M2 title is truly up for grabs as four-teams battle in league's 'Championship Weekend' in Wichita
TAMPA, Fla. – The only thing for certain in this weekend’s Major Arena Soccer League 2 championship playoffs at Hartman Arena in Wichita is the uncertainty about who will emerge with the title Sunday afternoon.
Although Wichita is the No. 1 seed – and has plenty of star power in MASL MVP Franck Tayou and his brother Uzi, not to mention midfielder James Togbah – the three other teams have proven to be more than just competitive during the regular season.
For example two of the teams in Wichita this weekend – the Amarillo Bombers and Chicago Mustangs – already have regular season wins over the Wings. The Cleveland Crunch, the fourth team and No. 2 seed, have two wins over Chicago so far this year, and fell by just a goal against the Wings in early June.
“It truly is anybody’s championship, which means it will be an intense, thrilling weekend of indoor soccer,” Commissioner Chris Economides said. “Despite all the challenges that all sports have faced in the last year plus, we’re proud of our owners and players and fans who have all gotten us here to this weekend. I can’t think of a better way to end it than right here at Hartman Arena.”
Amarillo and Cleveland will kick off at 3 p.m. CST in the first semi-final matchup, while the Wings and Mustangs will be the nightcap, starting at 7 p.m. Sunday’s finals start at 3 p.m. All games will be broadcast live by the “For the Fans” network, available on select cable and satellite providers to 60 million homes worldwide, and online at ftfnext.com
Following is a capsule look at each team:
No. 1 SEED WICHITA WINGS
Goals for: 81
Goals against: 71
Power play: 52%
Penalty kill: 63%
Leader goals: Eduardo "Benji" Monreal (16)
Leader assists: Monreal (8)
Total points leader: " Monreal (24)
What you should know: One of the true superstars of the game, Franck Tayou, who has been a first-team all MASL all star four of the last five seasons, joined the Wings in mid-season, playing so far in six games netting 10 goals and five assists. However, in those six games, the Wings are just 3-3. Tayou is joined by his brother Uzi. Both played last year for the MASL Ontario Fury which advanced to the league championship series where they fall to the San Diego Sockers ... Utica City FC's James Togbah, another MASL standout who was an all-star in the MASL's first ever such game last December, finished the 2021 MASL on loan to the Kansas City Comets ... Wings split much of their goaltending duties this season, with Steven Hamersky finishing with the slightly better goals against average (6.04) and saves percentage (.692) than Aaron Parrott (6.45 and .656). Hammersky was 5-1 this season, while Parrott was 3-2 ... Wings needed overtime on July 9 to beat Amarillo in overtime on the road, 5-4. The Bombers defeated the Wings 7-6 on June 12 at Hartman Arena, a day after Wichita took an 11-5 decision over Amarillo. The Wings also took a 6-3 win over Amarillon on Jan. 23 at home. Chicago and Wichita split a pair of regular season games at the Grand Sports Arena in Chicago, with the Mustangs winning a 12-0 shootut after losing to the Wings the day prior, 8-6. Cleveland and Wichita played just once this year, at Hartman Arena, with the Wings coming out with a 4-3 win .
No. 2 Seed CLEVELAND CRUNCH
Goals For: 94
Goals Against: 5.6
Power Play: 42 percent
Penalty Kill: 58 percent
Leader goals: Mike Dezeric (1)
Leader assists: Admir Suljevic (7)
Leader total points: Dezeric (17,6 - 23)
What you need to know: The Crunch has had a spectacular return to the world of pro indoor soccer, and will be looking for the city's fourth indoor soccer championship after winning titles in the NPSL in 1994, 1996 and 1999 ... Dezeric leads the team in goals despite suiting up for only seven of the Crunch's games during the regular season ... The Crunch spread the wealth offensively while averaging 9.4 goals a game, with six different players in double digits for points ... Marjio Musa has led the way in goal, posting a 5.50 goals against average and a very impressive .815 saves percentage. Both were high water marks in M2 this year. He also led the league in wins with six ... Cleveland had the highest goal differential of any team in M2 this year at +38 ... The Crunch and the Bombers did not meet in the regular season. Cleveland was 2-1 against Chicago and lost their only game against the Wings, 4-3, at Hartman Arena on June 5 ... Dezeric and David Jordan lead the team with two power play goals each.
No 3. SEED AMARILLO BOMBERS
Goals For: 80
Goals Against: 85
Power Play: 50 percent
Penalty Kill: 46 percent
Leader goals: Vitor Patriani (20)
Leader assists: Patriani (11)
Leading scorer: Patriani (31)
What you need to know: Vitor Patriani was second in M2 play this spring with 31 total points, and tied for third overall in goals with 20 ... Patriani also leads an impressive power play unit (50 percent) with three goals, along with Julio Molina and Julio Vargas who each also had three goals with the man advantage ... Molina also has a short handed goal this year ... Patriani established his offensive credentials with 21 goals in just nine games in the 2019-20 season ... This year so far, he has had a three goal game, four goal game and closed the regular season with a five-goal performance in an 11-10 win over the Colorado Inferno ... Jose Chavez started eight games in goal, with a 7.91 goals against average and a saves percentage of .607 ... This will be the first meeting of the season between the Bombers and Crunch. Against other playoff teams, Amarillo was 1-3 against Wichita this season, with the one win coming June 12 in Wichita, 7-6. They did not have a regular season game against Chicago.
No. 4 Seed Chicago Mustangs
Goals For: 81
Goals Against: 86
Power play: 55%
Penalty kill: 65%
Leader goals: Adrian Ortiz (21)
Leader assists: Leo Acosta (5)
Leader points: Leo Acosts (25)
What you need to know: The Mustangs are no strangers to indoor soccer titles, having won the PASL championship in 2013 in completing a perfect 16-0 season, and then bringing home the title in the first year of Major Arena Soccer League 2 in 2017-18, defeating the San Diego Sockers 2 7-0 in the championship game in Colorado Springs ... Adrian Ortiz and Leo Acosta have been a two-man wrecking crew for the Chicago offense this season, with 21 and 20 goals respectively. The only other player in double digits in scoring this year is Alex Gomez ... Twice th s year Ortiz has had five goal games, first on April 25 against Omaha in a 10-5 Chicago win, and again on May 17 in an 11-7 win over the Colorado Inferno... Two of Ortiz's goals came shorthanded, which was tops in M2 this year. Ironically, none of his goals came with the man advantage, while four of Gomez's goals came on the power play ... Acosta has had a hat trick in three of the Mustangs games, and also had his own five-goal game on May 1 against Omaha in a 12-9 defeat ... The Mustangs were 1-2 against Cleveland this year, 1-1 against Wichita, and they did not meet Amarillo in the regular season