Hannah, Ricardo Carvalho, and Matt “Merlin” Huber

What a weekend for Merlin and Hannah! Both of us were above .500, with Hannah going 7-5, while I went 10-2, but that pales in comparison to what happened on Sunday. The story I am about to tell is the reason why I love this game so much. Before the game even started, we had several of the Utica City guys come over to say hi to Hannah, which always puts a smile on her face. Fast forward to the end of the 2nd quarter when Freddy Moojen put away a restart goal, he starts running over to our section, then jumps up onto the boards, and proceeds to give Hannah a hug. After the game had ended, I was pointing out one of our biggest fans to Hannah, Harrisburg’s Ricardo Carvalho. He noticed, and came right over to give Hannah a hug and to say hi to the both of us. We talked for a couple of minutes, then got a photo to remember the day. I also got a chance to talk to “Mr. Pink Shoes”, former Syracuse Silver Knights player, Patrick Thompson, after the game. The ability to talk to any player in the league is amazing. This year alone, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some of the greats: Ian Bennett, Gordy Gurson, and now these two players. No matter what team you play for, it’s like a huge family. Anyways, onto the picks for Week 16!

FRIDAY 3/15:

ORLANDO over Florida: The second seed in the South Central Division is up for grabs, and for St. Louis, Kansas City, and Orlando, every game from here on out will be crucial in determining who advances. The Florida Tropics hope to put a huge dent in the playoff hopes of the SeaWolves on Friday. The home team is 1-3 so far in this series, so a Tropics victory wouldn’t be shocking to anyone. Both teams are coming off of losses, with Orlando losing to Milwaukee 13-2 (the back end of a doubleheader) and Florida falling one goal short to the St. Louis Ambush, 7-6. I don’t see a repeat of March 2nd, a 7-5 victory for the Tropics, in which they had an incredible start, outscoring the SeaWolves, 4-0, in the first quarter. I will take Orlando by that same 7-5 score. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah is taking Florida in an upset!

TURLOCK over El Paso: If this was the NFL, these two teams would be playing for the number one pick in the draft. Both teams have had some close calls in recent weeks, with Turlock keeping pace with Tacoma for three quarters in both games, and El Paso giving Rio Grande Valley a great game as well. These teams have met three times already this season, the last game resulting in a 12-8 victory for the Express. I’m expecting another high scoring affair, but it will be closer than their last meeting. Turlock 10, El Paso 8. HANNAH’S PICK: She’s going opposite me once again and taking the Coyotes.

TACOMA over Ontario: The Stars are starting to pull away from Ontario for the second spot in the Pacific Division, currently holding a two game lead. The teams had mixed results last week, with Tacoma getting out their brooms to sweep Turlock, while Ontario lost to San Diego to overtime, after blowing a two goal lead in the fourth quarter. The momentum seems to be on Tacoma’s side for this one, and a win would put them one step closer to the playoffs. I like Tacoma at home beating the Fury, 8-7. HANNAH’S PICK: Three for three. Hannah likes Ontario.

SAN DIEGO over Dallas: The last game on Friday has San Diego going for 15 wins in a row against a Sidekicks team that nearly took down Monterrey on Sunday. The Sockers nearly had their winning streak snapped, but a Landon Donovan to Kraig Chiles wallascora, gave the home side a 7-6 victory over their Pacific Division rival Ontario Fury. These teams also have met once before this year, a 9-3 Sockers victory back on December 26th. I see another victory for the Pacific Division over the Southwest Division, as San Diego takes down the Sidekicks, 7-4. HANNAH’S PICK: And the streak has ended, as Hannah is also taking the Sockers.

SATURDAY 3/16:

RIO GRANDE VALLEY over Monterrey: The top two teams in the Southwest Division will square off for the fourth time this season, as the Flash head to Hidalgo to face the Barracudas. The second hottest team in the league is Monterrey, winners of five in a row, while Rio Grande Valley is coming off of a 5-2 victory over El Paso at home. The home team is 2-1 in this series so far, so the advantage goes to RGV, albeit a slight one. Both teams have shown glimpses of amazing soccer, and either team will give whoever comes out of the Pacific Division a run for their money in the playoffs. The Barracudas need this win to close the gap between themselves and the Flash for home field advantage, and I think they will do that, winning this one 5-4 in overtime. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah is going to take RGV as well.

KANSAS CITY over Orlando: The Comets were almost my second favorite team this weekend, making a huge comeback against the Baltimore Blast on the road, ultimately losing by one, 10-9. In that game, they showed both what they can do offensively and defensively, scoring seven goals by halftime, and giving up two in the 2nd half. They are back on the road this weekend, facing an Orlando team that played the night before. I’m going to sound like a broken record, but teams playing the back end of a doubleheader, are prone to lose that second game. I’m kind of hoping that the South Central Division comes down to the last weekend of play, just like Ontario and Tacoma last year. I’m going to pick Kansas City in this one, 8-5. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah likes Orlando to take the second game in the doubleheader!

SUNDAY 3/17:

UTICA over Mississauga: St. Patrick’s Day will start off on the blue turf at Adirondack Bank Center in Upstate New York, as the playoff bound City takes on the Mississauga MetroStars. These teams will face each other three more times this season, and even though the MetroStars are eliminated from playoff contention, they can still put a monkey wrench into Utica’s hopes of becoming Eastern Division champions. Mississauga has yet to win an away game this season, and pair that with Utica’s strong 10-2 showing against Harrisburg last Sunday, the MetroStars road losing streak will stretch to eight. Utica trounces Mississauga, 11-3. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah cannot go against me when it comes to Utica, so she’s going with her guys.

MILWAUKEE over St. Louis: The Ambush only have three games left on the schedule, with two of them being against the Wave. Milwaukee are currently 2.5 games ahead of Utica City for the Eastern Conference lead, while trailing San Diego for the overall league lead. The Wave won’t be resting players anytime soon, so assume Milwaukee will be coming into this game 100%. St. Louis needs to have the game of their lives on Sunday, but I think they will fall short, losing to the Wave 9-4. HANNAH’S PICK: In a huge upset, Hannah is taking St. Louis! Make her proud Ambush nation.

FLORIDA over Kansas City: The Comets will continue their trip in Florida, facing off against the Tropics in Lakeland. Both teams will be coming off of road games against Orlando. Kansas City is currently 2-0 against Florida, with their most recent win happening on February 2nd, a 5-4 win at home. The Tropics will be getting back Andre Braithwaite in this game, which is a huge plus for them. This game could go either way, but I’m going to give the slight edge to a slightly fresher Tropics team. Florida takes this in a 8-7 slugfest, making the already murky South Central Division even murkier. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah likes the Tropics as well in this one.

HARRISBURG over Baltimore: It seems like Blast fans tolerate me when I pick them, and call me every name in the book when I pick against them.  So, let’s hear it Blast fans. Until you can show me you can win handily on the road, I’m going  to continue to pick against you. Baltimore is currently 4-4 on the road, but have a -2 goal differential. Three of those wins have come against last place Mississauga, needing overtime for one and a fourth quarter comeback for another. The last time these two teams met in Harrisburg, the Heat pulled out an 8-6 victory after disposing of Utica City the night before. The Blast can clinch their inevitable spot in the playoffs by defeating the Heat on the road, so that should give Baltimore some motivation. Harrisburg will now have the luxury of finishing out their season at home, where they are currently 5-1. Pat Healey will have his guys fired up for this match-up, and they will respond. Baltimore, you will have to wait another week to clinch a playoff berth, as the Heat takes care of business at home. Harrisburg 7, Baltimore 6. HANNAH’S PICK: In a clean sweep, she’s taking Harrisburg. Why you ask? To quote Hannah, “Because Harrisburg has what’s his name again.. Ricardo.. Yeah.. Ricardo is Harrisburg.”

MONTERREY over El Paso: This is the fifth Sunday game on the schedule this week. This will be the second game for El Paso in three days, and they will be going up against a very hot Monterrey team. There’s not much analysis needed for this one. The Flash take control early, and won’t let up, dismantling El Paso, 12-3. HANNNAH’S PICK: Hannah is taking Monterrey as well.

DALLAS over Rio Grande Valley: Dallas, on the road, against a very good RGV team, and you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Merlin, have you lost your mind?” Well, sometimes I go with my gut, and when I saw this game on Sunday, I instantly went with Dallas. So, now I need to come up with reasons why the Sidekicks will win this one. Here it goes: Dallas has split the season series 2-2 with RGV, with a 9-5 home victory back on March 2nd being the last time these two teams met. You would have to go back to December 2nd to find a Sidekicks win at the State Farm Arena, a 5-4 nailbiter. Both teams will be coming off of huge games, against playoff contenders San Diego and Monterrey, respectively. The Barracudas do play on Saturday at home, so traveling won’t be an issue, but, I think the Dallas/San Diego game will take less out of the Sidekicks than the Monterrey/RGV game will take out of the Barracudas. With all of that being said, I’ll take Dallas in a 6-4 upset. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah thinks RGV will finish a two game sweep this weekend after downing the Sidekicks.

And there you have it MASL Nation; twelve games on the schedule this week, with some very exciting match-ups. Which game are you most excited to see? Let me know! What say you?

Merlin –
Last week: 10-2, Season: 113-40

Hannah –
Last week: 7-5, Season: 69-55