Around The League With Joseph Reina // Week 18

**The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the viewpoints or positions of the Major Arena Soccer League.**



            Though Utica still has one game remaining, the Eastern Conference standings have been solidified. Monterrey wrapped up their perfect season with a victory at home against the visiting Wave, while the Comets earned a spectacular second win over San Diego to jump their northern rivals in the standings.

We’ll start with Milwaukee who lost their final two regular-season games and have the unenviable task of facing Monterrey for a fifth and sixth time this season in the playoffs. Winners of five straight going into the weekend, the visitors were hoping to keep their momentum going but ran into a San Diego-shaped wall on Friday evening. Two third-quarter goals from Drew Ruggles and Brandon Escoto proved the difference as the Sockers closed out a defensive 3-2 win.

This loss combined with Kansas City’s result on Saturday meant Giuliano Oliviero’s side needed a win of any kind against Monterrey to jump back up the table. Still, despite scoring ten goals, two more than any team has managed all season against the Flash, Milwaukee fell 15-10. The loss sealed their fate, and dropped them down to fourth, ensuring their postseason opponent will be Monterrey.

            While the weekend didn’t pan out as Oliviero had hoped, his younger players stepped up to the plate. 22-year-old Alex Sanchez bagged his first career hat trick, while Javier Steinwasher scored in both matches just two weeks after his 26th birthday.

Meanwhile, the Comets continued to show why they are among the hottest teams in the league right now with a massive 10-6 win over the Sockers. On an emotional night as they celebrated the career of club legend Leo Gibson a week after he announced his retirement, Kansas City showed up.

The crowd of over 5,000 strong witnessed a monumental performance, as four different players registered three points. Zach Reget led the way with a hat trick while Ray Lee, Ramone Palmer, and Rian Marques added a goal and two assists each. In defense, Chad Vandegriffe and Robert Palmer combined for 14 blocks while Nicolau Neto finished with 12 saves and a .706 save percentage.

It feels like ages ago that there were serious conversations about the Comets missing the playoffs, but with six wins on the bounce, Kansas City is flying high, and only getting better. They’ve scored 40 goals in their last four games and look like a nightmare to face both at home and on the road. 

Their opponents in the first round will be Utica, who clinched the runner-up spot in the division with a pair of 11-5 wins against St. Louis, but the moment belonged to Franck Tayou.

The King put St. Louis to the sword with panache, typical of Tayou. He scored nine goals across the two matches, becoming the first player in MASL history to score 400 regular season goals. He also broke Utica’s record for the most points in a single season with 44, surpassing his teammate Gordy Gurson.

As if a lineup featuring the likes of Tayou, Nilton de Andrade, and Mohamed Ndiaye wasn’t frightening enough, Utica just signed high-profile forward Kelvin Oliveira to a three-year contract. The futsal star famously scored the $1,000,000 goal at last year’s TST 7v7 soccer tournament and brings a laundry list of accolades with him.

Now, with a game to play, Utica’s focus will shift to halting the Comets. Hewerton’s side has been impressive all season long and has made very few mistakes along the way, scoring 7.87 goals per game thanks to a high-powered and intense offensive system.

Seven different players finished the season with at least 20 points, while goalkeeper Andrew Coughlin has made the sixth most saves in the MASL this season with 201. They’ll have the chance to add to those tallies against the Blast on Saturday, Mar. 30 in their final regular season match before the playoffs begin in April.


It wasn’t long ago we were wondering if we’d see the Stars GM take to the field again, but against Empire, as his side clutched to the hope of catching and passing Chihuahua for second in the Western Conference, Perera showed up and fast.

During an action-packed first quarter in which it felt like Tacoma was exchanging goals with just Marco Fabián, it was Perera who kicked it all off with a short-handed goal off an assist from Chris Toth. You could tell how long he’d been waiting to do it all again. His immediate smile, infectious as always, quickly turned into hugs with his teammates, and just like that, he’s back.

            Perera went on to assist both Nani Mendoza and Alessandro Canale from similar positions. He makes himself at home in the corner, dragging defenders in and finding his teammates in behind. Against the power play, Perera is downright lethal. His ability to find, create, and exploit space is unmatched in the indoor game, and Tacoma felt his impact against Empire.

What is there to say about Nick Perera that hasn’t already been said? It takes an elite player to bounce back from an injury, and he’s certainly ticking all the boxes. Last season, his numbers were frankly absurd, and he deservedly won the MVP award. This year, he’s taken it up a notch, but his only slight is that he’s played just 12 games due to injury.

As the regular season winds down, it’s fair to say Tacoma has done extremely well, both with and without Perera. We wondered who would step up to fill his shoes, and it became clear pretty quickly that Canale and Jamael Cox would take up the mantle and share the load, but that burden no longer falls on their shoulders alone. They have Justin Stinson and Stefan Mijatovic to count on.

It will be interesting to see them all play together, accented and pushed on by the likes of Mendoza, Ramos, and Toth. They’ve had the chance to figure it out, and it's almost time to dance. The Stars will travel to southern California to face the Sockers on Saturday before taking on the Strykers one final time on Sunday, Mar. 31, at 7:05 p.m. EDT.