Welcome to the MASL Week in Review! This will be a weekly column in which your author, Craig Elsten from the San Diego Sockers, will do his best to break down the big games, performances and themes from the past weekend’s MASL entertainment.
When Opportunity Arrives, Don’t Pass it Back
There was a lot to talk about after two weekends of action in the Major Arena Soccer League, but I keep coming back to one moment.
Friday night in Lakeland, Florida, the Kansas City Comets had blown leads of 3-0 and 7-4, but had the game on their collective toe in sudden death overtime. A steal along the boards by defender Matt Lewis led to a 3-on-2 break in the attacking third. Lewis found Rian Marques in the low-left corner, who crossed the ball through an open box to Henry Ramirez. This was the situation facing Ramirez:
Side-foot it. Toe-poke it. Physically run the ball into the net. All these would be game-winning options.
Ramirez passed it back.
KC players in net: 1. KC goals in net: 0.
Silva pounced on the hopping pass-back, and the Tropics won on a brilliant chip by Ian Bennett just moments later. When opportunity comes your way, don’t pass it back.
Speaking of Bennett…
It’s not much of a surprise that Ian Bennett has quickly clicked in Florida with the Tropics. He’s got ex-teammates around him, a quality group of talented attackers to work with, and an easily defined role. And, you know, he’s Ian Bennett! One of the best attacking players in MASL history is going to fit in anywhere.
The Tropics didn’t really need scoring, though, nor pace, even though Bennett brings both in abundance. A team with Florida’s depth will find goals from almost every corner of their roster. All Florida needed was someone to go to in the clutch, in big games and big moments.
So far, the Tropics have played two close matches, and Ian Bennett has scored the game-winning goal in both. He certainly can and will pace the offense, but he doesn’t have to, and that’s a major difference between past years and today. Look out, MASL.
Meanwhile, the other half of the vaunted Milwaukee “I-Max” tandem is finding his way with his new club, as all-MASL First Team midfielder Max Ferdinand adjusts to life in St. Louis with the Ambush. While Ferdinand and friends were frustrated with an 0-2 start in Florida, the Ambush rallied back to beat Dallas 6-5 on Saturday night at Allen Events Center, with Ferdinand registering four assists and Top Star honors. Unlike past years, Ferdinand doesn’t have his security blanket finisher in Bennett to get on the other end of his clever passes. However, Max has an emerging and young duo of attackers in Duduca and Magui, and a savvy veteran in Tony Walls. Give them time to gel, and you can expect St. Louis to have one of the MASL’s top power plays and offensive attacks by season’s end.
World Upside Down
Who’s up? Who’s down? Does it matter?
This will probably be the craziest season ever, in terms of jarring the expectations of seasoned fans. Very few of the signposts and signals we are used to examining will mean what they used to mean.
For example, the fight for home field advantage is meaningless in a situation when home field is determined by how states are deciding to handle a raging pandemic. Getting off to a great early start doesn’t mean much when the schedule is being rolled out monthly. And until and unless every club gets to play one another, comparing relative quality is going to be dicey at best.
My only suggestion is that we practice the patience we have preached ever since the league began its deliberations on how to tackle this untenable situation. It’s to the benefit of indoor soccer fans everywhere that the matches continue. Owners’ commitments have led to players and staff continuing to have gainful employment, while creating entertainment for those who cannot venture from home.
Check out the MASL’s pay-per-view options on Facebook and sign up at facebook.com/MASLsoccer/events, and we’ll see you on the floor this weekend!
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Craig’s Corner is a weekly opinion column in which Craig Elsten looks at the good, the bad, and the funny in the world of arena soccer.