Merlin’s crystal ball is polished and ready to go for the 2019-2020 MASL season. Teams are getting ready with scrimmages and exhibition matches, so you know the time has come for my out-of-the-box predictions on the upcoming year. So, let’s get predicting!

Who will lead the league in goals scored this season? Last season, Franck Tayou hoisted the “Golden Ball” (not a real thing by the way) by scoring 50 goals for Monterrey, followed closely behind by Ian Bennett. But, I do not see either of them winning this title this year. I’ll look to the Northwest for the winner, Nick Perera. He scored 39 goals, putting him third last season. He will be leading a Tacoma Stars team that will be vying for that coveted 4th spot in the Western Conference playoff picture. I see Tacoma being behind in games against San Diego, Ontario, and Monterrey, so Perera will be needed more on the field, to keep the Stars in these games.

How about a darkhorse for the Golden Ball? Tavoy Morgan of Harrisburg. The runner-up for the MASL Rookie of the Year award is back in his second season with the Heat. With Ricardo Carvalho heading to Florida, Morgan will be relied on heavily and I could see him doubling his goal output from last season. If I did the math correctly, that would be 46 goals, a number that could certainly be in the running for the still non-existent Golden Ball award.

Who will take MVP honors in the 2019-2020 season? Last year, Nick Perera took top honors, and if my prediction does come true, he could be a likely candidate for the award again. But, I’m going to spread the awards out, and give you the top three candidates for this award:

  1. Ian Bennett (Milwaukee Wave) – Ian has no off switch. From the opening kickoff, until the final whistle, he is dancing all over the field, breaking ankles, and breaking hearts of the opposing fans. Can you believe he was on the All-MASL 2nd Team roster last season? That still boggles my mind, but I think he will come back and will not only be All-MASL 1st Team, but will get that MVP award that he definitely deserves!
  2. Brandon Escoto (San Diego Sockers) – Brandon came alive last season, making the All-MASL 1st Team. He amassed 55 points, 32 goals, and 23 assists on an already stacked Sockers team. With the addition of Slavisa Ubiparipovic (never heard of the guy), will this help or hurt his chances at MVP? My guess is it will help.
  3. Tony Donatelli (Baltimore Blast) – Yes, you read that right. A guy that covers arch rival Utica City FC is putting a Blast player into his Top 3. Well, that could be grounds for treason. But, my predictions never come true, so here’s to hoping he has a bad season! I’m kidding. Tony is one of the best midfielders I’ve had the opportunity to watch. Last season, he scored 15 goals and assisted on 14 others, helping Baltimore to the Eastern Conference championship. The Blast’s schedule is a tough one, with games against San Diego, Florida, and Utica City, so in order for Baltimore to become the beast in the East, they’ll need Donatelli.

Hey, since you cover Utica City, how about a player that could win MVP from the FC? Bo knows indoor soccer. Bo Jelovac would be my choice as a candidate for the league MVP award. With the departures of both Slavisa Ubiparipovic and Joey Tavernese, Bo will be one of the go-to target forwards, and don’t be surprised to see a huge increase in both goals and assists.

Which offseason acquisition will be the most beneficial to their new team? Easy. James Togbah coming over from Kansas City to Utica will pay the biggest dividend. Last season, he finished second in power play goals with eight. Now, he will likely be added to a power play unit that finished second in the Eastern Conference last year. I think Utica City would have beat Baltimore in the playoffs with one more quality defender, and they went out and got one. Not to be biased or anything, but Utica will lead the league in fewest goals allowed this season.

Hey Merlin, you’re nuts! Did you see what Florida did? Yes Tropics fans, I saw what you did. You went out and grabbed some of the best players in the MASL. You added 150 goals to your roster, which overtakes the entire 2018-2019 roster (125 goals). Unfortunately, the Tropics will not be scoring 275 goals this season, so where do all of the goals go? I see a huge difference in win total, but for the players, a drop off in stats. For example, Gordy Gurson scored 34 goals last season, which was around 24% of the total goals scored by Orlando last year. No offense to the SeaWolves, but the level of talent on that team wasn’t as great as this year’s Tropics team. So let’s say Florida scores 170 goals, I can see Gordy scoring maybe 10-15% of that, so a total of around 20-23 goals is a decent prediction. Do the math. That’s a drop off of 11 or so goals.

Speaking of Florida, will they be the most improved team? Let’s be real. If the Tropics, don’t increase their win total by 10 games this season, the 2019-2020 season will be considered a disappointment. Of course they will be the most improved team this year. Another team that will increase their win total is Ontario. The Fury went out and re-signed Jermaine Jones, and they also acquired the Tayou brothers, AND Justin Stinson from St. Louis. There’s a new sheriff in town, Western Conference. Be on the lookout!

Let’s talk about the other side of the spectrum. Who will regress this season? St. Louis had a rough offseason. Losing your top two goal scorers from last season isn’t really a good thing. BUT, the Ambush have one of the best player coaches in the MASL in Hewerton. I don’t see a 10 win season on the horizon for St. Louis, but I also don’t see a huge dropoff in wins. If Vegas had 6 as an over/under for wins this year for the Ambush, I’d take the over with 7. It still doesn’t answer the question really. I’m also going to say Monterrey. The Western Conference champions also had a bad offseason, losing the Tayou brothers to Ontario, and Wilo Martinez to Florida. For Flash fans, this isn’t the end of the world. They will still be in the running for the Western Conference playoffs, but don’t be surprised if they are in the 12-14 win range this season.

Speaking of playoffs, who ya got, Merlin? Well, I won’t give you my Top 4 just yet. I will give you my championship game: San Diego versus Utica. Yeah, I know, Utica is there once again. They’ve added the right pieces to this puzzle, and will overcome the Blast this season. For my Top 4 in each conference, it’s time for a SHAMELESS PLUG! I’m going to be announcing my Top 4 in each conference on Saturday’s episode of “In The Box”. If that doesn’t get you to watch this week’s episode, how about the promise of the other half of “Merlin’s Picks”? That’s right, Hannah will be there as my special guest this week!

With all of that being said, WHAT SAY YOU MASL NATION?