Turf and Boards is proud to present the third annual Boards Awards in recognition of excellence in the Major Arena Soccer League. The 2019-20 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 esteemed panel of Craig Elsten, Art Kramer, Nathan Dunn, 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.

Sydney Nusinov (Turf and Boards Publisher)

This year’s awards have been more divisive than usual, with a wide range of opinions among just our four-man panel in some cases. At times we all agreed, but the MASL voters went a different way. Indeed one of my three MVP finalists, Vini Dantas, didn’t even make the MASL’s three All-MASL teams (an outrageous slight). My other two finalists are Brayan Aguilar and Franck Tayou.

The Baltimore Blast had their ups and downs this year, but Dantas was their most consistent and most clutch player all year. He finished third in the MASL with a career high 54 points on 37 goals and 17 assists. He did have the luxury of playing nine games against Orlando and Rochester, in which he had 28 points, but he had a comparable 26 points in his other 13 games against higher caliber opposition.

Aguilar filled two gaps for the Monterrey Flash. First he raised his game to replace the offensive hole left by Franck Tayou’s move to Ontario, but then five games into the season the torrid Edgar Gonzalez went on the long-term injured list (costing Gonzalez a shot at MVP) and it was Aguilar who paced the Flash’s first place offense. He finished with 33 goals, 15 assists, and four game-winning goals.

My pick for MVP has been here before and he’s really the only player who can win this this season. Franck Tayou should be lined up to win his fourth MASL MVP when the league announces it Saturday. He led the league with 65 points, 47 goals, and a career-high 18 assists, plus an incredible eight game-winning goals. Tayou was a 1st Star of the game a league-leading nine times (an often neglected feature in the MASL). He had 10 hat tricks, including six in his last seven games and scored at least one goal in all 21 contests, leading the Ontario Fury to 10 wins in their last 12 games after a 2-7 start.

Art Kramer (Longtime player, coach, and broadcaster)

Are you thinking about putting together an over thirty indoor soccer team for some MASL offseason competitive fun? I’d recommend starting with three of the league’s top four scorers this season in Milwaukee’s Ian Bennett, Baltimore’s Vini Dantas and Kansas City’s Leo Gibson. To guard the nets, throw in Florida’s Hugo Silva. All of these thirty-plussers put together Most Valuable Player type seasons and are worthy candidates for this season’s league MVP award.  

My selection for this year’s Major Arena Soccer League MVP is Ontario’s Franck Tayou. Still a youngster at 29 years of age, Franck once again led the MASL in scoring with 47 goals and 65 points, averaging a league best 3.1 points per game. More importantly, Franck’s value was on full display as he led an Ontario Fury team that was on pace to make the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. 

Indira Ghandi once said, “Every new experience brings its own maturity and a greater clarity of vision.” I felt this quote was apropos as I learned more about Franck in speaking with his former coach and mentor Greg Howes, himself a three time Major Indoor Soccer League MVP. Greg said, “I was so happy to have Franck on my team. Every day he was full of energy and love for the game. He was so aggressive, and it’s great to see how much he’s matured mentally as a pro, and his ability to think the game through.” Greg added, “The best thing about both Franck and his brother Uzi is their character, and what great human beings they are off the field”. 

So as we enter another MASL offseason, let’s get back to that over thirty team you may be thinking about forming to enter a local tournament or two prior to next season. How about indoor soccer veteran and warrior Franck Tayou? He turns thirty tomorrow!  

Craig Elsten (San Diego Sockers Chief Marketing Officer and Play-by-Play)

Honorable Mention

Ian Bennett/Max Ferdinand, Milwaukee Wave—I admit to being a bit cheeky by splitting the baby here, but the “I-Max” tandem must be viewed as a unit. Ferdinand finished second in the MASL in assists (27), often setting up Bennett, who finished second in the MASL in goals (44). Together, Bennett and Ferdinand are the twin engine that powers the Wave attack.

Cristhian Segura, Utica City FC—Remember the bellyaching when the Sockers made a late preseason trade for Slavisa Ubiparipovic? After Segura opened his UCFC account with five goals in his first two games, Utica fans forgot, too. Slav was great in San Diego, but Segura finishes the year All-MASL 1st Team and in the MVP race.

Now my three finalists for MVP.

3rd: Brayan Aguilar, Monterrey Flash—For many teams, the loss of a featured striker would mean an end to any championship hopes. The Flash, already having recalibrated their attack away from the departed Franck Tayou and toward Edgar “Torrez” Gonzalez, saw Torrez go down with a knee injury just a month into the season. Up stepped Aguilar, always an underrated part of the Monterrey attack, to post 33 goals and 48 points in 20 matches as the Flash went on to win the Western Conference. By the time Torrez had returned, Aguilar kept scoring and created a twin tower attack at forward.

2nd: Franck Tayou, Ontario Fury—I am going to write this assuming all of our other esteemed panelists are voting Tayou for MVP, and I fully expect Franck to win his fourth MASL MVP award in a week. Franck is unquestionably the top offensive player in the league, and an indomitable force in the attacking third. Leading the league in goals, points, setting a career high in assists, and leading the league in fouls, Tayou had a tremendous season. Still, the Fury finished third in the West and while we credit their hot finish, a 2-7 start is still part of the body of work. Tayou is not a defensive player, doesn’t feature on the penalty kill, and is sometimes paired with a defensive runner. Is the MVP only a forward’s award, an offensive honor? If you think so, then Franck is the MVP, hands down. If not…

1st: Drew Ruggles, Florida Tropics—I tend to be more of a literal MVP voter. I’m looking for a player who adds maximum value to a team that excels. What’s more valuable than a defender who:

• Takes a team from one of the worst defenses in the MASL pre-arrival, to the best, while
• Captaining the four-man penalty kill to a top-5 finish in the league, and also
• Turning around the team’s power play when he was inserted into the middle of the attack, finishing top-3 in the league, and
• Playing 30 minutes a match and blocking 22 shots with 33 PIM?

The Tropics finished 18-3 while taking on all comers, and led the league in goal differential. There was plenty of credit to go around, but my vote goes to the one guy who tied it all together in a dreadlocked bow.

Nathan Dunn (Turf and Boards, The Blue Testament)

For the final award of the year, the Most Valuable Player of the MASL has been dominated by the league’s greatest attacking players, with only three players splitting it since the league’s merger before the 2014-15 season. Leo Gibson won the inaugural MVP before Franck Tayou won three straight, and Nick Perera broke the streak last season. 

Continuing with the tradition, here is my list of three candidates for the final award of the season: Leo Gibson of the Kansas City Comets, Franck Tayou of the Ontario Fury, and Brayan Aguilar of the Monterey Flash.

Leo Gibson produced yet another season of personal excellence in his first year as player-coach. While he didn’t reach the heights of his 2014-15 MVP-winning season where he scored 48 goals and recorded 45 assists, his balanced production was still among the league’s best as he finished the season with 60 points (2nd) from 29 goals (7th) and 31 assists (1st) in 20 games. A native of Monrovia, Liberia, Gibson’s flexibility was called upon throughout the season as he put in a decent amount of defensive shifts with a short squad. Gibson was controversially selected to the All-MASL Third Team, much to the dismay of the Comets fans who feel the league’s leading assists-getter and second highest points-getter should be in one of the top two teams.

Ontario’s Franck Tayou had another season with an extraordinary goalscoring record, dropping a league-leading 65 points, 47 goals, and 3.1 points per game along with 18 assists. The King scored 33 points down the final stretch of the season as he led the Fury to win eight of their last nine games.

Aguilar edges out other players who deserve consideration like Florida’s Ricardo Carvalho, Baltimore’s Vini Dantas, and Milwaukee’s Ian Bennett. After being a consistent contributor to the Flash in previous seasons, Aguilar blossomed into one of the league’s best players this season. While he wasn’t leading any of the major categories, the 26-year old compiled 33 goals, 15 assists, and 48 points and was a major influence on how the Flash finished with a league-best 20-2 record. Aguilar was named to the All-MASL 2nd Team last week.

My pick for MASL’s Most Valuable Player goes to Franck Tayou of the Ontario Fury. A native of Bandjoun, Cameroon, Tayou was unstoppable down the final stretch of the season. While the MASL has produced some questionable decision-making with this year’s postseason accolades, Ontario’s goal-scoring machine is certainly a lock to add a fourth MVP to his collection.