Editor’s note: Approximately one hour after we released this, it was divulged that Milwaukee Wave goalkeeper Josh Lemos was out for the season with a torn ACL. We were going to bite the bullet and stick with our picks, but on Saturday, November 23, the MASL announced that the Canada MetroStars ceased operations, necessitating a reworked schedule. We felt this gave us no choice but to adjust projected results for teams who were scheduled to play Canada, and since we are making those adjustments we will also amend our picks for Milwaukee and the teams on their schedule. We will keep our original picks and put our amended picks beside them.
Tomorrow the MASL kicks off its sixth season and all the familiar faces will be competing for the Ron Newman Cup in April, but a few new contenders have joined the arms race, and some surprises seem inevitable.
In the past two seasons, we were able to peg 14 of the 16 playoff teams, two out of four finalists, and one out of two champions.
If things shape up the way we think, there isn’t going to be much of a playoff race, but the battles for the top seed in each conference will come down to the end.
Five of this year’s eight playoff picks made the playoffs last year and the Ontario Fury fell one game short. The Florida Tropics are primed to make their first trip to the playoffs, and the expansion Mesquite Outlaws are going to show Dallas Sidekicks fans what they’ve been missing the last four years.
We see Utica City FC finally getting past the Baltimore Blast in the playoffs, only to lose to the defending Ron Newman Cup champion Milwaukee Wave.
The San Diego Sockers will finally get through the second round, and will capture their first championship since 2012-13 by toppling the Wave.
The Wave, Utica, and Monterrey Flash also have legitimate title aspirations and you can never count out the Blast, but beyond them, there hasn’t been a Cinderella champion since the 2010 Monterrey La Raza, who won the MISL title after a 10-10 season.
The good news is inter-conference play is back and all playoff rounds will be best of two/mini-game after two years of unmemorable single elimination semifinals and finals. The bad news is a new choose-your-own-adventure quirk where Conference winners can select their first round opponent. You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your playoff opponents.
Also, the league abandoned the four division alignment even though there are more teams this year. There is an Eastern and Western Division (they call them Conferences), but while some teams still play each other six times, some teams don’t play every team in their conference at least once.
But hey, no one said this was easy. Let the games begin!
2018-19: 17-7, 2nd Eastern Division, lost Conference Final
Major Additions: Victor France (Orlando)
Major Losses: Elton de Oliveira (Harrisburg)
Dean of the Blast: Adriano Dos Santos (10th season with the Blast)
Outlook: The Blast are the Blast and they do their thing. Attrition and age have chipped away at their veneer, but Danny Kelly has been able to work with whatever roster he’s been given or whatever injuries get in their way. Most of the team is back this year, but a defense that has already lost Nelson Santana and Pat Healey in recent years will now be without De Oliveira. Dos Santos is still anchoring the defense, while Mike Deasel became a fixture last year, and Jereme Raley had a breakout season, all in the service of superstar goalkeeper William Vanzela. Offensively, Jonatas Melo, Vini Dantas, and Tony Donatelli (in his 8th season with the Blast) provide the bulk of the offense, and Victor France should be a nice fit. Last year the Blast played much of the year with one foot tied behind their back as Kelly tried to integrate new players into the lineup. Their preseason roster lists seven rookies out of nine midfielders, but it remains to be seen how many will make the team, and then how much action they actually see on the field.
Canada MetroStars (ceased operations 11/23/19)
2018-19: 4-20, 4th Eastern Division, missed playoffs
Major Additions: no signings announced
Major Losses: Dwayne DeRosario (free agent)
Dean of the MetroStars: several
Outlook: The MetroStars were a mess on and off the field last year, and this year portends to be even more chaotic with the team hopscotching around six different “home” venues in Ontario. Many familiar players will be back and this year they will have the benefit of a year of MASL experience under their belts, but even with talented players like Mo Babouli and Damion Graham it will be hard to improve on their 4-20 inaugural season without an influx of help and a fixed home arena. “Canada” (wearing MetroStars jerseys at a preseason game in Utica) had Onua Obasi on their roster. The team hasn’t announced his signing, but he had a strong rookie season for the Blast in 2014-15 and then played one more season with them before leaving the MASL.
2018-19: 6-18, 5th South Central Division, missed playoffs
Major Additions: Ricardo Carvalho (Harrisburg), Gordy Gurson (Orlando), Stephen DeRoux (Utica), Drew Ruggles (Milwaukee), Rainer Hauss (Orlando), Ricardo Sobreira (Milwaukee), Victor Baez (El Paso), Joey Tavernese (Utica), Robert Acosta (St. Louis), Wilo Martinez (Rio Grande Valley), Zach Reget (St. Louis)
Major Losses: Ricardo Diegues (Utica), Andre Braithwaite (St. Louis), Max Touloute (released), Jose Luiz Birche (released)
Dean of the Tropics: Anthony Arico (4th season)
Outlook: The Tropics are locked and loaded for a big season after bulking up the roster with a big pile of talent through free agency and trades. Florida is serious about winning and winning now, which puts Clay Roberts on the hot seat after guiding the team since its inception through three uneven seasons. A lot of the Tropics success will also rest with their tandem of goalkeepers, Hauss and Hugo Silva, and how the team manages the two starters. Silva has never had to split time in his three MASL seasons and Hauss, after paying his dues for several seasons, finally got his big break in 2017-18 and helped lead Cedar Rapids to the playoffs only to be thrown into a tandem in Orlando last year. With depth at every position, Roberts will be tasked with putting the right combinations together and managing personalities.
2018-19: 11-13, 3rd Eastern Division, missed playoffs
Major Additions: Jerjer Gibson (St. Louis), Elton De Oliveira (Baltimore), Malcolm Harris (rookie), Michael DeGraffenreidt (rookie), Jesus Molina (San Diego)
Major Losses: Ricardo Carvalho (Florida), Matt Perrella (Utica)
Dean of the Heat: Tom Mellor (8th season)
Outlook: The Heat had a quiet offseason and are banking on picking up where they left off last year when they won 10 of their last 16 games. A big part of that run, however, was Carvalho, who signed with the Tropics, and the Heat have no obvious candidate to replace his team-high 30 goals. Instead the Heat will depend heavily on Tavoy Morgan, and hope players like Matt Braem and William Eskay can break out in their second seasons. Perrella had an edge on William Banahene last season before a season-ending injury, but Banahene was strong down the stretch and now appears set to be the Heat starting goalkeeper.
Kansas City Comets
2018-19: 13-11, 2nd South Central Division, lost Division Finals
Major Additions: Hector Solorio Villalpando (rookie), Nicolau Neto (rookie), Lucas Sousa (rookie), Matt Lewis (rookie), Ray Saari (free agent)
Major Losses: James Togbah (Utica), Bryan Perez (retired), Kevin Ellis (free agent), Alain Matingou (free agent)
Dean of the Comets: Leo Gibson (10th season)
Outlook: The Comets landed in the playoffs when Orlando and St. Louis collapsed down the stretch, but have lost four of their key players from last season, while Gibson adds coaching to his duties in lieu of a departing Kim Roentved. Mark Saxby took over as the starting ‘keeper and went 8-4, but had a GAA pushing 7.00. With the offensive losses, Gibson will not only have to carry the scoring load on the field, but will have to install a defensive system to keep the Comets somewhat competitive in what looks like a rebuilding year.
2018-19: 21-3, 1st South Central Division, Ron Newman Cup Champions
Major Additions: none
Major Losses: Drew Ruggles and Ricardo Sobreira (Florida), Tenzin Rampa (retired) Josh Lemos (injured)
Dean of the Wave: Marcio Leite (13th season)
Outlook: The Wave lost some pieces, but had a quiet offseason, and why mess with a masterpiece? Someone will need to fill Ruggles’s shoes, but Alex Bradley and 22-year old Isaac Pereyra will likely get an opportunity to figure more prominently in the Wave offense. The MASL’s poster boys on and off the field should be the early favorites to raise the Ron Newman Cup again this April. Losing Lemos won’t end their season, but it will make it much tougher to repeat without the goalkeeper who was 18-0 last year in the regular season and playoffs.
2018-19: 9-15, 4th South Central Division, missed playoffs
Major Additions: Omar Tapia (Turlock), Hugo Puentes (El Paso), Fabian Cifuentes (CFR Reynosa), Maycon Franca (Florida), Enzo Marangoni (Florida), Raphael Nascimento (St. Louis), Fernando Cortes (free agent), Ian Chacon (rookie), Odaine Sinclair (free agent)
Major Losses: Gordy Gurson and Rainer Hauss (Florida), Victor France (Baltimore), Elmo Neto (released), Luke Boden (free agent)
Dean of the Seawolves: Joshio Sandoval (4th season)
Outlook: After a disappointing first season, the SeaWolves lost their leading scorer and top goalie in the offseason and then went on a free agent binge bringing in Tapia, Puentes, and LMFR star Cifuentes. Team GM Chris Kokalis replaces Tom Traxler on the bench and has a stated focus on fitness and defense. Starting goalkeeper and assistant coach Piotr Sliwa noted at the team’s Media Day that this year’s team is tighter after fissures erupted in the locker room last year. The SeaWolves first challenge is getting work visas for a handful of key players.
2018-19: 8-4, 2nd Eastern Division, lost Semifinals (M2)
Major Additions: n/a
Major Losses: n/a
Dean of the Lancers: Jeremy Ortiz (5th season)
Outlook: The Lancers sat out the last four MASL seasons, but re-emerged as an M2 team last year, losing in the league’s semifinals after an 8-4 season. Some of that roster is back, minus most of the key players. Outside of Ortiz and Gary Boughton coach Doug Miller’s team has about 30 combined games of MASL experience.
St. Louis Ambush
2018-19: 10-14, 3rd South Central Division, missed playoffs
Major Additions: Tony Walls (Ontario), Andre Braithwaite (Florida), Oitomeia (free agent), Duduca (free agent)
Major Losses: Zach Reget (Florida), Justin Stinson (Ontario), Robert Acosta (Florida), Hewerton Moreira (retired), Jerjer Gibson (Harrisburg)
Dean of the Ambush: Corey Adamson (6th season)
Outlook: Last year was the most exciting season in the new Ambush’s six-year history, but despite a franchise record 10 wins, the team lost five of its last six to finish 10-14. Then last year’s two star rookies headed for the exits. With Reget in Florida and Stinson in Ontario, the Ambush would seem to be back at square one. If you take a deep breath you can look beyond them to the impactful first seasons that Magui Souza, Mario Marcos, and Felipe Silva had, as well as JT Thomas, and a resurgent Lucas Almeida. Joining the team, courtesy of the Hewerton Brazilian futsal pipeline, are a pair of first time indoor players Oitomeia and Duduca, who are being heavily touted by the team. It’s going to take a big collective team effort just to get back to 10 wins this year.
Utica City FC
2018-19: 17-7, 1st Eastern Division, lost Division Finals
Major Additions: James Togbah (Kansas City), Ricardo Diegues (Florida), Diego Zuniga (Rio Grande Valley), Moises Gonzalez (Rio Grande Valley), Matt Perrella (Harrisburg), Christian Segura (San Diego)
Major Losses: Slavisa Ubiparipovic (San Diego), Joey Tavernese (Florida), Freddy Moojen (Dallas), Lucio Gonzaga (free agent), Stephen DeRoux (Florida)
Dean of the City: Darren Toby (9th season)
Outlook: After a conservative offseason last year when the team transitioned from Syracuse to Utica, City FC was aggressive in overhauling their roster heading into 2019-20. Like when (spoiler!) Thanos sacrificed Gamora to obtain the Soul Stone, Utica gained a lot of talent, but paid a heavy price. Gone are franchise stalwarts Joey Tavernese and Slavisa Ubiparipovic, but Zuniga and Gonzalez are coming off career years and Togbah still has a lot of upside at 24. Utica still needs to find a way to get past Baltimore.
Turlock Cal Express
2018-19: 3-21, 4th Pacific Division, missed playoffs
Major Additions: Juan Gonzalez (San Diego), Manuel Rojo (San Diego)
Major Losses: Douglas Lima (Tacoma), Omar Tapia (Orlando)
Dean of the Express: Adrian Gutierrez (9th season)
Outlook: The Express have a new name, a new coach, and a reinforced roster, but the outlook isn’t a whole lot rosier. Look for Turlock to be more competitive game-to-game and for their home field advantage to be more of a factor this year.
2018-19: 9-15, 3rd Southwest Division, missed playoffs
Major Additions: Freddy Moojen (Utica), Bruno Guarda (free agent), Alex Molano (free agent), Luiz Felipe Xavier De Andrade (free agent)
Major Losses: VcMor Eligwe, Cody Ellis, Mychel Jones, Jamie Lovegrove and Anthony Powell (Mesquite), Nestor Hernandez (Ontario), Ricardinho Cavalcante (retired)
Dean of the Sidekicks: Arthur Ivo (7th season)
Outlook: The Sidekicks are coming off three straight losing seasons, and then had their roster gutted by the expansion Mesquite Outlaws. They still have Juan Gamboa and Cameron Brown. They lured Moojen, who had a career year with the Sidekicks in 2014-15, back. Coach Simon Bozas indicated that Ricardinho might return to the field at some point, but he has been added as an assistant coach for the time being. The Sidekicks have been turning up the hype machine on De Andrade, better known as “Lipe”. The Sidekicks, however, have to not only deal with the roster defections, but a much tougher schedule than they had last year when they earned five of their nine wins against the El Paso Coyotes. Bozas has to prove the fourth time is the charm and give Sidekicks fans a reason not to follow Tatu to Mesquite.
2018-19: expansion team
Major Additions: VcMor Eligwe, Cody Ellis, Mychel Jones, Jamie Lovegrove and Anthony Powell (Dallas), Mitchell Cardenas (Rio Grande Valley), Shaun David (free agent), Carlos “Poper” Hernandez (Rio Grande Valley), Ramon Nunez (free agent)
Major Losses: n/a
Dean of the Outlaws: n/a
Outlook: We’re going way out on the limb and picking the expansion Outlaws as a playoff team. Much in the way we bet on Genoni Martinez (who took over a 3-19 team) in Rio Grande Valley last year, we are big believers in Tatu. Eligwe is a star and Lovegrove could thrive again as he once did under Tatu. Poper Hernandez had a breakout season last year and could become a major impact player. The biggest glaring hole right now on the Outlaws roster, though, is an experienced indoor goalkeeper.
2018-19: 19-5, 1st Southwest Division, lost Ron Newman Cup Final
Major Additions: Erick Jhon Ponce (Rio Grande Valley), Bernaldino Valdovinos (free agent), Victor Quiroz (Ontario)
Major Losses: Franck Tayou, Uzi Tayou, and Daniel Lopez (Ontario), Enrique Canez (Sonora)
Dean of the Flash: Carlos Pichardo (5th season)
Outlook: The aging Flash lost Franck Tayou, but they went 19-5 with Tayou after going 20-2 without him the year before. After four straight losses in the Ron Newman Cup finals, Diego Reynoso will get a push from Valdovinos who was named Top Goalkeeper of the 2019 WMF World Cup. The Flash will look to squeeze every last drop out of 43-year old Chile Farias and Quiroz, as well as 38-year old Miguel Vaca and Carlos Pichardo, and 37-year old Damian Garcia.
2018-19: 11-13, 3rd Pacific Division, missed playoffs
Major Additions: Justin Stinson (St. Louis), Franck Tayou, Uzi Tayou, and Daniel Lopez (Monterrey), Nestor Hernandez (Dallas), Joseph Cairel (Tacoma)
Major Losses: Victor Quiroz (Monterrey), Tony Walls (St. Louis), Anibal Echeverria (free agent), Jeff Hughes (free agent), Willie Raygoza (released), Tino Nunez (released), Thiago Goncalves (released), Francisco Cordeiro (released), Jose Gonzalez (released)
Dean of the Fury: Israel Sesay (7th season)
Outlook: Besides Clay Roberts, no one bears the burden of expectations more than Fury coach Jimmy Nordberg. The Fury added Franck Tayou and Justin Stinson, while retaining Jermaine Jones. Ontario has suffered from roster instability and it’s fair to say they underachieved the last two years, but they return a strong core including Chris Toth, Juan Carlos Gonzalez, and Israel Sesay. Tayou should be a better fit in Ontario than he was in Monterrey, and he’s ready to unleash the Fury.
San Diego Sockers
2018-19: 23-1, 1st Pacific Division, lost Conference Final
Major Additions: Emannuel Aguirre and Diego Arriaga (Rio Grande Valley), Luis Piffer (free agent), Slavisa Ubiparipovic (Utica), Erick Tovar (return from injury), Ismael Rojo (Sockers 2), Cesar Romero (free agent)
Major Losses: Christian Segura (Utica), Landon Donovan (retired), Juan Gonzalez (Turlock)
Dean of the Sockers: Kraig Chiles (12th season)
Outlook: You go through a near-perfect season only to lose in overtime of the Conference Final. How do you diagnose the loss? Do you get rest and exercise or do you opt for a risky surgery? The Sockers explored more extreme solutions, but in the end they traded for Ubiparipovic, and added depth, but kept the core of the team together. Tovar and Aguirre are going to displace someone’s minutes and Piffer and Rojo will have to earn their way into the lineup. The Sockers will be one of the Ron Newman Cup favorites, but face a much tougher schedule this year. Some adversity could help them come playoff time.
2018-19: did not play
Major Additions: n/a
Major Losses: n/a
Dean of the Soles: Gustavo Rosales (4th season)
Outlook: There is a lot of sentiment that Sonora will pick up where they left off and hop back into the playoffs, but this team bears very little resemblance to the one that went 15-7 in 2017-18. The major holdovers are Rosales, Manuel Aragon, and Enrique Canez. Canez had a disastrous season in Monterrey last year. In 2015, the Soles built a championship-contending team with a heavy lift from local talent, but they also had Franck Tayou, Damian Garcia, Diego Reynoso, and coach Luis Jaime Borrego, who are all gone. It seems unlikely that they could build a top team from whole cloth twice in five years.
2018-19: 12-12, 2nd Pacific Division, lost Division Finals
Major Additions: Douglas Lima (Turlock), Alex Caceres (El Paso), Diego Salas (El Paso)
Major Losses: Joey Gjertsen (retired), Pablo Da Silva (free agent), Jonathan Greenfield (free agent), Joseph Cairel (Ontario), Sanaldo Carvalho (free agent)
Dean of the Stars: Raphael Cox (6th season)
Outlook: Move over Jerry Seinfeld, the Stars are Even Steven after three straight .500 seasons. While the Sockers and Fury got better, the Stars tinkered around the edges. Nick Perera starts his first full season as coach after leading the team to a 10-11 record last year, while scoring a superhuman 80 points on the season. Perera and Micheal Ramos scored almost 41% of the Stars goals last year and the three new signings aren’t going to add much to the bottom line.
|Projected 2019-20 MASL Standings|
|Utica City FC||18-6||19-5|
|Kansas City Comets||9-15||7-17|
|St. Louis Ambush||8-16||6-18|
|San Diego Sockers||19-5|
|Turlock Cal Express||5-19|
|Original Playoffs||Amended Playoffs*|
|Ron Newman Cup Finals|
|Ron Newman Cup Finals|
* changes necessitated by the season ending injury to Milwaukee’s Josh Lemos and the folding of the Canada MetroStars