Valentine's Day in the MASL

by Michael Lewis

Today, Thursday, Feb. 14 is when just about everyone's thoughts turn to love.

And that includes the Major Arena Soccer League. Besides their significant other, families and friends, players, coaches and owners also have another passion -- arena soccer.

So, on this Valentine's Day, they explain why they love the beautiful game with a roof over their heads.

JP Reyes, defender, Florida Tropics
My passion for arena soccer is the fact that it's constant action, constant adrenaline at all times. There is no slowdown to the game because it is so much more compact. You need something to compare it to, to give you that kind of identification of why you love it. When you compare it to 11-a-side, there are less numbers, there's more action on the ball. The fact that there's no out of bounds, so the ball is coming right back to you, the ball is in constant play. You're on your toes constantly. It's one of the reasons truly why I love it. Those of us who enjoy the small-sided game is that we love it. We want the action. We want the ball at all times with us. It's just the fact I can keep the ball longer, I'm going to be on the ball more because it's less numbers. It's a smaller field so it’s going to be more probability of me getting the ball because of the spacing.

When you're talking about arena soccer, you're talking about a different aura that comes with it. the fact that it's a more intimate venue. Yet still, we're talking about the Major Arena Soccer League, it's about being in an arena where it’s a couple of 1,000 people and they're right there screaming and getting to know the tactics and getting to know plays. That's also really cool.

James Togbah, defender Kansas City Comets
It’s more action compared to outdoor, where it takes three or four minutes to get a little action or a shot on goal or a dribble. Indoor, it's constant action, constant movement. Both teams go at it for 60 minutes. There's action literally for every second unless there's a timeout. It's more action, more fun.

Nick Perera, player-head coach, Tacoma Stars
Above all, I love the constant and varied mental and technical demands of the game. You have to be mentally engaged at all moments of the match, and you need a vast technical toolbox at your disposal to deal with tight, quick decisions.

Joshua Schaub, MASL commissioner
I am captivated by the mix of speed, physicality, and excitement of this game. The total goals per game in the league this year is 12.3 but the average goal differential is less than two. Almost 30 percent of the games through (last) weekend have been one-goal games. For those reasons, this game is captivating on many levels. It’s also a melting pot of ethnicity, playing styles and ages. This adds to the intrigue of the sport. That intrigue combined with the history of the sport and the story lines it produces, gives you one of the greatest sports on earth.

Pat Healey, coach, Harrisburg Heat
It's just a fast-paced, high intensity game that mixes the soccer world with a little bit of American-style of hockey and basketball. Its action packed, end-to-end action with a family-fun environment. That's it in a nutshell. I love the elements of basketball and soccer mixed because of the half-court offense, especially. You've got the transition of hockey. So, it makes it the American style of the great sport of soccer.

If you want to be successful, you have to have that passion. The most successful teams and players have that drive and passion to get better, keep working on the craft, even though it's a job. But it's a fun job to have. A nine-to-five office job is not as fun as going out and hanging out with your friends and competing day-in and day-out process and then go on the weekend to play against your peers.

Kim Roentved, head coach, Kansas City Comets
I love soccer in general, but I think indoor soccer is extremely exciting. It's a crowd's game, it's a fan's game and the more history we get behind it, the more fun it gets. You can compare it with other exciting sports like hockey, which kind of where 40 years ago, we got it from. There are a lot of similarities. It's an exciting game. whether it’s a 1-1 game, a 2-1 game or a 10-8 game. It's still always that excitement about it. You can get into games where both teams hit the goalpost nine times each and it's a low-scoring game. The excitement about the game is what I'm thrilled about, what attracts me to it. Indoor soccer always has been good to me in terms of my playing days and all the great players that I've played against over the years. I just fell in love with in from the first day I played it.

Ryan Hall, head coach, Utica City FC
What's not to love about the indoor game? It's everything an athlete/sports fan dreams of. It combines technical precision with physical and tactical awareness unlike any other game. The moment I stepped onto the turf for the Cleveland Force back in '03 I knew I was hooked for life.

Soccer Sam, owner, Rochester Lancers (MASL 2)
I fell in love at the first-ever indoor game at the Community War Memorial (in Rochester, N.Y.). I then became a Buffalo Stallions season ticket holder. The speed of play with hard-hitting action locked me in for life. In the '90s, my TV show focused on the Buffalo Blizzard and NPSL indoor. I saw some of the greatest games and players ever! In 2011, I went to Baltimore for the championship and I was reminded how exciting indoor was and months later the Lancers indoor were born. Indoor is a combination of all my favorite spectator sports -- soccer, hockey, lacrosse and basketball -- with the physical action of NFL football.

Piotr Sliwa, goalkeeper, Orlando SeaWolves
I lived in Chicago all my life, so I've been around indoor since I've been a kid. I'm a goalie. Outdoor when you play, you touch the ball maybe five, 10 times a game. Indoor, you're involved the whole time. You could go between 20 to 40 shots on goal. You're just constantly involved, so you feel more part of the game.

Axel Duarte, defender, St. Louis Ambush
I was new to the sport, especially coming from Venezuela because we don't play anything like it there. It's just exciting. Being super-close to the fans and how fast-paced the game is here, you fall in love with the game. It's super-exciting, fans are great all over, whatever city you're playing. That's why I fell in love with it.

Joey Tavernese, forward, Utica City FC
I personally fell in love with the game the first time I really watched it. I remember watching it as a kid on ESPN, but the first time I really watched a game, was a replay of the Kansas City Comets on YouTube. I saw Byron Alvarez score a goal and jump into the crowd and put on a sombrero. I was watching to learn the game before the MISL combine, but after I saw the connection between the players and the fans, I realized it was much more than just a game.

It truly is a special league and a special game. Some of the creativity, passing, and goals scored are really spectacular. And can’t forget about the crazy goalies making saves from five yards away with guys like Mauricio Salles shooting the ball as hard as they do or Slavisa Ubiparapovic making the ball dip into the goal just as the goalie is about to save it. You see everything from bicycle kicks, to chips, to one-timers.

But for me what really makes the league special is the people involved. The front office and staff are some of the nicest most genuine people you would ever meet. The fans truly would do anything for the players and the club. After every game in Rochester and Utica, the fans were always so nice. “Can I buy you a drink. It would mean the world if you could bring the title back here. Your celebrations are so entertaining.” Really anything. They are just such great people to be around. I try to celebrate goals with and for the fans because I want to give them some entertainment/excitement. They cheer me on, and I want to give them something back.

But most important of all are the people inside the boards. I have played with these guys and been coached by the men on all different teams. I have been fortunate enough to travel the world with the futsal and arena national teams. The stories and memories I have are endless. I always tell the guys. Messi and Ronaldo may have the stardom and money, but they will never have the stories and memories we’ve made. They’re friendships and times that will last a lifetime. I have played with all of these guys and against all of these guys. What happens on the field stays there. Once we step over the lines., we are enemies. And once we leave those boards we are the close friends we’ve always been.