win this one by a goal, 8-7. HANNAH’S PICK: This is a hard one for her to pick. She’s going against her dad and will take the Ambush in this one.

EL PASO over Dallas: My upset special this week takes place in El Paso as the Coyotes host the Dallas Sidekicks. The Coyotes look to avenge a December 15th loss to Dallas, and will do so on their home turf. El Paso 6, Dallas 4. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah is starting to fall asleep right next to me, so I’ve got to make this fast. She’s going with the upset as well, taking El Paso.

SUNDAY 12/30:

UTICA over Baltimore: On Sunday, the Eastern Division will be showcased, with the first matchup taking place in Utica as the Blast make the drive to Central New York to face the Eastern Division leading Utica City FC. These two teams have beaten each other once on their home turf, and I don’t see this changing on Sunday. Utica will be a force to be reckoned with this season, and I think the Blast know that. Look for a low scoring affair as the Adirondack Bank Center is bigger than SECU Arena. Baltimore tends to have lower scoring games in these types of arenas, so expect Utica to win 5-3. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah definitely wants Utica to win. Is anyone shocked by this?

HARRISBURG over Mississauga: Heat fans, look what I did. I am predicting a Heat victory! On the road even! The Eastern Division undercard starts on the outskirts of Toronto as the MetroStars look to defeat the Heat at home. Over the last few games, Mississauga has flexed their offensive muscles, but left their defensive muscles somewhere else, with Orlando scoring 12 goals against them in their last game. Harrisburg will be more physical than the teams the MetroStars have played recently, so expect (barring any issues at the border) a lower scoring affair. Harrisburg 7, Mississauga 5. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah likes the Heat as well in this matchup.

MONDAY 12/31:

MILWAUKEE over St. Louis: I almost forgot this game, as it falls on New Year’s Eve. First of all, let me start of by saying, I loved the Wave’s promotion of this game. Being an ’80s kid, it took me back to my childhood, especially with the VHS-esque filming. Anyways, back to the task at hand. The Wave will be hosting St. Louis in the final game of 2018. The Ambush will have come off of a loss against the Kansas City Comets, while Milwaukee’s last game ended in a victory over the Florida Tropics. Milwaukee will win this one, setting up what will be in my eyes, one of the best games of the entire MASL season, when the Wave come to town to face Utica City on January 6th. Milwaukee 9, St. Louis 4. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah is going with the “Waukee Wave”.

Week 5 is almost upon us with the first kickoff taking place tonight. I hope your team ends 2018 on a high note, whether it’s a win, or show some improvement, even if they lose. On a side note, Hannah really appreciates all of the kind words said about her, and she really does enjoy doing these on a weekly basis with me. Sometime during the year, I might do a YouTube video of Merlin’s Picks with Hannah, so be on the lookout for that.

From a fantasy standpoint, my lineup this week looks like this: GOALKEEPER: Andrew Coughlin (Utica City), DEFENDERS: Nelson Santana (Harrisburg) and Guerrero Pino (San Diego), MIDFIELDERS: Antonio Manfut (St. Louis) and Nestor Hernandez (Dallas), FORWARD: Ian Bennett (Milwaukee)

MASL Nation, I hope you have a wonderful remainder of 2018, and look forward to next week’s picks, the first picks of 2019! Until then, this is Merlin signing off.

Merlin –
Last week: 4-4, Season: 25-9

Hannah –
Last week: 6-2, Season 13-5