The Super Bowl is the closest thing the Major Arena Soccer League has to an All-Star Break, so now is as good a time as any to revisit our Turf and Boards Official 2018/19 MASL Forecast. Twelve games would represent the midpoint of the MASL’s 24-game schedule, but the St. Louis Ambush and Ontario Fury have already completed 15 games, while the Monterrey Flash have only eight games under their belts.
As you’ll see we have good reason to feel satisfied with our predictions so far with the exception of the Ambush, who have exceeded our wildest expectations and the first-year Mississauga MetroStars who have looked more like a traditional expansion team than the instantly competitive franchise we envisioned.
Other than those two teams we’re in the ball park with our other predictions. If the season ended today we’d be eight-for-eight on playoff teams and three-for-four on division winners.
Let’s see where we are, where we thought we’d be, and what has changed since November.
Now: 7-4, second place; Predicted: 17-7, first place; On pace for: 15-9
What surprised us: The Blast have struggled on the road (2-4) and Mike Deasel is the only player who has suited up for all 11 games. Baltimore has shuffled four rookie players into the lineup.
Looking ahead: The Blast finally have a legitimate challenger in the division in Utica City FC, but still are in good position to defend their three-peat.
Utica City FC
Now: 9-4, first place; Predicted: 14-10, second place: On pace for: 17-7
What surprised us: After a relatively inactive offseason, Utica got aggressive and re-upped Jake Schindler, signed Mauricio Salles and Lucio Gonzaga, and traded for Freddy Moojen. Slavisa Ubiparipovic is having an MVP-calibre season.
Looking ahead: Utica has already beaten the Blast twice, but now must maintain a consistent level to get over their first round playoff hump.
Now: 2-9, fourth place; Predicted: 11-13, third place; On pace for: 4-20
What surprised us: We were impressed when Team Canada played the Blast in an exhibition game last August, but may have overestimate the Canadian talent pool. If the Milwaukee Wave were able to grab Josh Lemos, Daniel Chamale, and Robert Renaud in a single offseason, surely Mississauga could have assembled a competitive team with almost two years to build a roster. We were excited about Luis Rocha, but he has been limited to four scoreless appearances. Dwayne De Rosario’s presence has failed to create any fan excitement.
Looking ahead: The MetroStars have Molham Babouli and Damion Graham in the Rookie of the Year hunt and Marco Rodriguez, the only MetroStar with MASL experience, has emerged as a leader.
Now: 3-7, third place; Predicted: 8-16, fourth place; On pace for: 7-17
What surprised us: The Heat went into the season without an established goalkeeper and have leaned heavily on veteran defender Nelson Santana. Harrisburg traded away leading scorer Thiago Frietas for hard-charging Dylan Hundelt.
Looking ahead: Things look rosier after a weekend in which the Heat beat both Baltimore and Utica, but that came on the heels of a six-game losing streak. The Heat rebuild is on schedule. Tavoy Morgan and Matt Perrella have been standout rookies and Hundelt and Ty Hall have given the defense a boost of energy.
SOUTH CENTRAL DIVISION
Now: 10-2, first place; Predicted: 19-5, first place; On pace for: 20-4
What surprised us: The Wave have survived a spate of injuries, but now have almost everyone back. Josh Lemos is 7-0, while Rafael Dias went 3-2 while Lemos was out with an adductor injury. Isaac Pereyra has been this year’s breakout player. Ian Bennett, Max Ferdinand, and Robert Renaud still lead the offense but the production has been more evenly distributed throughout the lineup this year.
Looking ahead: The South Central Division title is well within hand, so the Wave just need to keep pushing and stay healthy for the playoffs.
Kansas City Comets
Now: 7-5, second place; Predicted: 13-11, second place; On pace for: 14-10
What surprised us: The Comets have continued to struggle defensively, but after a 1-4 start, have been on a 6-1 run.
Looking ahead: Leo Gibson is having an MVP year and the Comets are continuing to improve. Questions still remain in the nets, as Mark Saxby has replaced an injured Brett Petricek, but both have GAAs in the 6.00s.
Now: 4-5, 3rd place; Predicted: 12-12, third place; On pace for: 11-13
What surprised us: The SeaWolves are still waiting for Rico Zulkarnain’s visa to be approved sidelining one of the most intriguing MASL newcomers. Victor France missed the first four games of the season. Piotr Sliwa seems to be the team’s starting goalkeeper even though Rainer Hauss has played the better of the two. Osvaldo Rojas is having a career year. Thiago Freitas has been on fire since being acquired from Harrisburg.
Looking ahead: Orlando has been one of the most inconsistent teams in the league so far, but should be able to develop some consistency with an unbelievable 10 games on the schedule in March.
St. Louis Ambush
Now: 7-8, 3rd place; Predicted: 6-18, fifth place; On pace for: 11-13
What surprised us: Where St. Louis often hilariously imploded last year (allowing Ty Hall’s accidental goal from past midfield, Ross MacGregor’s game-losing own goal on a free kick, etc.) they set the tone early this year by beating Orlando in a SO and are currently 5-2 in one-goal games. Zach Reget and Justin Stinson are two of the league’s top rookie. Antonio Manfut, the team’s most high-profile signing, lasted only eight games and two goals scored before being traded to Florida. The Ambush are playing competitive arena soccer even though Hewerton Moreira has only played in four of the 15 games (they are just 1-3 in those games).
Looking ahead: St. Louis is 0-4 on the back end of back-to-backs, but have only one more on the schedule (March 2-3) and the second game is against Milwaukee, which would be a stretch in any conditions. Five of their last nine games are against the Comets and Wave.
Now: 4-9, fifth place; Predicted: 9-15, fourth place; On pace for: 7-17
What surprised us: The Tropics traded away star player Freddy Moojen and recently acquired struggling Matt Clare. Ricardo Diegues has missed five games and has been quiet in the games he has played. Guilherme Dos Santos was having a breakout year after a position change, but is now out injured for an extended period.
Looking ahead: Florida sits 3 1/2 games behind the final playoff spot, but can play the role of spoiler with eight games left against Kansas City, St. Louis, and Orlando.
Now: 6-2, first place; Predicted: 20-4, first place; On pace for: 18-6
What surprised us: Almost every Flash player is below their point pace from last year, but Franck Tayou, who only had five goals in his first four games, and now has 12 in his last four, has gotten very little offensive support. Mariano Bollella has parted ways with the team. His replacement, Luis Jaime Borrego, has added two more former Sonora players, bringing the number of former Soles on the Flash roster to eight.
Looking ahead: The Flash have a real fight on their hands with Genoni Martinez and the Rio Grande Valley Barracudas.
Rio Grande Valley Barracudas
Now: 7-3, first place; Predicted: 14-10, second place: On pace for: 17-7
What surprised us: The resurgence of Wilo Martinez has been a pleasant surprise. He already has six more points in four less games than last year. Genoni and Yotsi Martinez have been light on the offensive side. The Barracudas biggest question mark was goalkeeping, but Fidel Garcia got off to a good start and has been replaced with Diego Angel Arriaga, a former Flash backup, who is 6-0 with a sterling 3.50 GAA.
Looking ahead: The Barracudas made their bones with a win over Monterrey on January 20. Each of their three losses have been by one goal, so there’s no reason to expect a Rio Grande Valley fall-off in the second half of the season.
Now: 5-6, third place; Predicted: 7-17, third place; On pace for: 11-13
What surprised us: Cameron Brown has been slow to recover from his latest ACL tear. VcMor Eligwe has scored some spectacular and timely goals as he leads the team with 15 goals and four game winning goals.
Looking ahead: Four of the Sidekicks five wins have come against El Paso. The Sidekicks would have to go 2-11 to meet our prediction, but that is a very doable number given that the Sidekicks have 11 games left against Monterrey, Rio Grande Valley, Tacoma, and San Diego.
El Paso Coyotes
Now: 3-8, fourth place; Predicted: 5-19, fourth place; On pace for: 6-18
What surprised us: Hugo Puentes has taken the next step and Jorge Rios has been this year’s breakout player for the Coyotes.
Looking ahead: The Coyotes have been kind of a mess on and off the field, but seem to be getting their legs under them. More than a dozen signed players had been sidelined with visa issues, and were released this week, while seven new players were added to the roster.
San Diego Sockers
Now: 11-1, first place; Predicted: 19-5, first place; On pace for: 22-2
What surprised us: Erick Tovar is out for the season and Taylor Bond and Christian Gutierrez, former 40 and 50 goal scorers, respectively, are on pace for six and 12 goals. The Sockers have succeeded at ball possession, but have had trouble with their finishing all season. Boris Pardo playing all 12 games so far has been an improvement over last year’s Pardo-Chris Toth tandem. Brandon Escoto has emerged as a true MASL superstar. The Sockers signed Landon Donovan.
Looking ahead: The Sockers have a huge lead in the division, and the entire focus of the season is winning as many games as possible to earn home field advantage in the Western Conference Final (and the Newman Cup Final, they hope).
Now: 6-6, second place; Predicted: 13-11, second place; On pace for: 12-12
What surprised us: Darren Sawatzky left the nest for a USL coaching job, Matt Clare was sent packing. Danny Waltman got hurt. After player/coach Nick Perera’s first two games as the new coach, the Stars were in first place at 4-1, but have lost five of the last seven.
Looking ahead: The Stars and Ontario will be battling all year for the second playoff spot, just as they have done the last few years.
Now: 7-8, third place; Predicted: 11-13, third place; On pace for: 11-13
What surprised us: After our predictions published, Ontario signed Tony Walls, and three first-year indoor players. More recently the Fury brought back Thiago Goncalves and brought in Victor Quiroz and Anibal Echeverria. Chris Toth has given up six or more goals in four of the last six games. Adrien Perez has missed five games and has been training with LAFC of MLS.
Looking ahead: After three dominating wins to open the season the Fury have been in a tailspin. Ontario will need some roster consistency to start firing on all cylinders.
Now: 1-12, fourth place; Predicted: 6-18, fourth place; On pace for: 2-22
What surprised us: Turlock signed three former Atletico Baja players, in a modest move toward respectability, but they got stuck in visa limbo and never appeared on the field. Star forward Ivan Campos has only played in three games and has no points.
Looking ahead: Turlock has been spinning its wheels for three of the last four seasons and there doesn’t seem to be any silver linings or hope on the way for the MASL’s smallest organization.