CRAIG'S CORNER WEEK 7
Craig’s Corner Week 7
Welcome back inside Craig’s Corner, where the surface is turf, boards, ice. No forgiveness.
Marching to a Title
Whether you work inside the sport of arena soccer or are one of its ardent fans, you had to wonder what was in store for March. We still don’t have a full picture (one of the sport’s longest and saddest traditions, the TBD playoff format), but we’ve got a lot better idea about how things are going to potentially shake out. Let’s break it down.
- We’ve gone from eleven to seven teams, and the minimum number of games needed has been shaved from twelve to ten games. Winning percentage is going to determine the standings. As such, the 2-0 Ontario Fury lead the table ahead of the 7-1 Florida Tropics. The two clubs will play each other twice, so we don’t have to worry about some weird statistical oddity denying Florida the #1 seed.
- The regular season will end on March 20, instead of April 17. Depending on arena availability and how aggressively the league wants to schedule its playoff, you could imagine a world where the whole thing was done by early April now.
- We still don’t know a playoff format. With seven teams, I dare say that anything less than a 6/7 play-in game would be silly. Probably, all the teams make the playoffs, right?
- Some clubs are cutting it close when it comes to scheduling enough games. The Stars are scheduled to play eleven times; The Fury and Sockers are scheduled to play only ten times. What happens if…I won’t speak it into existence. You have to wonder, though. Hopefully, there’s a plan for that.
Carpetbaggers Welcome Here
The bowing out of the Eastern clubs has led to a natural player migration, both to contending clubs and warmer weather. In Lakeland, the Comfort Inn has to be filling up with all the snowbirds coming down!
Already thick as thieves, the Tropics added VcMor Eligwe (Mesquite) up front, and Nate Bordeau (UCFC) in the back, and have two more from Utica on the way. The Stars welcome Elton de Oliveira in from Harrisburg. The Ambush, reeling with injuries and COVID, got immediate dividends on Friday from new arrivals Jerjer Gibson and William Eskay (both from Harrisburg).
The result is almost akin to an All-Star tournament. There are some weird looking fits in jerseys out there (I know Blast fans seeing Vanzela in a Sockers kit are reeling), but for a few weeks, it means the path to a championship is just that much more intense.
And yet, part of putting these teams together is going to lead to a very difficult decision for the head coaches: how much trust do they want to put into players who will be playing against them—in their division—less than ten total games from now? How quickly can pieces be integrated in from the outside, while keeping the core of a team that will continue on in the city come November unharmed?
The team that does this best is going to win, and teams that have a core and stay with it may wind up having a playoff advantage. Blood vs water.
Last Weekend This Morning
One consistent note of feedback I’ve received so far on the column (and thanks for the feedback!) has gone along the lines of “you didn’t write about the thing I wanted you to write about.” I skipped a game, or a topic. Hey, it’s gonna happen. Still, especially on a light weekend like this one, I don’t mind obliging. Short of taking requests, here’s a bit on each game last weekend.
The Ambush are in a weird transition, as Team Interesting is both missing key pieces, and integrating new ones from the outside. The result was a semi-ragged affair from their perspective, and a rare almost-comfortable win from the Comets’ view. Kansas City’s four-goal lead was trimmed to two in the fourth quarter and I’m sure got someone hot under their winter night collar, but in the end, it was too much from the younger Comets’ attackers.
Noticed: Leo Gibson playing in the back and leaving room for the likes of Adam James and Matt Lewis to run free…William Eskay impacting seemingly every shift he took for his new club, the Ambush.
Dos Santos and Ruggles were both visibly missing from the Tropics’ lineup, although Guilherme’s absence gave Eligwe room to operate in his first game in orange and white. There’s a deep sameness to every Sidekicks game, as they play the ball around the field, hold down the score at home and generally grind out a close loss. Hugo Silva played a great game in net for the Tropics, and Juan Gamboa helped keep it close for the Kicks. A close win was eventually indeed grinded out by Florida, although a bit more convincing than the final score indicates, as Dallas scored late.
Noticed: the continued wizardry of Victor Parreiras…IB26 just doing his thing…the continued development of Oscar Romero…Lipe caught in a Groundhog Day/Russian Doll time-loop, perpetually beating his man to the left and ripping it high off the frame above the crossbar.
EIGHT games this weekend? Oh, my stars and garters! We might be down to bullet points again next week. Enjoy the games, everyone!