Around The League With Joseph Reina
*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.** @josephreina21
It’s fully up and running now. All 13 teams have had a chance to show their stuff as the MASL’s tenth anniversary season moved into its second week. We were treated to five matchups that had it all: blowouts, nail-biters, and absolutely no shortage of goals. So, let's go around the league to see what happened in the MASL this week.
Last season Baltimore set the bar extremely high as they reached the Ron Newman Cup Finals, but with a number of big names leaving in the offseason, there was a chance the Blast would struggle to follow that up.
Baltimore lost 9-5 after a shocking second half in which Texas scored seven goals to the Blast’s one. While the hosts’ first half deserves some praise, games are rarely won in the first 30 minutes. You need to play a complete game in the MASL and this performance was uncharacteristic from the Blast.
During the entirety of last season, Baltimore conceded more than eight goals in a game just twice, both of which came during the playoffs, and the last time that the Outlaws played in Maryland, they were held scoreless. All this is to say that this year’s Blast team looks very different from the squad that finished as Ron Newman Cup Finalists in April.
The goalposts have immediately shifted for the Blast and their next match at home against Utica City FC is now crucial. Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 9 at 6:05 p.m. EST. We’ll discuss where other teams fit into the Eastern Conference playoff picture a little later, but for now, it appears that Baltimore’s goal this season is simply to reach the postseason.
Opening the season on the road in Utica is a tall ask for any team, but credit to this Harrisburg side that made life difficult for the home side all night. Despite going down 3-0 to start the match, the Heat kept themselves alive and even as the game progressed, they kept it close.
Keep in mind, this was the Eastern Conference’s worst team from last season matched up against a side tipped as serious contenders heading into this campaign, and Harrisburg held Utica’s new signing Franck Tayou pointless in his debut. While Utica ultimately found a way to win and sealed it with a goal against the sixth-attacker, Pat Healey’s side will take a lot of good away from the match.
In indoor soccer, as with finances, it’s important to diversify your portfolio. Between the boards, this means having as many different goal scorers as possible, as we saw last season with the Chihuahua Savage. When a team has lots of players capable of finding the net, it makes creating a defensive plan nearly impossible. Sure, you can keep one or two guys off the scoresheet, but five? Good luck.
While it’s still early, pesky and frustrating performances like this will eventually be rewarded. Catch a side on an off-day and the Heat will happily walk away with all three points. If the rest of the East isn’t careful, Harrisburg might just find a way into that fourth playoff spot. The Heat hosts its home opener against Kansas City on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 7:05 p.m. EST.
ST. LOUIS AMBUSH
The Ambush’s offensive struggles continued against the Comets during the first of six I-70 rivalry games this season. It took St. Louis 50 minutes to find the net, but by that point, Kansas City had achieved the feat seven times. The result was sealed but a second Ambush goal sealed the 7-2 final score line as well a few minutes later.
It was a night to forget for a side that has yet to convert a power play into a goal while killing just 50% defensively. In a league where numerical advantages and set-piece precision are critical to turning losses into wins, the Ambush need to make use of every single passage of play that could lead to a goal, especially when in those special circumstances.
This weekend will be their first out of conference test as the Empire Strykers visit The Family Arena on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 7:05 p.m. EST. Keep an eye on goalkeeper Paulo Nascimento, who has impressed early in the season. Both teams have found finishing to be difficult this season with just three goals each after two games. Another solid performance from the Ambush shot stopper could be the difference for the hosts.
UTICA CITY FC
With an extensive list of new signings in Utica headlined by the aforementioned Tayou, Harrisburg should have played the role of doormat, but it proved to be far from easy for the hosts. Six different players scored for Hewerton Moreira’s side in a performance that was by no means amazing, but they found a way to win.
The result was sealed with a long-range goal against the sixth-attacker scored by newly acquired and the previously hated Nelson Santana who was actually booed upon his introduction. Up to that point however, Utica had actually made life pretty difficult for itself through a combination of defensive lapses and unnecessary penalties. Fortunately, Gordy Gurson picked up right where he left off with a goal and two assists along with Logan Roberts and Geo Alves who both also put up three points.
The win is great, but we have to talk about the King. Tayou failed to register either a goal or assist in the match and didn’t really look like himself. He took just four shots and his shot selection left a bit to be desired. He’ll no doubt acclimate himself to his new teammates in time, but for right now, Utica will hope he gets up to speed soon.
Next up is a trip to Baltimore to take on the Blast, this Saturday, Dec. 9 at 6:05 p.m. EST. With potential playoff implications already and given these sides’ relatively poor defensive showings, this has the makings of a shootout, especially on the small field of the TU Arena.
KANSAS CITY COMETS
If once is luck and twice is a coincidence, then the Comets are one dominant win away from creating a pattern. It looked like it couldn’t get better for Kansas City after Milwaukee came to town, but then the Ambush traveled down I-70 and they too got battered at the Cable Dahmer Arena.
It’s been hard to find fault with Stefan Stokic’s side after two games. They score early, they score often. They keep themselves out of the penalty box, and they avoid silly defensive errors. They are unselfish and have a goalkeeper ready to fly after anything that crosses his path. At this point in the season, they really look to be the real deal.
It will come down to the side’s stars and whether they can stay healthy, especially during the tail end of the season, but for now Zach Reget, Rian Marques, Nicolau Neto and the rest of the team are firing on all cylinders and look to be up for every fight that will come their way. Their chance at creating a pattern will be Saturday, Dec. 9 at 7:05 p.m. EST when they travel to Harrisburg to face the Heat.
In all honesty, there really wasn’t much to be learned from Monterrey’s demolition of Dallas this weekend. Obviously, we learned they won’t take their foot off the gas in the name of goal differential, but for context, no team has scored 20 goals in one game since the Chihuahua Savage dropped 21 goals on the Tacoma Stars in February of 2022.
Shout out to Genaro Castilo and José Antonio Medina who accumulated seven and six points respectively. In total, every single Monterrey field player but one found the net and even goalkeeper Berna Valdovinos registered an assist on the night.
The saying goes that you learn more from your losses than your wins, and yes, it goes to show just how clinical Monterrey can be, but what can truly be learned from a win that substantial? How much can Luis Jaime Borrego take from this game and actually use for the future? Two relatively straightforward wins have given Monterrey a tremendous start to the season, but the games will get harder.
That being said, the Flash will hit the road for the first time this season to visit a struggling Milwaukee Wave side at the UWM Panther Arena. Last time these two sides met, it was also in Wisconsin as the Flash overcame a 5-1 deficit to win 6-5. More of the same? We’ll see on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 7:05 p.m. EST.