The MASL playoff races are in full force, and more teams can clinch a playoff spot this week to join San Diego at the big dance. When it comes to picks, it was quite the topsy turvy week for the both of us! We both started above .500 on Friday, myself going 3-0, while Hannah went 2-1. On Saturday, both of us went 1-2, with Hannah picking Harrisburg over St. Louis, and myself picking Florida over Orlando. Sunday, we went against each other on all four games, and I picked three out of four correctly, and Hannah picked one. For the record, my “Upset Of The Year” almost came to fruition, with the 5-4 score being correct. Unfortunately, Jonatas Melo made sure the Blast were scoring that 5th goal. Now, onto the Week 15 picks!

FRIDAY 3/8:

KANSAS CITY over Orlando: This is the “Game Of The Week” in my opinion based on the fact this will have huge playoff implications going forward. Their first game against each other ended in a Comets win, 9-4. In Orlando’s defense, they were coming off of an exhausting 7-6 overtime victory against the St. Louis Ambush the night before. Since that game in St. Louis they have gone 0-3 versus South Central opponents, with their most recent defeat coming at the hands of last place Florida. Once again, in Orlando’s defense, they were without Thiago Freitas, one of their top playmakers in that game against the Tropics. A healthy Freitas will make a difference in this game, but I don’t believe it will be enough. Kansas City fought through adversity on Sunday against Harrisburg, and I feel like they will fight through adversity in this game as well. Kansas City comes out on top after a comeback against the SeaWolves 8-7. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah is sticking with her dad to start off the week, and picking the Comets.

MONTERREY over El Paso: The Flash are starting to gain momentum at the right time, currently holding a three game winning streak, with wins over Rio Grande Valley, Ontario, and most recently Dallas. El Paso had a memorable first quarter against the Tacoma Stars last weekend, but an unmemorable three quarters after that, getting outscored 11-3 in that time. A home game for the Coyotes will do them wonders, but I still see the Flash taking the W, by a 9-5 score. HANNAH’S PICK: And this is where Hannah and I start to disagree. She’s taking El Paso in a big upset!

TACOMA over Turlock: The Stars turned on the offensive Bunsen burner on Sunday, scoring 11 goals in three quarters (as previously discussed). Nick Perera is having himself a year, putting up MVP type numbers, while helping Tacoma be in the mix for the second playoff spot in the Pacific Division. Meanwhile, Turlock are a force to be reckoned with at home, winning two out of their last four games, with a third win within reach against the Stars. Another two goal difference is on the horizon for this game, with Tacoma coming out on top, 7-5. HANNAH’S PICK: ‘Coma Stars,’ she says.

SATURDAY 3/9:

MILWAUKEE over Orlando: The SeaWolves continue their tour of the Midwest on Saturday, as they face the best team in the Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Wave. Milwaukee got revenge on Orlando last Friday, posting an impressive 6-2 win. Josh Lemos, coming back from an injury, stood on his head, only allowing two goals. I think for the Wave to be successful in the playoffs, Lemos will need to be 100%, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Rafa Dias in goal for this one. The Wave have missed home, after being on the road for almost a month, and they will give the fans at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena something to cheer for after beating the SeaWolves 9-4. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah is back on track and picking Milwaukee.

HARRISBURG over Mississauga: Utica COULD punch their ticket to the playoffs this weekend, and in order for that to happen, the MetroStars must beat the Heat at home. On one hand, Mississauga is 2-0 against Harrisburg at home, winning in close one goal games each time. On the other hand, Harrisburg finally posted its first road victory on Saturday over St. Louis. The Heat would have gone 2-0, if it wasn’t for Robert Palmer’s goal with three minutes left, lifting the Comets to a 7-6 victory. On the third hand, Mississauga nearly pulled off the “Upset Of The Year”, but came up short against Baltimore. As an optimist, I’m rooting for Mississauga. But, as a realist, I’m going to pick the Heat, 7-6. Mississauga, prove me wrong. HANNAH’S PICK: She’s my little optimist. So, she’s taking the MetroStars to set up a potential playoff clinching match-up on Sunday.

SUNDAY 3/10:

UTICA over Harrisburg: FINALLY! A home game for Utica and that means the FC Fanatic will be out in, well, not so full force. The hair is staying (see below), while the facepaint has made its sole appearance for the year. So, let’s go back two weeks for the last time UCFC played — A 6-2 loss to the Blast. As most of you know, I do cover Utica City, and have watched the rivalry between the teams over the years, both in Utica, and Syracuse. I must say, that this game reminded me of when Baltimore used to dominate the Silver Knights. They weren’t going to let a 9-1 loss happen again. Utica got beat, plain and simple. Now do I see this happening again? Absolutely not. But, that’s a discussion we will have down the road. Right now, this is Utica versus Harrisburg. I know Coach Ryan Hall will have the guys ready no matter the outcome on Saturday. Pair that with a tired Harrisburg team, and Utica will have the makings of a four-goal victory. I can’t go against Utica in this game, even though Ricardo Carvalho will be in the house. Hannah and I are very excited to meet you, so, we will take it easy on you when Utica wins 10-6. HANNAH’S PICK: Utica City!

BALTIMORE over Kansas City: Congratulations Kansas City! You’ve just beaten a division rival in Orlando on Friday. So, what is your reward? A trip to Baltimore to face a Blast team that has only lost twice in their home arena in two years! Lace up your shoes and get ready to run. This is the second time the Comets have been to SECU Arena (last year they memorably lost 15-8 with Pat Healey filling in as goalkeeper for Baltimore the final 41:08 following William Vanzela’s major injury), and I think we will see the same outcome we saw when Milwaukee first played in this venue; a slow start, but the Comets will make it close. The Blast win 6-4. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah thinks since they’re playing in Baltimore, the Blast are going to win.

FLORIDA over St. Louis: Now that Ambush’s travel agent has returned from vacation themselves, St. Louis will go on the road for the first time in over a month, and their first stop is in Lakeland to play a Tropics team that buckled down and squeaked past Orlando, 7-5. The Tropics will be without the services of one of their hottest players in Andre Braithwaite, who is currently suspended for two games due to an altercation against that same SeaWolves team. In this game, whoever starts off hot, will win. Although I like what the Ambush have done this year, I think it is too little, too late, when it comes to a playoff hunt. The Ambush needed to win at least one of their last two games to have a glimmer of hope, but losses to both Harrisburg and Milwaukee has nearly ended those dreams. Florida has shown signs of life over the last couple of games, and they will be in front of their home crowd, so I will take the Tropics in an upset, 8-6. HANNAH’S PICK: After picking the Tropics, she quickly changes her mind and picks the Ambush on the road.

MONTERREY over Dallas: The Sidekicks will be hosting the Flash in another Sunday match-up. When it comes to predicting games, I think Dallas has given me the most headaches. Last week, I had them losing to the Rio Grande Valley Barracudas, and what do they do? They go out and beat them rather handily, 9-5. I did come close to predicting the outcome of the Flash-Sidekicks game on Sunday, missing the score by one goal. So I’ll go down the middle on this one. Monterrey wins this game, BUT it will be very close. The Flash keep rolling along after beating the Sidekicks on the road, 9-8. HANNAH’S PICK: She enjoys disagreeing with me on Sunday games for some reason. Once again, she’s going against her dad and picking Dallas.

RIO GRANDE VALLEY over El Paso: The Barracudas are in a good spot for second in the Southwest Division, but a couple of weeks ago, they were sitting at the top. Can they still win home field advantage come playoff time? Of course. But, they need to start steering the ship in the right direction. That starts this week against the Coyotes at home. The last time these two teams met in Hidalgo, the Barracudas won 10-2. Genoni Martinez and his team will be ready for this match-up on Sunday, and will win, but not by eight this time. Rio Grande Valley 11, El Paso 4. HANNAH’S PICK: Another Sunday game? Another disagreement. She’s taking El Paso once again.

SAN DIEGO over Ontario: By the time I get home from Utica, this will be the first game I will be able to watch live. Can anyone stop the Sockers? No one in the Pacific Division can at the moment. And if it wasn’t for a Herculean effort from Tacoma keeper Danny Waltman, we’d be talking about when their undefeated season would come to an end. Adrien Perez is no longer with the Fury, so most of the offensive production will have to come from another source. Victor Quiroz could be that player, as he led the Fury to a 12 goal outburst against El Paso back on the 17th of February. Let’s not forget Ontario has that goalkeeper named Chris Toth, the reigning Goalkeeper Of The Year, and if the Fury are to win this game, Toth will need a Waltman-esque game. San Diego is coming off of a 13-2 drubbing of Turlock, with Landon Donovan matching the goal output of the entire Express team. This isn’t Turlock, so the score will be slightly closer, but the Sockers can’t be stopped at this point in the season. San Diego 8, Ontario 4. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah can’t go against me on this game. She wants the Sockers to win.

TACOMA over Turlock: At the same time as the Sockers-Fury game, Tacoma will be hosting Turlock. While I am a fan of the home-and-home series, I feel as though the cities should be a little closer than Tacoma and Turlock. On a side note, I miss the Rochester-Syracuse home-and-home games. One night, I’d go to Rochester and watch the Lancers and Knights, then the next night, they’d play in Syracuse. The good ol’ days…Anyway, back to the final game of Sunday. Tacoma and Turlock both have to travel for this game, so the advantage will always go to the home team, and with that being said, the Stars will take another victory, inching one step closer to that playoff spot in the Pacific. Tacoma 10, Turlock 2. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah thinks Tacoma will go 2-0 this weekend after sweeping the Express.

Once again, I want to thank everyone that reads these picks. I’ve been doing these for several years now, and I have no intentions of stopping, no matter what naysayers may say. Growing up, I would be glued to the TV, watching my Big 4: New York Giants, Chicago White Sox, New York Rangers, and Golden State Warriors (this was back in the 80’s, so there’s no bandwagon going on here). In the nearly 40 years I’ve been on this Earth, I’ve never met a single player from any of these teams. Eight years ago, I didn’t know anything about indoor soccer, and would watch outdoor occasionally if nothing else was on. The first indoor game I went to, it reeled me in. It was a feeling I never felt with any of the other sports. I had been to California to watch the Warriors play, and I’ve been to Chicago several times to watch the White Sox, and New Jersey to watch my boys in blue play. But, being in Syracuse, now in Utica, watching indoor soccer, it’s a whole new experience. Also, the fact the players are so friendly to me, and my family, just adds another level to it. On the MASL Off The Wall forum someone asked “Why do you like your team?” My answer was simple: They are like family to me. And it’s not just Utica. The fact I can go up to any player and ask for a picture, they are more than willing to oblige. This league is like family to me. For the most part, all of you fans, are like family to me. Just remember that. 

The world famous Hannah and her dad Matt “Merlin” Huber

Merlin –
Last week: 7-3, Season: 103-38

Hannah –
Last week: 4-6, Season: 62-50