The Turf and Boards is proud to present the second annual Boards Awards in recognition of excellence in the Major Arena Soccer League. The 2018-19 Boards Awards will include Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, Defender of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year and, finally, Most Valuable Player. Rather than picking one definitive winner in each category, our panel of Matt Huber (aka Merlin, Soccer and The City), Greg “Ponto” Suttie (Suttie on Soccer) and Turf and Boards publisher Sydney Nusinov will each weigh in with their own choices for each award. Plus we want to hear from you in our poll.
Matt Huber, Soccer and The City
To be honest, this is one of the toughest awards to give out. You could go a number of different directions. Mo Babouli and Damion Graham of the Mississauga MetroStars showed the MASL that next year they will be a much stronger team. Diego Angel Arriaga of the Rio Grande Valley Barracudas put himself in the mix with a very impressive 15-5 record and a GAA of 4.26, helping his team to a playoff birth. Arriaga had an amazing cast of characters in front of him, so he would finish third on my ballot.
In my eyes, this is a two horse race between Zach Reget of St. Louis and Tavoy Morgan of Harrisburg. Since their stats are very, very similar, it’s time to break it down.
While Reget leads in shots attempted 95-74, Morgan has an advantage in shot percentage, 31% to 23%. ADVANTAGE: MORGAN
From a defensive standpoint, Reget has the advantage over Morgan, with seven more blocked shots. ADVANTAGE: REGET
It’s tied 1 to 1. My tiebreaker is going to be statistics versus playoff teams. Zach Reget scored 11 goals and assisted on three others in games against the Wave, Comets, Blast, and City FC. Well, this is awkward. Tavoy Morgan has scored 11 goals and assisted on three others in games against the same playoff teams.
Now, who do I pick? My Boards Award vote goes to Zach Reget of the St. Louis Ambush. He’s been a factor on both sides of the field, and will be the centerpiece of this team for many years to come.
Sydney Nusinov, Turf and Boards Publisher
Last year the MASL notoriously botched the Rookie of the Year and Defender of the Year vote, according to many corners of the MASLverse. The ROY co-winners were Edgar Gonzalez and Philip Lund instead of, in my opinion, the more deserving Adrien Perez and Hugo Puentes. The sophomore seasons of all four players only solidified that opinion.
This year’s rookie class is deeper and wider and there may not be a single right answer. Some combination of Tavoy Morgan, Justin Stinson, Zach Reget, Magui Souza, Mo Babouli, Mitchell Cardenas, Damion Graham, and Diego Angel Arriaga should comprise this year’s All-Rookie Team.
My three Rookie of the Year finalists would be Zach Reget, Tavoy Morgan, and Diego Angel Arriaga.
I called Reget “The Shark” because he is always lurking around the goal and is an efficiently lethal goal scoring predator. He led the St. Louis Ambush with 22 goals and was second on the team with 32 points.
Arriaga took over as the Rio Grande Valley Barracudas starting goalkeeper after Fidel Garcia led them to a 1-3 start despite an impeccable 3.67 GAA. Arriaga won his first eight games and ended up going 15-5 with a 4.26 GAA over a string of 20 consecutive starts.
By the slimmest of margins I’m casting my Boards Award vote for Tavoy Morgan. “Bull” led all rookies with 23 goals and four game wining goals, and added 10 assists. His ability to make long runs and withstand physicality while barreling through defenders makes the 24-year old my pick for MASL Rookie of the Year.
Greg Suttie, Suttie on Soccer
I was asked to offer a top three for 2018-19 MASL Rookie of the Year and then to offer my final pick from those three. In the deep dive I took among eight worthy candidates there weren’t just three that stuck out to me. All of the guys had great seasons, but only one had the season that took his team, division and conference to stop and take serious notice, and force the opposition to adjust to his presence.
Diego Angel Arriaga stepped into goal for the Rio Grande Valley Barracudas and quickly became the anchor the team needed to challenge for the top spot in the Southwest Division and be recognized as one of the top teams in the league. Along the way RGV maintained one of the lowest goals against averages in the entire league throughout the season. Among his battle honors, Arriaga held the San Diego Sockers scoreless for three quarters in San Diego late in the season as the Sockers were battling to claim home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
All of the rookies I looked at had outstanding results this season, but a player is only a rookie once. When a rookie goalkeeper can step onto the field and make the kind of first year, season changing impact that Arriaga did, it should be recognized with ROTY hardware.