Terms like must win or do-or-die get tossed around rather cavalierly at times. In talking about this weekend’s games for the teams in the South Central Division those monikers may actually be an understatement.
The Milwaukee Wave play back-to-back games on the road this weekend against Eastern Division opponents. On Friday they play the Baltimore Blast, who will want to both bounce back from their first SECU Arena home loss, and make a statement in the process. The Wave will then play the Harrisburg Heat on Saturday. The Heat have shown recently that they are not to be taken lightly. The Wave are entering the weekend with the least amount of stress within the division. A split would keep them comfortably in the driver seat while a sweep, which is far from out of the question, would be a gauntlet thrown down at the feet of the other MASL elites.
When I look at everything the St. Louis Ambush have accomplished this year, and truth be told the ceiling was not particularly high, I am always reminded of the classic Jim Mora NFL moment. Mora in a post game scrum responded to a reporter’s question in a particularly high pitched voice, “Playoffs??? Are you talking about playoffs?!” Well yes, we are talking about playoffs in St. Louis. The Ambush have two monumental home games this weekend, the fourth and fifth games of a critical seven-game homestand.
On Friday they host the Orlando SeaWolves in a game both teams can ill afford to lose. Then on Sunday they will play the Florida Tropics in a game that has all the makings of a classic trap game, with Florida looking to play spoilers. The optimist will point to the eight games the Ambush have already deposited in the win column, while the pessimist will dwell on the fact that they have the least number of games remaining among the contenders to add to their total. Either way the Ambush will be looking to maximize this weekend with two wins.
I caught up with Lucas Almeida, who’s play has really been resurgent of late, highlighted by his goal and four assists in their last match. I asked Lucas what the approach was for his team going in the weekend. He replied, “This week will be huge for us, especially Friday. I believe that if we want to keep the hope of making the playoffs alive we have to win Friday and Sunday, but it all starts with winning Friday. The win would give us the head-to-head against Orlando and since we already have that advantage against KC it will give us a better chance at qualifying.” Almeida stressed the need to keep the momentum going and was also very upbeat when discussing how much fun the game is when both the club is playing well and you are in good personal form.
The SeaWolves also have two match-ups of epic proportions when they travel to Missouri to first face the Ambush and then the Comets. Richard Schmermund, ex of the Ambush and a native of the 314, echoed Almeida’s assessment of this weekend’s importance. “This weekend is very important as we get into the heart of our season,” Schmermund said. “We started out 0-2 and have been fighting our way back to even, but now is a perfect opportunity to use our momentum and take the second spot in the South Central Division.
“This is a special group of guys and if we continue to work as one unit and keep building then the sky is the limit for us.” Schmermund also did not even attempt to hide the added motivation for him personally in this game after being forced to sit out the last match-up due to league disciplinary policy.
While the Comets have only one game on tap this weekend, the aforementioned clash with the SeaWolves on Sunday, it is no less important. To paraphrase a pop culture reference,”Will the real Comets please stand up?” Another loss this weekend could make the Comets playoff chances slim and shady. Are the Comets the team that beat the Wave earlier this year or the team that has been dominated by St. Louis? Well they say you are what your record says you are. For the Comets that means a team that has failed to distinguish themselves. A victory at home over the SeaWolves would go along way to establishing themselves in the race. While a loss, especially at home, would only serve to intensify any doubts about their playoff pedigree. The Sunday affair also will showcase two of the league’s most proven commodities when it comes to scoring goals, as the Comets Leo Gibson and the SeaWolves Gordy Gurson will be on display.
Meanwhile the Florida Tropics may still have a sting in their tail as they could play spoiler in their Sunday game vs. the Ambush.
They say Missouri is the “Show-Me State”. Well with three big games this weekend in the state we could find out who will begin to emerge from the pack. Or we will see teams waste an opportunity to separate themselves from said pack. Either way, it should be an intense atmosphere with hopefully some great indoor soccer in the South Central Division.