EASTERN CONFERENCE PREVIEW
The MASL Season is quickly approaching but the news hasn’t stopped for a second. It can be difficult to keep up, but before a ball is kicked, here’s everything you need to know about all seven teams in the Eastern Conference.
2022/23 Record: 6-17-1 15 pts
We’ll start with Harrisburg who finished bottom of the Eastern Conference last season. Not much went the Heat’s way over the course of the season, but especially on the road. Pat Healey’s side won just one game away from the Equine Arena thanks largely to a defense that struggled to keep the opposition off the board, conceding 6.7 goals per game. Pair that with an offense that never scored more than seven goals in a match and it’s fair to say few people in the capital of Pennsylvania would like to remember 2022/23.
Looking forward, Hugo Silva returns to his former club after five seasons in Florida. The 34-year-old shot-stopper will add some much-needed stability in goal while also providing a threat going forward. Silva registered an assist during last season’s Ron Newman Cup Playoffs as well as an impressive 0.810 save percentage, only behind San Diego’s Boris Pardo.
In addition to Silva, Harrisburg picked up Davinson Diaz, Erik Ribiero, Blake Hylton, and Alejandro Arbelaez during this year’s MASL Draft and signed Joey Tavernese and Onua Obasi. With these new weapons around them, keep an eye on Lesia Thetsane and Malcolm Harris who impressed last season the pair combined for 31 points despite Thetsane only playing in nine games.
The goal for Harrisburg this season should be to rebuild by bringing in some young talent to develop a competitive team for the next few years. A tangible goal should be to improve on their record against Utica City FC. Just as they did last year, the two sides will face each other on six occasions, and the Heat should strive to win at least two, if not more of those matches.
St. Louis Ambush
2022/23 Record: 9-13-2 25 pts
The other team that missed the playoffs last season hails from St. Louis, Missouri though there was much more to be happy about for Ambush fans than their Pennsylvanian counterparts. While the offense was admittedly subpar, St. Louis’ defensive record was among the best in the Eastern Conference. Only the Kansas City Comets and Baltimore Blast conceded fewer than the Ambush’s 132 goals against.
At the heart of this defensive fortitude is goalkeeper Paulo Nascimento who ranks among the best goalkeepers in the MASL in several different categories. His 4.9 goals against average is the fifth best and only Baltimore’s William Vanzela bettered his 0.745 save percentage. In attack William Eskay showed his class, leading the Ambush in points with 30, eight more than any of his teammates.
In the offseason, head coach Jeff Locker has been busy bringing in a host of experienced talent including Mike Da-Silva, Ali Sodal, Skylar Funk, Corey Adamson, and James Togbah among others. To aid these signings, the Ambush drafted Jacob Porkoski, Jay Klein, and Jay Pierce.
If these new additions prove their worth, St. Louis could be eyeing a playoff position come the end of the regular season. The key will be a pair of six-game series against both the Wave and the Comets. For the second consecutive campaign, half of the Ambush’s games will be against these two opponents, but they will need to improve in these matches to make the playoffs. St. Louis walked away with a win on just three of 12 occasions, and to make a strong playoff push, that number will certainly need to rise.
Kansas City Comets
2022/23 Record: 11-9-4 35 pts
Last season was a step backward for the Comets organization that had made it to the Conference Finals of the two previous Ron Newman Cup Playoffs. Kansas City missed out on hosting a postseason game by just one point and paid the price, losing 7-6 in overtime to Utica City FC. While Leo Gibson and his side were sent packing in the most cruel of circumstances, the season was by no means a wash. The Comets got the better of both the Wave and the Ambush, winning four games in each series.
Since joining from Harrisburg midseason, Zach Reget has been superb, registering 2.2 points per game during his ten regular season appearances for Kansas City. Combined with John Sosa, Lucas Sousa, and Nicolau Neto, the Comets no doubt have some serious firepower, and their several new signings will absolutely help, but none more than Chad Vandegriffe.
Last season’s runner-up defender of the year will help make an already solid defense better while helping move the ball going forward as well. Add in the club’s draftees from this year’s combine, Juan Esteban Gomez, Antonio De La Torre, and Ramazani Juma, and the Comets could be in for a big year.
The bare minimum for Kansas City should be a playoff berth with a goal set to challenge for the Eastern Conference. Last year, this team showed a remarkable ability to frustrate solid opposition, so if they turn those occasional performances into more consistency, their home crowd at the Cable Dahmer Arena could become a nightmare for opponents across the Eastern Conference.
Utica City FC
2022/23 Record: 13-10-1 36 pts
Something special has been brewing in Utica for quite some time, but last year was the first true taste of success for the young club in Upstate New York. Gordy Gurson wrote his name into the team’s history books with several stunning individual performances and a staggering seven game-winning goals. His heroics helped take Utica City FC to the playoffs where they beat the Kansas City Comets with a golden goal in overtime, before taking the Wave to a decisive knockout game-three where Milwaukee finally emerged victorious.
At the helm is head coach Hewerton Moreira, who was recently appointed as the head coach of the U.S. Futsal Men’s National Team. At Utica, he’s built a strong, capable team around his style of play and it is wreaking havoc on opposition defenses. He knows how to spot and cultivate talent, so don’t be surprised if Utica’s draft picks Emmanuel Belliard, Louis “DJ” Albert, and Abdullahi Gedow shine this year.
Alongside the ever-threatening Gurson, who finished last season with 22 goals and 19 assists, Utica made some headlines with a blockbuster trade to acquire “The King,” Franck Tayou. The 33-year-old striker led the entire MASL in goals last season with a staggering 38 goals in 22 games. With fellow new signing Mohamed Ndiaye, who assisted Tayou on six occasions last season with Empire, Hewerton’s new-look side will certainly be a tough nut to crack.
Utica City will face Harrisburg and Baltimore six times each, but the good news is that Utica already got the better of both teams in their series last season. The only issue is their own leaky defense that has a habit of taking the night off. Fix that and we could seriously be talking about Utica as favorites in the Eastern Conference come March.
2022/23 Record: 13-9-2 38 pts
Monterrey will switch to playing in the Eastern Conference this season after finishing as the third-best team in the West behind the Ron Newman Cup Champions Chihuahua Savage and MASL Shield winners San Diego Sockers. In the playoffs, they pushed the Savage to the limit but were eliminated in the knockout game three in the Conference semi-finals.
Much has been said about the difference between the Eastern and Western Conferences so this will be an interesting opportunity to compare how Monterrey performed last season to this season. What cannot be ignored or glossed over, however, is the remarkable skill this Monterrey team possesses. Five different players accumulated over 20 points last season with Luis Genaro Castillo, Erick Tovar, and Luis Ángel Mendoza all level with 25 points. What does this mean for any teams preparing to face Monterrey? Good Luck.
Calling Monterrey a dark horse feels ignorant. Realistically, they have just become the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, especially on the road. Last season, no Eastern Conference team broke even on the road, but Monterrey managed to do just that.
With a six-game series against Chihuahua, Monterrey will be a good scale to compare the two conferences with some degree of accuracy, and it truly is not crazy to say that we could see an all-Mexico Ron Newman Cup Final this season.
2022/23 Record: 15-8-1 45 pts
Last season’s Eastern Conference Champions, the Milwaukee Wave entered the postseason with much hype but crumbled at the crucial moment. After taking three games to beat Utica City FC, the Wave was swept at home by the visiting Baltimore Blast. Milwaukee scored the most goals in the East, but crucially also conceded the third most, to finish the season with just a +9 goal differential.
New signings Ricardo Carvalho, Breno Oliveira, and Cesar Correa will help strengthen the defense and ensure there is more depth to the team as a whole. Few would disagree that Milwaukee’s starting six is among the best in the league, but six players rarely, if ever, win a Ron Newman Cup on their own. The club’s draft picks, Jonah Dancer, Khedive McIntosh, and Logan Lafferty will also go a decent way towards stabilizing the team as injuries pop up over the course of the season.
For Milwaukee, the goal is always a championship, so this year should be no different, but to make that happen, head coach, Giuliano Oliviero will need to drastically reduce the number of goals his team concedes, keep the team healthy, and find a way to close out games consistently. If the Wave can do that, they can compete with anybody in the MASL, but that “if” is doing a lot of work in that sentence.
2022/23 Record: 13-8-3 41 pts
Despite not hosting any playoff games after the Conference semi-finals, Baltimore found a way to buckle down and win games using the same key David Bascome and his side used all season long. Baltimore kept scores low on both sides of the ball, especially on defense.
The Blast conceded just 101 goals during the regular season and finished with a +40 goal differential. While there were a fair few games that didn’t go their way earlier in the year, the same cannot be said for the playoffs. Despite eventually losing to Chihuahua, Baltimore struck gold and set the standard for the next year. Now, it's the Ron Newman Cup or bust in 2023/24.
Goalkeeper William Vanzela has long been an icon in the indoor game, but last season was a year to remember as he cemented his position as one of the game’s best. His 0.790 save percentage was comfortably the best during the regular season, and his 4.13 goals against per game only trailed Boris Pardo. With him between the pipes, Baltimore’s defense will be as sturdy as ever.
The Blast has also brought in Raphael Araujo, Victor Parreiras, and Jesus Pacheco along with extremely talented draft picks, Jonathan Holley, Aaron Hohenstein, and Max Dwyer. Despite some big losses including Lucas Roque, this Baltimore team is certainly a force to be reckoned with.