MASL Western Conference Preview
Home to both the MASL Shield winner and the Ron Newman Cup Champions, the Western Conference made for fascinating viewing last season. With six teams and just four playoff spots up for grabs, here’s everything you need to know about every team in the Western Conference.
2022/23 RECORD: 1-20-3 6 PTS
There really is no way but up for Dallas in 2023/24. Last season featured very few bright spots as the Sidekicks won just one game and finished bottom of the league’s overall standings. Despite a thrilling six-game series against the newly rebranded Texas Outlaws, Dallas never found success, but this year, the goal should be to earn at least a win against its crosstown rivals.
To do this, the Sidekicks have retained star forward Blas Pérez, and brought in Nestor Hernandez from the Empire Strykers. At the recent MASL Draft, Dallas selected defender Nathan Neal with the first overall pick before adding Colin O'Keefe, Mariano Angon, and Justin Henry.
New head coach Ed Puskarich has called for his side to, “Rock and Roll a little bit this year,” and they have every bit of talent to do it. While competing for a Ron Newman Cup title may be a bit out of reach for Dallas, a great start would be to make their rivalry series against the Outlaws a bit less one-sided. Their season starts Sunday, Dec. 3 on the road in Monterrey before the Sidekicks home opener on Saturday, Dec. 9 against the Outlaws.
-2022/23 RECORD: 12-9-3 37 PTS
Next, we have the heartbreak of last season. Empire boasted a relatively successful campaign, racking up 12 wins but still found a way to miss the playoffs thanks to not one, but two tiebreakers going against them.
With Empire, Mesquite (now Texas), and Tacoma all level on 37 points after 24 games, the Stars were awarded the fourth seed thanks to their 11 regulation wins, compared to the other pair’s ten. From there, the Strykers and Outlaws had the same total wins (12), but Mesquite had swept their two-game series against Empire, dooming the Strykers to watch the playoffs from home.
Obviously, last season was good, but it wasn’t good enough. Five losses to San Diego stings, but those two losses to Mesquite will feel like a gut punch in a bar fight, especially considering the second loss came on the final day of the season.
In an effort to bounce back this year, Empire has certainly gone big, sending last season’s top scorer, Franck Tayou, to Utica City FC in exchange for Stefan Mijatovic and Quentin Swift. In addition, the Strykers brought Lucas Roque to town after a stunning season in Baltimore where he racked up 35 goals and 18 assists. Keep an eye on the club’s other signings Claude Dielna, Walter Gonzalez, and Brandon Gomez as well as the club’s draft picks, Riley Urie, Iqboli Vositzoda, Augustus Oku, David Wright, and Ebiel Gamino.
This season could be a big jump for the Strykers and that six-game series against San Diego could be a great time to prove it. Empire opens its season with a pair of away games in Mexico against Chihuahua on Friday, Nov. 24 and Monterrey on Sunday, Nov. 26. The Stryker’s first home game is Friday, Dec. 15 when the Baltimore Blast comes to town.
-2022/23 RECORD: 12-10-2 37 PTS
The Stars ended their season with a hugely disappointing loss at home to the Outlaws. While the race for the final playoff spots was extremely close, Tacoma had earned the right to host the Western Conference play-in game, but just hosting a playoff game is not a success for this team. Led by last season’s MVP, Nick Perera, the Stars should be competing for more than a playoff spot.
In response, head coach Adam Becker retained much of last season’s talent including Perera and Jamael Cox, while bringing in Matt Braem, Mikey Herrera, Román Torres, and Chris Toth. The club also drafted Jackson Bunn following the MASL Combine.
This season features a Southern California heavy schedule for Tacoma with San Diego and Empire accounting for 11 of the Stars’ 24 matches. If they can win at least five of those matches, they should be in a good spot to qualify for the postseason, and then maybe make a push for the Conference Finals.
Tacoma opens the season with a pair of matches against the Sockers on Sunday, Dec. 3 at the Pechanga Arena in San Diego before hosting the second game at the accesso ShoWare Center on Saturday, Dec. 9.
-2022/23 RECORD: 12-9-3 37 PTS
By the skin of their teeth, the Outlaws managed to find a way into the 2023 Ron Newman Cup Playoffs, thanks, in large part, to a clutch 7-2 win over the Empire Strykers on the final day of the season. In the Western Conference play-in game, Mesquite traveled up to Tacoma and beat the Stars 9-6 after losing all three games the two teams had played earlier in the season by an aggregate score of 27-9.
Despite losing to San Diego in the Western Conference semi-finals, last season went a long way to proving who the Outlaws are, and what they are capable of. The club has since rebranded and is now the Texas Outlaws, but the team’s goals haven’t shifted at all.
Head Coach Antonio "Tatu" Pecorari brought in Uzi Tayou, Vinicius Dantas, Julio Varela, Cody Ellis and Mike Jones to add a wealth of experience across the turf. At the same time, the club drafted Juan Martinez, Dylan Huynh, and Marco Jacques and now looks set to compete for a spot in the Western Conference Playoffs.
The Outlaws are capable of big things this season, and winning more than four of their games against the Sidekicks will put them in a great spot to make the playoffs. Texas starts the season away against Baltimore on Saturday, Dec. 2, and hosts its first game against Kansas City on Saturday, Dec. 16 at the Mesquite Arena.
SAN DIEGO SOCKERS
-2022/23 RECORD: 17-6-1 49 PTS
There really are no weak points on San Diego’s roster. Few teams could contend with the Sockers’ unique blend of brute and beauty that graced the Pechanga Arena turf last season, but through 29 games, all that will truly matter to San Diego fans is the final goal; a Savage strike from just over 50 feet away, that sailed past a helpless Boris Pardo, ending the Sockers; season.
A loss at the hands of Chihuahua in overtime of the Western Conference Finals mini-game three is about as close to flipping a coin as you can get in this league, but for a team that comfortably won the MASL Shield, it truly was, and still is, victory or nothing.
Phil Salvaggio’s side has been the team to beat and will continue to be just that into this season thanks to new additions, Gabriel Costa and Drew Ruggles. At the MASL Combine, the Sockers selected Maxwell Rodriguez who will join the club for training camp this month.
They held onto Kraig Chiles, Tavoy Morgan, Brandon Escoto, Leonardo De Oliveira, and Charlie Gonzalez, all of whom finished the regular season with over 25 points. Add in last season’s MASL Goalkeeper of the Year in Pardo and this team will not stop until they are lifting the Ron Newman Cup. The regular season should be a formality. The real test begins in the playoffs.
With that being said, the Sockers host their season and home opener against Tacoma on Sunday, Dec. 3 at the Pechanga Arena.
-2022/23 RECORD: 22-2-0 62 PTS
Few would have bet on Chihuahua going into San Diego and leaving as Ron Newman Cup Finalists, but that’s exactly what happened. A final two wins over Baltimore claimed their first MASL Championship is a moment the fans and players will not soon forget.
Throughout the regular season, Chihuahua scored the most goals in the league with a staggering 179, nineteen more than the next-best Sockers. The Savage continued that form into the playoffs, as seventeen different players found the back of the net during Chihuahua’s playoff run, but none more than Jorge Ríos who’s eight goals in eight games led the MASL during that span.
Until recently Chihuahua had not been as active as other Western Conference clubs during the offseason, but they’ve since added several new faces across the turf. The Savage brought in Luan Telles at goalkeeper and a few players for depth, setting this team up to compete for another Ron Newman Cup in 2023/24. Keep an eye on that six-game series against Monterrey. You definitely won’t want to miss it.
The Savage host their season and home opener against Empire on Friday, Nov. 24 at the Corner Sport Arena.