Where do I begin? Last week, I did quite a bit of scoreboard watching, especially in the South Central Division. If you read last week’s article, I made a bet with Hannah, my five-year old daughter, about who would correctly predict more games. I won the week with a 4-3 record vs. Hannah’s 3-4 mark, but on Sunday, I will be in Utica City colors from head to toe for the match-up against the Mississauga MetroStars. I guess that means, so long Merlin, hello FC Fanatic! Hannah is very excited about helping her dad get ready for the big game, and that’s what it’s all about: making her happy. This week I’m not kidding around, so it’s time to get picking.

THURSDAY 2/7:

SAN DIEGO over Ontario: The Sockers have had a couple of weeks off to get some guy named Landon Donovan acclimated to their team. Meanwhile, the Fury are coming off of an 8-7 overtime loss to the Turlock Express. I have to admit Hannah almost called that game if it wasn’t for her father talking her out of it. So, this Landon guy won’t be in uniform for this particular game against Ontario, but his services won’t be needed. The Sockers are a great team without him, and they will continue their winning streak after disposing the Fury 7-4. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah has no real opinion on the Donovan signing herself. I explained to her that he was one of the greatest soccer players in the world, and all she said was, “Yeah.” But, she does like the Sockers as well in this one.

FRIDAY 2/8:

UTICA over Baltimore: I consider this to be an upset considering the venue it is being played in. Since their move to SECU Arena, the Blast have not lost a game at home, with several teams coming close. Both Baltimore and Utica are coming off of a couple of disappointing games. In the case of Baltimore, they went on the road and lost to both Milwaukee and Harrisburg. Meanwhile, Utica City also lost in Harrisburg, but salvaged a 10-6 victory over the Orlando SeaWolves after starting that game down 5-3. Both teams would love to win this game, as it can go a long way to determine who gets home field advantage in the playoffs. So, why am I picking Utica? So far this season, Utica is 2-1 against the Blast, with two convincing victories at home, and a very close loss in Baltimore. The key to this game will be time of possession. I see Utica controlling the ball longer than the Blast, making for more chances offensively. Give me the City in a low scoring contest 6-5. HANNAH’S PICK: She wants Utica City to win because “We watch them every time.” On a side note, she thinks Bo Jelovac will be the player of the game. Don’t let her down Bo!

MONTERREY over El Paso: After what I’ve seen out of El Paso the last few games, I could see this as being another upset in the making. Hugo Puentes and Jorge Rios are among the leading goal scorers in the entire MASL. The Flash are currently tied with the Rio Grande Valley Barracudas for first place in the Southwest Division, with their most recent game being a 6-5 overtime victory at home against the Ontario Fury. The Flash can be a force to be reckoned with when they are on all cylinders, and I don’t think we’ve seen their full potential. I like Monterrey taking the victory on the road, but it will be closer than some think. Flash 8, El Paso 6. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah is taking the upset in this one as she likes El Paso to defeat the Flash.

SAN DIEGO over Turlock: So, the good news for Turlock is they are playing at home. The bad news is they’re playing against arguably the best team in the league. I don’t see Turlock extending their winning streak to two games unless Turlock signs Ronaldo and Messi for a one night only game. San Diego wins in a landslide 8-2. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah also likes the Sockers to derail the Express.

SATURDAY 2/9:

MILWAUKEE over Florida: Florida had a weekend to forget. In their most recent road trip, the Tropics fell to the St. Louis Ambush 8-3, then headed to Kansas City and lost in the final three seconds to the Comets 5-4. As a reward, they get to travel to Milwaukee to face a Wave team that had a huge victory over the Baltimore Blast on Saturday 4-2. So far this season Florida has fallen short of expectations, while the Wave keep chugging along with championship aspirations. The Tropics need to start winning games in order to get back in the race for that second playoff birth. They will need to start their winning ways next week as they will fall short against Milwaukee 7-3. HANNAH’S PICK: For someone that is an expert on the South Central Division, Hannah does not know who to pick in this one. So, after some thought, Hannah starts singing the following, “Florida Tropics… Florida Tropics!!!!”

ST. LOUIS over Kansas City: Both the Ambush and Comets came out with victories against division rival Florida this weekend, but St. Louis also lost a heartbreaker the next night against the Orlando SeaWolves, a game I’d like to forget about. Ambush coach Hewerton Moreira should be on the shortlist for “Coach Of The Year” midway through the season, as he has led his team to seven victories so far, four more than all of last year. This is a must win for both team. Kansas City has three games at hand currently against St. Louis, so the Ambush need this game more. Plus, St. Louis is playing at home, so I give a slight advantage to them. The Ambush shoot down the Comets 7-6. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah once again disagrees with her dad, and chooses the Kansas City Comets in this one.

SUNDAY 2/10:

UTICA over Mississauga: I’m not going to lie. This could be a trap game for Utica City. They’ve only played the MetroStars once so far this season, a 5-4 victory that almost never happened. If it wasn’t for Slavisa Ubiparapovic and Joey Tavernese scoring in that final minute, we would be talking about a five-loss City team as opposed to a four-loss team. Here is the key stat for this game: Utica is 6-1 at home this season while Mississauga has yet to win on the road. In recent weeks, the MetroStars have gone toe-to-toe with both the Milwaukee Wave and Kansas City Comets, having leads in both games, only to lose late in the 4th quarter. With all of that being said, I see Utica coming back to the Adirondack Bank Center after beating the Blast on the road, with their confidence at an all-time high. Mississauga will give them a test, but only for a half. Utica will take over and beat the MetroStars 9-6. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah cannot wait for her dad to paint his face for this game. She will go with Utica City in this game.

BALTIMORE over Harrisburg: In the other Eastern Division matchup on Sunday, the hottest team in the East currently, Harrisburg, travel to SECU Arena to face the Blast. The Heat have played Baltimore extremely tough the last couple of games, losing by one on the road, then beating the Blast 8-6 at home. As a Utica fan, I’d love to see Harrisburg take this one, but Baltimore is nearly unbeatable at home (or unbeatable if they happen to beat Utica on Friday). Another close game will take place on Sunday as the Blast manage to beat the Heat 5-4. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah wants to see Harrisburg take this one just as much as I do. So, she’s picking the Heat in an upset, which would extend their winning streak to three.

MONTERREY over Dallas. The Flash return home on Sunday after playing in El Paso on Friday. They will face a Sidekicks team who last played on January 26th, and came up short against the white-hot Rio Grande Valley Barracudas, 6-4. Anything is possible in the MASL, as Turlock showed last week against Ontario, so there is a chance the Sidekicks could pull off the upset. But, I like Franck Tayou in this match-up. He will have a big game and the Flash will take the W, 9-5. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah is taking the Flash as well.

RIO GRANDE VALLEY over El Paso: In the final match-up of Week 11, the El Paso Coyotes travel to Hidalgo, Texas, to face one of the hottest teams in the league in the Barracudas. These two teams met last Saturday, with the Barracudas easily handling the Coyotes, 11-5. This game is at home for Rio Grande Valley, so the margin of victory could be greater. Coach of the Month Genoni Martinez will see his team’s winning streak extended to seven after a 12-4 drubbing of El Paso. HANNAH’S PICK: She really, really likes the Barracudas. I don’t think I need to ask her, but I will. And of course, as soon as I ask her, she picks El Paso.

So, there you have it MASL Nation, our picks for Week 11. This is the time of year when playoff races start heating up, and division games become more and more important, especially if it comes down to any sort of tiebreaker. Being in the Eastern Division, I can safely say, this weekend is huge for us, as both Utica City and Baltimore have two games this week. We could see Utica take control of the East, or Baltimore could take first from Utica, or both teams could go 1-1, and the race could remain as tight as before their game on Friday. What say you MASL Nation?

Merlin –
Last week: 4-3, Season: 71-27

Hannah –
Last week: 3-4, Season: 40-29