The third MASL Live Period has come and gone and this one was the biggest by far. At least 23 players changed teams in the free agency window that began May 15 and ended on May 30. Thirteen players from our 3rd Annual #Top40MASL Free Agents List signed contracts and 10 of those were players signing with new teams.
While most teams still didn’t participate at all, or took part on a limited basis, this year’s Live Period had the same intrigue as the baseball trade deadline or NHL free agency, the majority of which unfolds over the first couple days players become available.
For the first time we grade each team’s Live Period performance. It’s important to realize that the grades are strictly based on teams’ performance during the 15 day window and how teams addressed or failed to address needs, what players they acquired, and what players they lost. A majority of the grades are low because a handful of teams accounted for the lion’s share of the fireworks. Teams will still have a chance to build their rosters when dozens of players become free agents again in September, as well as the college, tryout, outdoor, and international pipeline. The Live Period is just one component, but an increasingly important component, of that process.
Florida Tropics A The Tropics are Live Period champions. The MASL’s most active team re-signed key players and secured upgrades at every position following last year’s last place 6-18 finish. Florida shocked the MASLverse by signing Gordy Gurson and Ricardo Carvalho and their 64 goals and 107 points right off the bat. Then they addressed the defense with three all-star caliber signings: Drew Ruggles, Stephen DeRoux, and Victor Baez. Then they improved their goalkeeping mix with Rainer Hauss. It wasn’t a flawless victory, however, as the team lost franchise all-time leading scorer Ricardo Diegues to Utica. Hugo Silva was a standout in Harrisburg, but struggled most of last year and surely will benefit from the recent defensive infusion, but as the San Diego Sockers and Orlando SeaWolves learned, having two starting goalkeepers is like having no starting goalkeepers. How Silva and Hauss split time will scrutinized. The Tropics also signed Joey Tavernese, to a deal with strings attached, so time will tell how significant that signing is.
Ontario Fury A The Fury have often underachieved, but if they are ever going to break out the time could be this season. Ontario signed both Tayou brothers and talented youngster Justin Stinson. Combining three-time MASL MVP Franck Tayou’s firepower with last year’s major acquisition, two-time MASL Goalkeeper of the Year Chris Toth, could be a potent concoction. The versatile, underutilized Uzi Tayou adds depth. While Jermaine Jones and Anibal Echeverria are the only major Fury free agents on the market, the team still has to reckon with the loss of Adrien Perez, who departed for MLS halfway through last season.
Utica City A- Last season Tommy Tanner had to transfer the Syracuse Silver Knights operations to Utica and set up shop in a new city. With the move in order, the team was a not a player in the Live Period last year. Now after a successful first season in Utica, the team was very active in this year’s free agency window. Utica signed a trio of goal scorers in Ricardo Diegues, Moises Gonzalez, and Diego Zuniga as well as defensive star-on-the-rise James Togbah. They also added former Harrisburg Heat goalkeeper Matt Perrella, who doesn’t figure to play much behind Andrew Coughlin, who started all 46 games the last two seasons. On the downside, Utica lost Stephen DeRoux and Joey Tavernese and rankled more than one veteran player by offering them reduced roles after the team failed once again to oust the Blast in the playoffs.
Orlando SeaWolves C+ Orlando got clobbered at the beginning of the Live Period by losing team captain and leading scorer Gordy Gurson, and releasing Victor France and Rainer Hauss. SeaWolves GM Chris Kokalis re-signed Osvaldo Rojas, Edwin Rojas, Joshio Sandoval, and Richard Schmermund and aggressively worked the phones to net Omar Tapia and Hugo Puentes who combined for 84 points last year. Only three teams allowed more goals than Orlando last year and the team still needs to seriously address those issues.
Harrisburg Heat C+ Losing Ricardo Carvalho and promising goalkeeper Matt Perrella seem like major blows on paper, but GM Kevin Healey and Head Coach Pat Healey have taken the long view on their roster building since taking over before last season. Adding JerJer Gibson and Elton De Oliveira are low-key, but very smart acquisitions. Offensively, who replaces Carvalho’s 30 goals, and can William Banahene play well enough consistently to lock down the starting goalkeeper position or do the Heat have plans to address that position from outside the team?
San Diego Sockers C The Sockers didn’t add or lose any players in the Live Period. Ordinarily that would be a failing effort, but the Sockers have tended to tinker too much with the roster the last few years and, though questions exist around certain players on the roster (Taylor Bond coming off a three goal season, Ze Roberto at 41, Landon Donovan’s plans for next year, the return of Erick Tovar from injury), doing as little as possible is probably their smartest play this offseason.
Baltimore Blast C The Blast’s championship reign ended at the hands of the Milwaukee Wave and the team probably overachieved based on what they had to work with. The Blast have never relied on free agency to build their roster, instead opting to bring in talent from outside the league and home grown players. Baltimore re-signed Jereme Raley and Sam Guernsey to try to preserve a defense that has already lost Pat Healey and Nelson Santana, but Adriano Dos Santos is still unsigned and Elton De Oliveira signed with the Harrisburg Heat. The one new addition was Victor France who seems like a good fit if he can stay healthy.
Tacoma Stars D+ Tacoma already had a lot of work to do before Ontario bulked up, but they made no signings during the Live Period and their star Nick Perera is still a (pending) free agent. They get some credit for Friday’s signing of Douglas Lima who had a breakout season with the Turlock Express.
Milwaukee Wave D Milwaukee signed no one and lost Drew Ruggles and Ricardo Sobreira to the Tropics. The loss of Ruggles, in particular, stings, but the Wave had already done a smart job of locking up the rest of their championship roster and are still well-positioned to battle for the Newman Cup again. Re-signing Ruggles would have made it an A. Their two week performance gets a D, but their overall roster management has been nothing short of A+.
Dallas Sidekicks D The Sidekicks have finished well below .500 for three straight seasons. Newly appointed Director of Soccer Operations Jesse Llamas has professed a desire to acquire some “game-changers” to improve the team. While plenty of game-changers signed with new teams last month, the Sidekicks sat on the sidelines. Instead Llamas is scheduled to depart for Mexico and Brazil later this month to find the next big thing. They did re-sign Cameron Brown and Juan Gamboa, which is mainly notable because the Mesquite Outlaws just moved in next door and mi local talent is su local talent.
Monterrey Flash D- The Flash are in pretty good shape, but they lost Franck Tayou, didn’t re-sign any of their players, and didn’t add any new, younger players. As established as Tayou is, he was one of the Flash’s youngest players. Monterrey is a unique situation because very few players ever leave the US to play in Mexico, so signing the Tayou brothers last year was a uncommon occurrence. When the season arrives they will probably have most of their nucleus back and will win at least 60% of their games, but the aging Flash’s championship window may have closed with their loss in Milwaukee.
Mississauga MetroStars D- The MetroStars didn’t sign or lose any players and, for what it’s worth they haven’t posted anything new on their social media outlets since May 4.
St. Louis Ambush F The Ambush have not been big players in recent free agency. Last year they notably signed Antonio Manfut who was traded away after only eight games. The team went on to have their best season in modern Ambush history aided by a pair of young breakout American stars, MASL Rookie of the Year Zach Reget and Justin Stinson. The St. Louis market has always rallied around American, mostly local, players so the last thing the Ambush wanted to do is lose 22-year old St. Charles native Stinson, but that’s exactly what happened when he signed with the Ontario Fury (after losing legacy player Dylan Hundelt last Live Period). The Ambush had no immediate response in the final two weeks of the Live Period. Coach Hewerton Moreira has his work cut out for him to make the Ambush into a legitimate playoff contender.
Kansas City Comets F The Comets enjoyed a six-win improvement last year, but saw attendance drop 45%. A key signing or two could make them legitimate contenders again, but instead they lost dynamic young defender James Togbah to Utica, while Leo Gibson remains unsigned.
Rio Grande Valley Barracudas F The Barracudas plans for 2019-20 are a bit murky and free agency stripped them of their top two goal scorers. Moises Gonzalez (30 goals) and Diego Zuniga (22 goals) headed north to Utica.
Turlock Express F The Express are in the same boat as Rio Grande Valley except they are coming off a league-worst 3-19 season and lost their two best players during the last week as Omar Tapia went to Orlando and Douglas Lima signed in Tacoma.
El Paso Coyotes F The Coyotes roster has been stripped to the bone. Their top four scorers from their 11-11 2017-18 season are all with other teams now. The loss of Hugo Puentes is the latest and most devastating.
Mesquite Outlaws Incomplete The expansion Outlaws theoretically could have made some important signings, but have yet to hire a coach since their soft opening in March.