How do you rank 256 free agents and narrow the list to a Top 40? That’s what we’re going to attempt to do as the Major Arena Soccer League’s “Live Period” commenced at 9am today.
Any player whose contract ends before November 1, will be considered a free agent for the next two weeks until 6pm on May 30. If they don’t sign during the Live Period they are not free to sign with another team until the full expiration of their contract. The most common end date for MASL contracts is August 31, but some end earlier and some end later. Some contracts expired at the completion of the 2018-19 season, meaning those players are unrestricted free agents.
The Mississauga MetroStars have the most players available during the Live Period (29), while the San Diego Sockers have the fewest (4). The Ron Newman Cup champion Milwaukee Wave have nine players available, most notably Drew Ruggles, Stuart Grable, and Ricardo Sobreira.
It’s hard to weigh the value of a forward or defender against a goalkeeper or midfielder, and every team will have their own personal rankings based on need. Factors we took into consideration include age, upside, injury history, geography, and tenure with their current team. Dylan Hundelt, however, proved last year that even a legacy player can leave his hometown team.
We made some assumptions as well. For instance, if Landon Donovan or Jermaine Jones return to the MASL this year it will most likely be with the Sockers or Ontario Fury, respectively. We are assuming Rio Grande Valley Head Coach and player Genoni Martinez is not looking to change teams, but we thought the same thing about Hewerton Moreira in 2017 before he left the Cedar Rapids Rampage for the St. Louis Ambush. We also didn’t rank Kenardo Forbes, who prioritized his outdoor career and did not play in the MASL this past season.
Those are just some of the factors that go into the decision making process, but as we embark on our third year of rankings, we recognize this isn’t a perfect science (We had Nick Perera at #31 last year?!).
1. Franck Tayou – F (Monterrey Flash) Signed with Ontario 5/16/19 The King likes to put a team on his broad shoulders, but his Flash teammates didn’t get the royal decree. His streak of three straight MVP awards ended, despite a third finals appearance and another 50 goals. Tayou could probably make a bigger impact on a team that could build around him like a that struggled last year or perhaps expansion Mesquite. Chance of moving 75%
2. Nick Perera – F (Tacoma Stars) Perera simplified his game and became one of the top goal scorers and playmakers in the league, besting his old career high by 31 points. Part of the reason we had him ranked so low last year is because he missed so much time with beach soccer, but this year he played all 24 games with the added responsibility of being a player/coach for the Stars. Chance of moving 10%
3. Gordy Gurson – F (Orlando SeaWolves) Signed with Florida 5/16/19 Gordy carried Cedar Rapids to the playoffs in 2018, but he could barely drag the Orlando SeaWolves anywhere this year despite 32 goals and a career-high 26 assists. Gurson doesn’t score as much as Ian Bennett, but he creates more chances for teammates, and has a similar tireless work rate. At 27, Gurson is one of the most talented and marketable players in the league. Chance of moving 20%
4. Leo Gibson – F (Kansas City Comets) Lest anyone should think Leo was slowing down at 35, the long time Comet finished second in the MASL with 64 points. After his 9th year with the Comets, fans can likely expect an encore. Chance of moving 10%
5. Adriano Dos Santos – D (Baltimore Blast) The crafty defender is finally getting his due after being recognized on the All-MASL 3rd Team in 2017-18 and 1st Team this year. The big Brazilian had a career-high 23 points, but also a career-high 24 PIM in his ninth season with the Blast. Chance of moving 10%
6. Ricardo Carvalho – F (Harrisburg Heat) Signed with Florida 5/16/19 Carvalho jumped into the top tier of players this year after setting career highs in goals (30), assists (19), and points (49) in his fourth MASL season. Despite turning 30 earlier this week Carvalho still has a lot of miles left on the tires. Chance of moving 15%
7. Bo Jelovac – F (Utica City FC) Jelovac had an offensive explosion in his seventh season, scoring a career-high 20 goals and 32 points despite missing four games. The 6’3″ (giant by arena soccer standards) team captain was one of the top post-up players in the league last year. Chance of moving 10%
8. VcMor Eligwe – F (Dallas Sidekicks) After three straight losing seasons, could we see an exodus of Sidekicks to the new Mesquite Outlaws? Either way Eligwe will be in demand after scoring 21 and 27 goals the last two years, including five game-winners this year. Chance of moving 25%
9. Diego Reynoso – GK (Monterrey Flash) Reynoso made it to his fifth straight final, but came up short for the fourth straight year. Still Reynoso is one of the top five goalkeepers in the MASL and is as durable and dependable as they come. Chance of moving 10%
10. Damian Garcia – D (Monterrey Flash) Garcia is still one of the top defenders in the MASL with a booming shot. He has been to the finals five times with three different teams in his seven year career, though his teams have come up short each time. Chance of moving 10%
11. James Togbah – D (Kansas City Comets) The 23-year old was already on our radar in his rookie 2017-18 campaign despite scoring only one goal and one assist in 12 games, but this year Togbah played 23 games and had 18 goals and eight assists. His eight power play goals were second only to Ian Bennett. Chance of moving 15%
12. Joey Tavernese – F (Utica City FC) Peter Pan dropped from last year’s #5 ranking because of an injury marred season and a reluctance to commit to a long-term stay in the MASL. His teammates picked up some of the offensive heavy lifting, but a shot at a championship might be the only thing to entice him to come back for another season. Chance of moving 15%
13. Drew Ruggles – D (Milwaukee Wave) Break up the Wave. Ruggles is the most prominent free agent on a team that is primed for a repeat in 2019-20. Ruggles scored a career-high 19 points in his fifth MASL season and was a key member of the Wave’s high-ranking defensive unit. Chance of moving 10%
14. Gustavo Rosales – D (Rio Grande Valley Barracudas) Rosales is one of the “glue guys” who hold things together for a team and was a big part of Rio Grande Valley’s 13-win improvement. Rosales had 33 points in 24 games while making things happen on both ends of the field. Chance of moving 10%
15. Mo Babouli – F (Mississauga MetroStars) Babouli was one of the few bright spots of the expansion MetroStars season. The classy finisher had 21 goals and 15 assists and is only 26 years old, making him a true indoor rookie despite 16 games of MLS outdoor experience with Toronto FC. Chance of moving 20%
16. Moises Gonzalez – F (Rio Grande Valley Barracudas) With a better supporting cast Gonzalez returned to form with his third career 30-goal season and a career-high 44 points. Chance of moving 10%
17. Ben Ramin – D (Utica City FC) Ramin is one of the veterans now after three seasons. The 25-year old defender has chipped in double-digit goals the last two years and only had two blue cards and 13 fouls this season. Chance of moving 10%
18. Ricardo Diegues – F (Florida Tropics) Diegues had a bit of a down year compared to his 2017-18 season, but still led the team in points per game and scored 24 goals in 19 games. His 44 points a year ago make the soon-to-be 29-year old an attractive target. Chance of moving 20%
19. Brayan Aguilar – F (Monterrey Flash) Aguilar got off to a slow start, but still ended up with a career-high 28 points this season. The 25-year old seemed to form a good connection with Franck Tayou as the season went on and his seven playoff points tied for the league lead. Chance of moving 10%
20. Edgar Gonzalez – F (Monterrey Flash) Gonzalez was one of the top rookies of 2017-18, but only had five points in his first six games this year before picking up the pace with 30 points in his last 16 games. He will be 30 by opening night, but he has totaled 50 goals in his two MASL seasons.
21. Cody Ellis – D (Dallas Sidekicks) Ellis has been one of the MASL’s top two-way players over his last three seasons, with little to show for it from a team results standpoint. After six seasons over seven years in Dallas, could it be time to move on? Chance of moving 40%
22. Jake Schindler – D (Utica City FC) Schindler was like Deion Sanders, but his travel involved more cars and less helicopters and he wasn’t a two-sport star, but he was a two-league star. Schindler did double duty for Utica City FC and the Rochester Lancers (M2). He played 12 M2 games and was named All-M2 1st Team and he played 16 MASL games where he got an All-MASL Honorable Mention nod. Chance of moving 5%
23. Efrain Martinez – F (Rio Grande Valley Barracudas) The return to Hidalgo, Texas did wonders for Wilo, whose 36 points were almost triple his 13-point total from 2017-18. Martinez was second on the Barracudas with 17 goals and 19 assists. Chance of moving 10%
24. Diego Angel Arriaga – GK (Rio Grande Valley Barracudas) Arriaga is the diminutive goalie the league forgot about. Somehow winning 15 games and finishing fourth in GAA wasn’t enough to get an honorable mention or an All-Newcomer nod or anything, but the league’s loss is Rio Grande Valley’s gain. Chance of moving 10%
25. Carlos Pichardo – D (Monterrey Flash) With only nine goals in 141 career regular season games Pichardo might be the lowest scoring field player in the MASL, but the eight-year veteran is also one of the most respected defenders. Chance of moving 10%
26. Carlos “Poper” Hernandez – M (Rio Grande Valley Barracudas) The LMFR star’s second MASL season went a lot better than his rookie year. His 18 goals were triple his rookie output with Monterrey. The soon-to-be 29-year old had 13 goals over his last 11 games after scoring only five goals his first 12 games. Chance of moving 15%
27. Miguel Vaca – D (Monterrey Flash) Before Brandon Escoto there was Miguel Vaca, slicing and dicing defenders with a rare fluidity. At 37, Vaca’s 40 points were his most since the 2013-14 season and his 18 assists were one off his career high. Sockers fans will remember his goal in the Western Conference Final for years. Chance of moving 10%
28. Edgar Flores – M (Monterrey Flash) Chapa, in his sixth season, set a new career-high with 23 assists, but saw his goal total drop from 23 to 7. At 31 he’s actually one of the youngest players on the Flash. Chance of moving 10%
29. Cameron Brown – F (Dallas Sidekicks) His comeback season from ACL surgery showed a long road back for Brown, who finished with only 21 points in 22 games, compared to 45 points in just 19 games in 2016-17, but he finished strong with five goals in his last three games and has the potential to be one of the most impactful players on this list. Chance of moving 20%
30. Diego Zuniga – M (Rio Grande Valley Barracudas) Zuniga returned to the MASL after a three year hiatus and proved to be a key acquisition with 22 goals in 24 games. The 29-year old Costa Rican is a strong one-one-one dribbler with a futsal background. Chance of moving 15%
31. Erick Jhon Ponce – M (Rio Grande Valley Barracudas) Ponce was once heavily recruited by the Dallas Sidekicks, but couldn’t get a visa. When he finally arrived in the MASL last year he lived up to the hype with 19 goals and eight assists. Chance of moving 10%
32. Jamie Lovegrove – F (Dallas Sidekicks) The Lovegrove soon will be making another run. The newly-minted 29-year old has yet to equal his 2013-14 career season, but a change of scenery could unlock his full potential. He still was a close second to VcMor Eligwe on the Sidekicks in goals (24) and points (32). Chance of moving 20%
33. Damion Graham – F (Mississauga MetroStars) Graham had a hat trick in just his second arena game and was one of the league’s top scoring rookies with 19 goals and 12 assists. He slumped at the end of the year with three points in a six game stretch but ended the season on a high note with a four goal game in Harrisburg. Chance of moving 15%
34. Marco Rodriguez -M (Mississauga MetroStars) Rodriguez always showed a good touch in Florida, but he was allowed to play a more attacking style with the MetroStars and put up a career-high 20 points in 18 games. For a stretch of the early season he carried the team, but only had six points in his last 10 games as the team’s losses piled up. Chance of moving 25%
35. Elton De Oliveira – D (Baltimore Blast) His late-season injury was a blow to the Blast’s four-peat aspirations, but the third year defender showed an intriguing offensive side this year with 12 points in 18 games after only scoring eight points in 39 games his first two years. Chance of moving 10%
36. Adam West – D (Tacoma Stars) After a two-year hiatus, West returned to the Stars and only saw action in nine games, but had eight goals (plus two more in two playoff games). The key stat here is the 12-12 Stars were 7-2 with West in the lineup. Chance of moving 15%
37. Lucio Gonzaga – M (Utica City FC) Though he’ll be 39 when the season starts, few players are so calm on the ball and dictate the pace of the game as well as Gonzaga, who has also had a handful of on-field incidents the last few years. After two nondescript seasons, Gonzaga has been a force in each of his last three years with Harrisburg and Utica. Chance of moving 15%
38. Andrew Hoxie – F (Baltimore Blast) Josh Lemos says Hoxie’s legs are 10-feet long and he might be right. The mustachioed target man can clean up all kinds of garbage in front of the goal and is hard to defend. Even when he had an unlikely goal drought during the regular season he rebounded to score five playoff goals. Chance of moving 15%
39. Logan Roberts – D (Utica City FC) Tommy Tanner raves about the 25-year old defender who had a few breakout moments in his third season before injuries curtailed the end of his season. Chance of moving 10%
40. Nelson Santana – D (Harrisburg Heat) As one of the few veterans on the rebuilding Heat roster Santana was like coach Pat Healey’s proxy on the field. Even at 40, in his 13th season, Santana had a commanding presence on the field defensively and chipped in with 19 points. Chance of moving 15%