Discussing the playoffs in the MASL can at times be an odd exercise. You have teams like the St. Louis Ambush who are 2/3 of the way through their schedule, while a team in their division like Orlando is still two games shy of the 1/2 way point of their schedule. Oh MASL and your kooky scheduling, how we love thee, but without further adieu let’s take a snapshot look at the playoff races:
The Eastern Division:
This race is all over except for the hollering. The Mississauga MetroStars have been a disappointment and even their fans, the hearty few who showed up this weekend, know this is a wrap. The Harrisburg Heat are once again in the midst of a rebuild. So that leaves Utica City FC and the Baltimore Blast to figure out who gets the top seed and who finishes second.
Prediction: Utica claims the top spot and ends Baltimore’s run of three straight Ron Newman Cups by beating the Blast in the playoffs. It’s hard to rule out the Blast when the stakes get high, but something just seems off this year and Utica, who has been a league darling this year, seems ready to make a run into the semifinals.
The South Central Division:
This is without a doubt the most compelling of the four races. The Milwaukee Wave seem to have the top spot locked up, while the Kansas City Comets, Orlando SeaWolves, and the surprising St. Louis Ambush are in a virtual gridlock for the second spot.
I recently surmised that 14 wins would be the magic number needed to claim a playoff spot in this division. When I brought this up in a conversation with Ambush Assistant Coach Mark Litton last weekend he did not pour cold water on that number. So assuming 14 is the magic number, here is what each of the teams in the division would have to do to hit that mark with their remaining games: Milwaukee Wave (2-8); Kansas City Comets (7-3); St.Louis Ambush (6-2); Orlando SeaWolves (9-5). If 14 wins is the number then the 4-11 Florida Tropics have already been eliminated.
In looking at each team I think the Comets have the more likely path to the playoffs. Orlando has games in hand, but games in hand are only valuable if you win them and this team doesn’t look the part of a group that can go on a 9-5 run. The good news for the Comets is that they only have one game remaining against the Ambush. The bad news for the Ambush is the same, and the fact that three of their final eight are against the Wave.
Prediction: The Wave win the division and down the Comets in the playoffs, thus setting up a tasty semifinal with Utica.
The Southwest Division:
The Dallas Sidekicks win on Thursday night versus the Monterrey Flash did little more than keep them on life support in terms of the playoffs. Meanwhile the El Paso Coyotes loss to the Turlock Express firmly places the Coyotes in the “please don’t relegate us to league’s worst team status” discussion.
Like the Eastern Division the only thing up for grabs here is who finishes first and who finishes second between the Barracudas and the Flash.
Prediction: Genoni Martinez and the Barracudas crash the party and oust the Flash in a very hotly contested series to advance to the semifinals. Rio Grande Valley are the best kept secret in MASL this year.
The Pacific Division:
The San Diego Sockers were 12-1 before Landon Donovan kicked a single ball in earnest for them. That said the acquisition of LD by the Sockers is akin to having suicide doors installed on your Ferrari. It’s not at all needed, but it is cool and makes a statement.
The Sockers have the top spot in the division on lockdown. The battle here is between the Tacoma Stars and Ontario Fury to see who gets to face the mighty Sockers in the playoffs. Turlock has shown progress with two recent wins but are not in contention this year.
Like the race in the South Central, the battle between the Stars and Fury should go down to the wire. The Fury (8-8) have been an enigma of sorts as evidenced by their recent loss to the Express. Not a good look for a team trying to make the playoffs. The Stars (6-8) have also been a bit of a head-scratcher. They obviously have been affected by the injury to Danny Waltman but Sanaldo Carvalho is not a bad replacement. No matter what anyone says, the coaching change so early in the season has to have been at best disruptive to the Stars season.
The battle for the second spot could be as simple as who finishes stronger.
Prediction: The Sockers will face the Stars in a match-up of clubs with significant indoor pedigree. History aside the Stars won’t have Preki, and the Sockers have just too much. San Diego will advance setting up a David vs. Goliath sized match-up with the Barracudas in the semifinals.
So in the spirit of predictions: I see the Wave and the Sockers meeting in the finals in what should be a hotly contested and entertaining match-up of teams with no glaring weaknesses.
Your mileage may vary. I welcome your feedback.