I cannot believe we are into Week 17 of the MASL season. Another week of key match-ups line the schedule, so let’s get picking! Last week, I managed an 8-4 record, while Hannah needed a Rio Grande Valley victory over Dallas to crawl back up to .500. So, who do we have this week? Let’s find out!

FRIDAY 3/22:

BALTIMORE over Orlando: The Blast are now tied with Utica City for the lead in the Eastern Division, after avenging a road loss to Harrisburg, easily beating the Heat 8-2. The SeaWolves are two wins behind Kansas City for the second playoff spot in the South Central Division, making this road trip a make or break situation. They can get away with one win on this trip to stay afloat in the playoff hunt, but if they get swept, I would say they’re pretty much out of the picture. Baltimore is starting to pick up steam, and I see them continuing their winning ways, with an 8-5 victory over Orlando. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah is going to side with her dad and take the Blast.

UTICA over Mississauga: Irish eyes were not smiling on Utica City on Sunday. Call it the St. Patrick’s Day Massacre, as Utica fell behind early, managed to tie it up midway through the third quarter, then get outscored 6-0 the rest of the way. Hats off to the MetroStars, who came in with a mission: win a road game. Five days later, these two teams will meet at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre on the outskirts of Toronto for the last time this season. The big question will be: How does Utica respond after getting beat on their home turf by a three (now four) win team? This game was a wake up call for them. In order to claim an Eastern Division title, they’re going to need to beat Baltimore on the 31st, that’s a given. I think that a clean sweep the rest of the season is also needed, as Baltimore’s schedule isn’t that difficult either. Every game on the calendar from here on out needs to be circled. Mississauga won’t be facing the same team they faced on Sunday, and the scoreboard will show that. Utica wins 6-3. HANNAH’S PICK: I almost had to sell my daughter as she picked Mississauga first, then changed her mind and picked Utica.

SAN DIEGO over Turlock: I’m curious as to why Landon Donovan will not be in uniform for this game against the Express. Currently Turlock sits last in attendance with a little under 500 people attending each game. Having Donovan there would be a huge boost for this franchise, even if it meant 700 or 800 people showing up. But, what do I know? I just pick the games, and that’s what I’ll do! San Diego took care of Dallas last Friday, while Turlock beat the El Paso Coyotes in a shootout, 8-7. The Sockers have made Turlock their second home, handing the Express their two biggest losses of the season. Boris Pardo will have leads in all three key goalie statistics after this one. San Diego 10, Turlock 1. HANNAH’S PICK: San Diego will win by 11 goals according to Hannah.

SATURDAY 3/23:

HARRISBURG over Orlando: The SeaWolves will continue their road trip on Saturday, as they head north to face Harrisburg. Before their loss to Baltimore on Sunday, the Heat had lost one home game, a 9-7 loss to Utica back on December 1st. The Farm Show Arena is a tough place to play, just ask the top three teams in the Eastern Conference. Orlando will be doing quite a bit of running on the short field of Baltimore the night before, so fatigue will come into play. If they lose in Baltimore, this will be a must win for the SeaWolves. I see Orlando putting up a fight, but in the end, Harrisburg will win their 8th game of the season, 7-5. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah is going with the Heat.

MILWAUKEE over Florida: The Tropics come into Milwaukee riding high, after posting 12 goals against Kansas City at home. Meanwhile, the Wave are almost ready to wrap up home field advantage in the Eastern Conference, as they’ve built a 3.5 game lead over Utica and Baltimore. It’s still a possibility for Milwaukee to have home field throughout, but they would need San Diego to lose at least two games, while Milwaukee would need to win out. What will coach Giuliano Oliviero do in regards to resting players? I think Utica fell into that trap on Sunday, as they rested several key players, and we all saw what happened next. I still like Milwaukee winning this one, but it will be closer than what their records are. Milwaukee 9, Florida 5. HANNAH’S PICK: We are on fire this week as she also takes the Wave.

KANSAS CITY over St. Louis: This will be my Game Of The Week, as this is a must win for the Ambush and the Comets. Both teams are looking to bounce back after losing their last games. St. Louis played pretty well against Milwaukee, having a 3-1 lead going into halftime, eventually falling 7-4. The Comets, as previously discussed, gave up 12 goals against Florida in a 12-8 loss. I’m picking a Comets win for multiple reasons; the game is at home, and veteran leadership. Most of the Kansas City players have been in must win games like this before, and will rise to the occasion. Pair this with Orlando possibly going 0-2, and Kansas City will be pretty much locked in for that second spot. The Comets get the job done, beating the Ambush 8-6. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah likes the Comets.

SUNDAY 3/24:

MISSISSAUGA over Baltimore….

(This is the part of Merlin’s Picks where Blast fans look at the screen, see that I pick them to lose, then they start yelling at their computers…)

[record scratch] OK, now onto the real pick.

BALTIMORE over Mississauga: As I said in my Utica/MetroStars pick, Baltimore will need to win out for a chance at that Eastern Division title, a title they’ve seemingly won for the last 71 years. Mississauga hasn’t had the best luck at SECU Arena, getting outscored 25-9 in the two previous contests in Baltimore. While I would love the MetroStars to go into Baltimore, and do the same thing they did in Utica, it won’t happen unfortunately. The Blast put up double digits once again, beating Mississauga 12-6. HANNAH’S PICK: In her upset of the week, she’s taking the MetroStars!

SAN DIEGO over Dallas: Landon Donovan WILL be in uniform for this game against the Sidekicks, his first road game of the season. The Sidekicks had a rough week last week, going 0-2, and getting outscored 16-5, so a bounce back against San Diego (one of those teams that beat Dallas last week) would be a huge morale booster for them. This will be a closer game than their last meeting. I do think San Diego takes control in the second half, beating the Sidekicks 7-6. HANNAH’S PICK: Apparently Sundays are the only days Hannah wants to pick against her dad. She’s going with a second straight upset and going with Dallas.

UTICA over Harrisburg: Harrisburg will continue their homestand against Utica on Sunday. So, let’s go back to January 25th and 26th for a second. Harrisburg hosted both the City and the Blast on back-to-back days, and went and swept both games. The setup is pretty much the same, as Harrisburg is hosting two teams on back-to-back nights. So, a Harrisburg win is definitely a possibility. But, I’m going to base my prediction on the last game these two teams played against each other. Utica was relentless scoring 10 goals in a 10-2 romp over Harrisburg. In order for the tides to turn in this game, Harrisburg will need to have their key players step up in a huge way. Nelson Santana was very quiet in that game against Utica. In their wins against Baltimore and Utica, Santana scored three goals and assisted on another, and a game like that will be needed for them to have a chance. Utica wants revenge and will get it after beating the Heat, 7-4. HANNAH’S PICK: For her, this is a tough one, as she’s good friends with Harrisburg’s leading scorer, Ricardo Carvalho. She’s taking her hometown team in Utica, but has some advice for the Heat midfielder, “Do your best.”

MONTERREY over Rio Grande Valley: Another divisional race is brewing in the Southwest Division, with Monterrey holding a slim one game lead on RGV. The next two meetings between these two teams will take place south of the border, making them very important in determining home field in the playoffs. The Flash held Rio Grande Valley to two goals in their last game in Monterrey. I don’t see this being the same as the 5-2 outcome back on February 18th, but definitely not a 10-7 score from last Sunday. I’m going to average the two out and say, the Flash take down the Barracudas, 7.5-4.5, or 8-5 rounded up. HANNAH’S PICK: Flash, flash, one hundred yard dash. She likes Monterrey.

ONTARIO over El Paso: The final game of Week 17 has the Ontario Fury hosting the El Paso Coyotes. Did anyone see that Jermaine Jones goal last week against Tacoma? It wasn’t too bad. For anyone that says the MLS players aren’t making a difference in this league, they need to rewatch the games they’ve played in. I think most of us are pretty lucky we get to watch former MLS players playing for our teams this season, including “Captain Backflip”, Stephen DeRoux playing for my Utica City FC. The Coyotes are probably looking forward to the end of the season, as they are limping to the finish line. The Fury are only one game out of the second playoff spot, but hold the tiebreaker with Tacoma. Ontario takes care of business after taking care of El Paso, 11-2. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah actually is agreeing with me and taking the Fury in this one.

I’m also going to give my two cents on the upcoming MASL2 playoff game between the Chicago Mustangs and Rochester Lancers. I have seen both of these teams in action, both this season, and in previous seasons. Chicago blew through the Eastern Division, posting a 10-2 record, while Rochester got into the playoffs by defeating the Detroit Waza Flo at home. The Mustangs swept the season series, beating the Lancers 7-5 at home and 10-6 on the road. Will the third time be the charm for Rochester? Merlin says YES! Give me the Lancers 7-6 over the Mustangs! Best of luck to all of the teams involved in the MASL2 playoffs. Hannah doesn’t follow MASL2 that much, but I figured I’d ask her anyways. HANNAH’S PICK: Hannah is taking Rochester because “Jake and the other guy are on Utica.”

Next week, Merlin is taking somewhat of a break. He will be taking his picks on the road. So, next week, you’ll be stuck with Hannah’s picks! More details to follow.

What say you MASL Nation?

Merlin –
Last week: 8-4, Season: 121-44

Hannah –
Last week: 6-6, Season: 75-61