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

There are quite a few candidates for Coach Of The Year, but for this award, I’ll narrow my choices down to three: Phil Salvagio, Genoni Martinez, and Hewerton Moreira.

In the case of Moreira, he took a St. Louis Ambush team that went 3-19 in the 2017-2018 season, and took them close to a playoff berth. In the 2018-2019 season, the Ambush went 10-14, a seven win improvement from the year before. It’s not just about wins as a whole, but improvement over a season. That’s why Hewerton should get some consideration.

Let’s face it. If you coach a team that goes 23-1, you’re doing something right. Phil Salvagio led the San Diego Sockers to that record and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. On top of that, the Sockers were near the top of the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency. That all starts with a gameplan, and for that Phil Salvagio would finish second in my opinion.

My Coach Of The Year Boards Award would go to Genoni Martinez of the Rio Grande Valley Barracudas. Let’s rewind to the 2017-2018 season. Like the Ambush, the Barracudas were in the basement of their division, amassing only three wins. Not only did Martinez take over as the coach of the team, but laced up his shoes, and became a player as well. He scored seven goals and had 20 assists, helping his team to a 16-8 record in the regular season, and a berth in the playoffs. What a difference a year makes!

Sydney Nusinov, Turf and Boards Publisher

When considering Coach of the Year candidates you can take the easy road and pick the coach with the best record, as MASL voters did last year selecting Monterrey Flash coach Mariano Bollella who guided his team to a league best 20-2 record. Or, you can pick a coach who overcame adversity or turned a program around and exceeded expectations.

I am in the latter camp, so with all due respect to Phil Salvagio, Giuliano Oliviero and Bollella (who was actually fired midseason this year despite the Flash ultimately finishing 19-5), my three finalists for Coach of the Year are Ryan Hall (Utica City FC), Hewerton Moreira (St. Louis Ambush) and Genoni Martinez (Rio Grande Valley Barracudas).

Hall was our consensus pick last year after he took the Syracuse Silver Knights from 8-12 to 13-9. This year, after moving with the team to Utica, Hall led City to an Eastern Division title and a 17-7 record, stopping the Baltimore Blast’s run of first place finishes at eight straight years.

Hewerton took over an Ambush team that went 1-19 in 2016-17 and made them respectable, but they still only managed a 3-19 record in his first season. This year however, the Ambush won a franchise record 10 games and remained in playoff contention until losing five of their last six games to finish 10-14.

But that seven win improvement was nothing compared to the job Martinez did in Rio Grande Valley. The Barracudas improved from 3-19 to 16-8 and challenged the Flash for the Southwest Division title, beating them twice along the way. After three seasons away, Martinez, who turned 44 during the season, almost entirely rebuilt the roster and led the Barracudas on the field and off as a player/coach. His historic turnaround makes Genoni Martinez worthy of my Boards Awards vote.

Greg Suttie, Suttie on Soccer

While looking at the Coach of the Year there are some different perspectives. Do we look at the most successful? Or the most improved? Or the team that succeeded beyond preseason expectations?

If we are looking at the coaches who enjoyed the most success, it would be impossible not to name Phil Salvagio of the San Diego Sockers. The Sockers won 23 out of 24 games. And they did so after turning over nearly half the roster with new talent in the offseason. Some might argue that the roster was so stacked that he had little to do to make the team successful. But that would be shortsighted and unfair. Not only did Coach Salvagio have to integrate new players, but halfway through the season he was tasked with helping Landon Donovan learn the indoor game AND become a part of the Sockers system. He did so with seamless efficiency.

The most improved route might force a look at Genoni Martinez of the Rio Grande Valley Barracudas. RGV began this season with raised expectations despite having a 3-19 record the previous season, but for them to force their way to the Southwest Divisional playoffs is nothing short of amazing.

It would be wrong not also to include Kim Roentved of the Kansas City Comets. KC fought through a solid collection of respectable teams to gain a playoff berth this season after last year’s 7-15 collapse.

And while coaches like Nick Perera and Pat Healey came into difficult situations as brand new Head Coaches the previously mentioned men seem to stand on top from my point of view.

In conclusion, and to the best of my ability to put personal biases aside, Phil Salvagio deserves the highest recognition for his ability to integrate an entirely new combination of players and maintain chemistry within the locker room and on the field, and his results speak for themselves. Some may argue that he had a superior roster to begin with, but the magic comes from making a group of masters into a cohesive team fabric.