After a quiet first day of the Major Arena Soccer League free agency window known as the Live Period, things escalated quickly on Thursday as four major players changed teams.
Franck Tayou (#1 on our 3rd Annual #Top40MASL Free Agents List), Gordy Gurson (#3), Ricardo Carvalho (#6), and prized youngster Justin Stinson all parted ways with their teams yesterday in search of new adventures.
The big winners of the day were the Florida Tropics, who netted Carvalho and Gurson, and the Ontario Fury, who grabbed Tayou, his brother Uzi, and Stinson.
Left at the altar were the Orlando SeaWolves (Gurson), Harrisburg Heat (Carvalho), St. Louis Ambush (Stinson), and Monterrey Flash (Franck and Uzi Tayou).
The SeaWolves are coming of a 9-15 season, their first in Orlando after three years in Cedar Rapids. They went 3-10 down the stretch in a crazy schedule that included 10 games in the month of March after only four games in February. Gurson led the team with 58 points, 25 more than second place Osvaldo Rojas (who signed a five-year contract to stay in Orlando).
The loss of Gurson hurts even more with him and Carvalho joining the nearby Tropics, whose 6-18 finish was the only thing that kept Orlando out of last place. The SeaWolves also lost Victor France to the Baltimore Blast on Friday.
While Orlando will need to start a rebuild, Harrisburg and St. Louis were well on their way to respectability, but the free agent defections will surely have a near-term impact.
Carvalho was Harrisburg’s leading scorer with 49 points, leading in both goals (30) and assists (19). Stinson was third on the Ambush with 31 points and second with 20 goals. Stinson, 21, and Zach Reget, 23, seemed poised to be the face of the Ambush for years to come.
Ambush owner Shelly Clark was undeterred. “It’s never easy to watch someone you’ve invested in choose a path that doesn’t match yours, but it’s what keeps us all on our toes,” she said. “It’s situations like this that force us to look for that next talent. (Ambush coach) Hewerton has an amazing ability to take players and turn them into highly effective producers. I have no doubt that he will continue down the path that led to us having our most successful season in recent franchise history. I wish Justin only the best as he takes on this new phase of his life and career.”
The team probably best able to withstand a major loss is the Flash, who went 20-2 the year before the Tayous arrived. Monterrey’s age is a major factor going forward, though. Carlos Farias (43), Carlos Pichardo (38), Damian Garcia (37), Hector Vallejo (37), and Miguel Vaca (38) will all be 37+ when the season starts.
Franck Tayou is undoubtedly a better fit for Ontario than he was for Monterrey. Tayou actually agreed to sign with the Fury in 2017, but a contract snafu kept him in Sonora one more season. The three-time MASL MVP had 50 goals last year and he and Stinson can fill the offensive void left by the departures of Leonardo De Oliveira and Adrien Perez.
The signings put pressure on Ontario coach Jimmy Nordberg, and Florida’s Clay Roberts, two unproven indoor coaches who missed the playoffs this year, to live up to heightened expectations for the upcoming season.
The Tropics re-signed two of their own free agents on Friday. Original Tropic Anthony Arico and midseason trade acquisition Antonio Manfut will be back in Lakeland this fall.
The good news for Orlando, Harrisburg, St. Louis, and Monterrey, is they still have about 13 days left in the Live Period and about five months to improve their teams before the 2019-20 season kicks off.