CRAIG'S CORNER WEEK 8
Craig’s Corner Week 8
Welcome back inside the corner, where the bounce is true but the angle unpredictable.
The League Would Be Furious If This Happened
The Ontario Fury: MASL Ron Newman Cup Champions. Sound crazy? Not anymore.
Last weekend, Ontario entered the “Sunshine State Showdown” with a lot to prove. Sure, they were on top of the table statistically at 2-0, but had they really been tested yet? Sure, Franck is going to score, but would the rest of the team be talented enough for the challenge? Questions remained.
Even after a hard-fought loss on Sunday, most of those questions have been answered, and in a way that should please fans from the Indoor Empire.
The Fury are for real, folks. There’s a lot to be said for playing together, and staying together. In a league filled with short-time imports, the Fury have a roster that’s largely carried over from last season. It’s easy to forget, but Ontario was the hottest team in the league when the COVID shutdown came, rallying from a 2-7 start to a 10-2 finish.
When a team is comfortable with one another, the role players have a chance to do their jobs and succeed. Tayou and Stinson are offensive powers, but they now know how they can trust Maicon de Abreu, who has exploded with 13 points in five matches from the back line. Juan Carlos “Charlie” Gonzalez is a water bug on the field and a facilitator with the ball, averaging two assists per match.
Jimmy Nordberg can coach a little, too. It took that bad start last season for Nordberg to really take control, and it’s clear now that the Fury are his team. This club is fit, and while they didn’t complete the 3-0 in Florida, it wasn’t for lack of legs. They are tough with the high press, resilient, and play with a collective toughness that was never there in past years.
We’ve covered goalkeeper Claysson de Lima in this space after his debut weekend, but he really shined over the three-match gantlet in Florida, displaying athleticism, good positioning and a lot of energy. In every match he plays, de Lima is giving up the edge in experience, but claiming back a lot in talent and passion.
Are the Fury a shoo-in to win the Cup? Of course not! There are six teams with championship aspirations this season, and the rampant migration of talent has created some super-rosters. Ontario has not signed a bunch of players from the outside, though. So far, they like their team the way it is. So far, so do I.
Old School Sockers
The San Diego Sockers’ first MISL championship in 1983 ended with a final score of 3-1. The way they’re playing in 2021, San Diego’s next championship might have to end with the same score.
These Sockers are tough, physical, and defensively stout. Breakdowns over the weekend were few and far between. These Sockers also have some tread worn off the tire, collectively. The days of 60 minutes of high pressure, a style favored by Phil Salvagio, are over.
But while laying back, San Diego found a way to take a stand. The Sockers won against top clubs Florida and Tacoma, emerging victorious despite scoring only four goals in both games. The tandem of Boris Pardo and William Vanzela gives San Diego a MASL Goalkeeper of the Year nightly in net. Cesar Cerda and Guerrero Pino are teaming with newcomers Mitchell Cardenas and Marcio Leite to form a fearsome foursome in the defensive backfield. All weekend, players were laying out and blocking shots, tracking back and fighting for every possession.
Partially because, they’ve had to. So far, the offense has been restricted largely to Leonardo de Oliveira (3-4=7 points in 5 games), Brandon Escoto (5-1=6), and Cesar Cerda (2-2=4). Kraig Chiles has battled injury, Brian Farber missed the weekend, and Slavisa Ubiparipovic is off to a slow start, hitting more crossbars than nets. Gordy Gurson has been a real hustling presence defensively, but is also all posts and no points through five matches.
No club has been more stop-and-start than the Sockers, and a chance to play twice more this weekend could finally allow the offense to thaw. But if winning in the playoffs mean winning a 3-2 game…these Sockers can kick it old school.
Tropics Losing Twice at Home? SOMEBODY SCREAM!
Ok, done screaming? Calm down. Guilherme got hurt on Thursday, so did Teixeira. Drew Ruggles has been out for a minute. Florida has a *right now* combination of new guys learning the ropes and some key top players missing. With all that, the Tropics went to overtime twice in a row against Tacoma and San Diego, and dropped them both. What do you know? The Tropics are not invincible. They are vincible! Back-to-back…vincings!
But I’m not convinced there’s anything to worry about here. First off, rallying to win against a very confident Fury team on Sunday said a lot about the Tropics’ character. Second, they’ll be getting the key players back. And third, as each week goes by, Clay Roberts is integrating the new faces on his roster into the game-plan. By this time next month, they’ll be ready.
No word yet if the MASL Rules Committee will install a PA announcer “SOMEBODY SCREAM” limit ala timeout restrictions, maybe two per game max and an extra for overtime if need be. I am firmly convinced, however, that this should be a top priority.
It was an amazing start to the Sunshine State Showdown for the Tacoma Stars, with a comeback OT win over the host Tropics. The rest of the weekend was a bit of a grind. Ontario got out in front big early (4-0) and forced Tacoma to try and play extra-hard in an attempt to come back. By Sunday, all the big boys on the Stars roster were slowed down somewhat.
Nonetheless, I think Tacoma is good enough to beat any team in the league on any given night, and like Florida, they have a month to integrate new talent from the outside such as Elton de Oliveira.
What About the Comets?
Yes, Kansas City won twice this weekend, and they put up a ton of goals. Unlike some observers, I do give a team a little bit of credit for beating up on a downtrodden opponent. All the wins count the same, but the Comets cruised where other teams (looking at you, Florida, San Diego and Tacoma) have found themselves in a competitive match with the Sidekicks. Nonetheless, judging a performance like that has to be done on a tiny bit of a curve. Golf clap, well done.
Here’s what I’ll say about the Comets: no team has improved more in the places where they needed to improve than Kansas City. They’ve infused some young legs that fit Leo’s style, while allowing player/coach Gibson to play out of the back instead of trying to have to carry the team up front. Add in potential use of their field in the playoffs, and KC has a lot to like in March.
And then there’s Dallas. Felipe de Souza is having a whale of a season! And big ups to a social media department oozing with more positivity than Tracy Flick on the first day of school. @Gosidekicks is a relentless source of optimism and unbridled enthusiasm. These good folks probably saw the Texas deep freeze as a neat opportunity to work on a #BuiltGreen ice sculpture.
This weekend sees the Sockers and Steamers/Ambush play, with some sick retro unis on Friday night; be sure to check out the match on Facebook PPV, and to check out the auction for the game-worn kits.