On Friday, the MASL starts Week 9 of the season. For some teams, like Orlando, they’ve only played a whopping six games in that timeframe. For other teams, like Ontario, they’re already halfway through their season. In the case of Utica City, they are currently at the halfway point. How do I think the team has been doing so far? Let’s take a look!
CURRENT RECORD: The team sits at 9-4, with losses at Baltimore (by one goal), at Kansas City (five players rested after a game the night before), at Harrisburg, and at home against Milwaukee (no real excuse here). In my eyes, they have exceeded my expectations so far this year. If you told me at the beginning of the season, we would be 2-1 against the Blast at this point, I would have directed you to the nearest hospital for a head examination. The two victories weren’t close, as Utica dominated Baltimore. In the game at Baltimore, the margin was one goal, and City outshot the Blast 28-21. Am I calling a changing of the guard in the Eastern Division right now? Not yet. Let’s wait until April when the games really matter.
As some of you know, along with writing a blog on here, I’m also an admin for one of the supporter groups for Utica City FC, the “Utica City Hooligans”. Right now, they have a midseason awards post up, asking fans who deserves awards in four different categories. So, here are my two cents on the matter.
OFFENSIVE MVP: You could go several different directions for this one. Joey Tavernese led the Syracuse Silver Knights last season in points, and so far this season he’s racking the points once again, scoring 13 goals and assisting on nine others. He leads the team in most creative celebrations, as well as beers sipped during a game, albeit an exhibition game. But, my vote right now, goes to Slavisa Ubiparipovic. Slav and his booming left foot have been on fire this season, with the Bosnian hitting the back of the net 16 times, while dishing 13 assists.
DEFENSIVE MVP: This is a tougher one. I’m going to base it off of offensive efficiency, as well as defensive statistics. The two players that stand out are Ben Ramin and Darren Toby. Both have been incredible in front of goalkeeper Andrew Coughlin, with both players having more than 10 blocks this season. When it comes to helping on the offensive side, these two go in different directions. Ramin has eight goals to his credit so far this year, as well as two assists. Meanwhile, Toby has five goals and seven assists. So, who gets my vote? By the slightest of margins, my vote would go to Darren Toby. He is currently tied for first in the MASL with 21 blocks, a statistic that goes very far when it comes to showing how well a defensive player is doing.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: When the season started, and the rosters were announced, I was very excited to see Liam Callahan returning to the team. Last year for Syracuse, he played in 22 games, and tallied five goals and two assists. I had a feeling he was going to have a breakout year. So far this season, he’s already eclipsed his goals total by three, and I know by the end of the season, he will have tripled both his goal total, as well as his point total. My vote goes to Liam. If you read this Liam, don’t worry, you won’t have to sing as part of your acceptance speech.
FAN FAVORITE: Ugh. This category is also a tough one. After watching and covering the Silver Knights for seven years, I’ve gotten to know a lot of these players on and off of the field. If you were to ask my daughter Hannah, she would tell you Bo Jelovac without a doubt. I could also go down that road, as his jersey was the first one I purchased many years ago. I could also vote for Joey and Slav, for taking time after a game, to talk to my daughter after she stayed home due to an illness. To be honest, I could tell you at least one story about each player, and a positive interaction I’ve had with them over the years, both old and new players. So, this is probably the toughest category to vote on. But, if I have to pick one, I’m going to go with Nate Bourdeau. This season, before every home game, Nate comes over and says hi, and asks how I’m doing. He was also one of my first interviews I have ever done, and when I asked him if he wanted to do it, he was very excited and willing to do it. Maybe that’s another article in itself; “Stories From the Boards” and it will be about some funny stories from over the years. I’d like to thank each and every player that I’ve come in contact with in the eight years I’ve watched this game, especially all of the current players for Utica City FC. You’ve got a fan for life.
Well, those are my midseason awards for the best team in the Eastern Division right now, Utica City FC. What say you MASL Nation?