Welcome to another part of our MASL season preview series. This installment focuses on the Pacific Division and its four teams along the West Coast of the United States.
As before, if you haven’t read the previous installments, click here. With that out of the way, let’s get back to it.
Ontario Fury – Ontario, Calif.
- Founded: 2013
- Home venue: Citizens Business Bank Arena (9,736)
- Head coach: Jimmy Nordberg
- Last season: 10-12, 3rd in pacific, DNQ
- Average attendance: 2,378 11th in MASL
Not to be confused with Ontario, Canada, or the Ottawa Fury based there, the Ontario Fury have been part of the league for five seasons now. Last season was the first time in the MASL era that the Fury finished below .500, and they missed out on the playoffs by just a single game. This followed two consecutive 12-8 seasons which, because this is the MASL, led to a fourth and second place finish in a fluctuating Pacific Division. Honestly, considering how close they’ve been to the playoffs in their two most recent non-playoff seasons, the Fury are probably fine this year if they can handle Tacoma.
San Diego Sockers – San Diego
- Founded: 2009
- Home venue: Valley View Casino Center (12,920)
- Head coach: Phil Salvagio
- Last season: 19-3, 1st in Pacific, lost Western final
- Average attendance: 3,284, 5th in MASL
San Diego has been undeniably among the strongest teams in the league. Through nine seasons in their current iteration, the Sockers have four titles and have never missed the playoffs. This includes last season, where San Diego lost just three of 22 regular season games, dispatched Tacoma in the division finals and only lost the Western Conference final to Monterrey by two goals. Even if they haven’t made a championship game/series in the MASL era, it’s not for a lack of effort or quality. I firmly expect San Diego to once again dominate the Pacific Division, leaving the remaining three teams to fight over second place.
Tacoma Stars – Kent, Wash.
- Founded 2009 (2014-2015)
- Home venue: ShoWare Center (6,500)
- Head coach: Darren Sawatzky
- Last season: 11-11, 2nd in Pacific, lost Division final
- Average attendance: 2,635, 7th
Tacoma has an interesting history, even if we exclude the previous teams under the Stars name. The team joined the professional ranks for 2010-11 after winning the semi-pro Premier Arena Soccer League title the previous season, had a great debut season and then missed the playoffs twice. They self-relegated for a year, then elected to participate in the Western Indoor Soccer League. The Seattle/Tacoma market was then filled for 2014-15 by the Seattle Impact. The Impact’s brief tenure in the MASL featured, among other issues, the entire front office core walking out just before the season began, several sexual harassment charges against owner and player-coach Dion Earl from dance team members, and the resignation of 22 players in November of that season. Roughly six weeks later, the Stars bought out the Impact and took over for the rest of the season. Since then, the Tacoma Stars have been almost as good as their jerseys, and last season they held their own against San Diego in the playoffs. Just like in the original MISL, never sleep on Tacoma.
Turlock Express – Turlock, Calif.
- Founded: 2011
- Home venue: Turlock Soccer Complex (700)
- Head coach: Art Pulido
- Last season: 3-19, 4th in Pacific, DNQ
- Average attendance: 428
Turlock is an oddity within the MASL. First up, look at the average attendance and venue capacity. Those aren’t typos. Turlock plays in a tiny and comparatively basic arena, so their total attendance of 4,706 was smaller than the crowds at three individual playoff games. That said, Turlock keeps coming back year-in, year-out, and I have nothing but respect for them. Last season was particularly rough for the Express, mainly because of San Diego’s continued dominance, but that doesn’t mean there’s no point in their continued participation in the league. They’ve come agonizingly close to playoffs twice in the past four years, and if a few pieces come together, they might actually get it done.
I personally am ridiculously excited for the MASL season, and as we get closer to kickoff, I’ll have some more things on team jerseys, streaming and more.
Follow John on Twitter: @JohnMLTX.
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