New on SocTakes: MASL preview: Southwest Division

Southwest Division

Photo credit: Dravecky (Creative Commons license)

Welcome back to our series of previews for the upcoming MASL season. This edition focuses on the Southwest Division.

If you missed the other parts, click here to read those. With that done, let’s jump back in.

The Southwest Division has gained one team returning from a season-long hiatus, and lost one team that has exited the league entirely. The Dallas Sidekicks are back, as promised with their announcement last September, and have a reorganized front office containing a number of fantastic soccer people. Meanwhile, the Soles de Sonora have stepped away from the MASL and are instead contesting the Mexican LMFR-Pro. This leaves the division with four teams, same as before.

Dallas Sidekicks – Allen, Texas

  • Founded: 2012
  • Home venue: Allen Event Center (6,006)
  • Head coach: Simon Bozas
  • Last season: hiatus

When the Dallas Sidekicks were refounded back in 2012, they were an absolute juggernaut in the MASL, finishing 13-3, 14-2 and 14-6 in their first three seasons. Despite not winning a championship, the team was undeniably among the strongest in the league on and off the field. That is, until a combination of financial issues and broken contracts led head coach and legendary player Tatu to step away from the team, with new ownership coming in and Simon Bozas appointed as Tatu’s replacement. Immediately, things fell apart. The Sidekicks went 7-13 two seasons in a row, well outside playoff contention, and saw their attendance plummet below 2,300. Then, the hiatus, which I actually wrote about earlier this summer. They’re officially back now, and things are already looking promising. In conversations with minority partner Michael Hitchcock — also of Fort Worth Vaqueros and Denton Diablos — the attitude is incredibly different and, in my opinion, much improved. I’ll 100 percent be at the home opener.

El Paso Coyotes – El Paso, Texas

  • Founded: 2016
  • Home venue: El Paso County Coliseum (6,500)
  • Head coach: Jose Luis Trevino
  • Last season: 11-11, 3rd in Southwest, DNQ
  • Average attendance: 2,067, 12th in MASL

The El Paso Coyotes had the absolute worst debut season in MASL history, going 0-20 in the 2016-17 campaign. Improving from that catastrophic debut to 11-11 the next year made them undeniably the most improved team. They actually looked consistently solid, even holding their own against a stupidly dominant Monterrey Flash side. Honestly, given the departure of Sonora, the Coyotes could easily contend for the playoffs this season. The battle between them and the Sidekicks is going to get interesting, as that second playoff spot in the Southwest is likely going to one of those two teams.

Monterrey Flash – Monterrey, Mexico

  • Founded: 2013 (2017-18)
  • Home venue: Arena Monterrey (17,500)
  • Head coach: Mariano Bollela
  • Last season: 20-2, 1st in Southwest, lost final to Baltimore
  • Average attendance: 3,006, 6th in MASL

Monterrey joined back when the league was still the PASL and made an immediate impact, finishing just one game behind dominant Dallas and Hidalgo squads. The next year, Monterrey came out swinging, losing just twice en route to a first place finish. They flattened Dallas 11-1 in their first playoff game and cruised to a championship title. Then they took two seasons off stemming from financial issues. The Flash returned last season and dominated the Southwest Division, and lost the championship game at home by just a single goal. Monterrey has regrouped and improved, and they’re such an easy favorite to do what they do once again.

RGV Barracudas FC – Hidalgo, Texas

  • Founded: 2014
  • Home venue: State Farm Arena (5,500)
  • Head coach: Genoni Martinez
  • Last season: 3-19, 4th in Southwest, DNQ
  • Average attendance: 1,361, 15th in MASL

RGV took the 2016-17 season off, following their second MASL season in which the Barracudas finished 8-12. Despite the on-field performances declining in their return campaign, winning only three of 22 games, attendance climbed substantially, with the team posting their highest average yet. This offseason, they’ve retooled their roster around several significant additions from Sonora and Monterrey, and at the very least should have their offensive issues from last season resolved. If they can figure out how to stop leaking goals, they might be alright.

Soles de Sonora – Hermosillo, Mexico

With the four returning teams out of the way, here’s a brief summary of the current situation in Sonora. The Soles, who made the finals in 2016 and 2017, are electing to sit out the upcoming campaign. It’s believed that they’re likely to field a team in the Mexican LMFR-Pro, and they have left the door open for a potential return in the future, but it might not be under the Soles name. Considering how strong the team was on and off the field, there’s no doubt that the league wants to return to Hermosillo, but the big question is ownership. Right now, that’s about as much as we know.

Follow John on Twitter: @JohnMLTX.

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