First, the big picture...
The MISL (as seems to happen every year) lost two teams but gained two others. Adieu has been bid to the Wichita Wings (which has been reincarnated in the lower-level PASL as the Wichita B-52s) and the Chicago Soul. New to the league are the St. Louis Ambush (not to be confused with the long, long gone St. Louis Ambush) and the already-hapless Pennsylvania Roar.
In addition to the number of teams, the league has subtracted the number of games, with the 20-game schedule reduced from last year's 26 games (and way down from the 44-game schedule of days gone by). OK, so I get the theory that a reduction of the schedule reduces travel costs, payroll and arena costs. But doesn't it, in thoery, also reduce ticket revenue, sponsorship revenue, concession revenue and broadcast revenue (just humor me there, huh)? So if reducing the schedule reduces expenses by MORE than it decreases revenue... this sport ain't too healthy, is it?
What about our team?
That would be your Milwaukee Wave.
- ADDITIONS - Carlos Munoz (from Chicago last season) was second in Rookie of the Year voting to the Wave's Luan Oliviera. Munoz is joined by less-heralded former Soulers Pablo da Silva and Judson McKinney. Also joining the Wave is Victor Quiroz (who previously played in the MISL with Monterrey Fury, Monterrey La Ra Za and the Wichita Wings) and rookie JC Banks, who is the son of Wave Hall of Famer player Jimmy Banks (Side note; Jimmy Banks played for the United States in the 1990 World Cup. Speaking of the World Cup, could the 2014 have done worse than Germany, Ghana and Portugal in the group? Sheesh.) Local boy Philip Surprise, Andy Hackbarth and Tony Walls also join the team this year.
- DEPARTURES - The biggest news is the retirement of Joe Hammes, after 10 seasons and three league championships. Also missing will be Josh Rife who left the team to become the Head Coach of the Rochester Lancers. JP Rodrigues, who had rejoined the team at mid-season last year has now unjoined the team. Those three players made up the heart of the defense on a team that made deep playoff runs in the last few seasons, and it may be hard to replace them on the field. Other guys no longer with the team are Fightin' Tom Oatley (who after two mild-mannered seasons, seemingly developed a shoulder chip during the last off season, and his one goal and 14 penalty minutes shouldn't be too hard to replace), Isreal Sesay (who signed with the PASL Ontario Fury, and well, got into a fight in one of his first games) and a few guys whose mothers love them, but you won't notice their absence.
- RETURNING PLAYERS - 13 players return... you want me to name them all?
The bottom line is that once again the Wave is pretty much 1 or 1A (with Baltimore Blast) as the class of the MISL. They didn't lose any firepower (though there were a few tense moments before Ian Bennett finally signed on) and the duo of Marcel Feenstra and MISL GK of the Year Nick Vorberg remain in the pipes.
If there are any questions, they would be (1) can they replace Hammes / Rife / Rodrigues on defense, (2) can old-timers Marcelo Fontana and Guliano Oliviero keep on keepin' on for one more season, and (3) can Fontana (broken ankle) and Jonathan Santos (knee ligaments) come back from last year's season ending injuries? The Wave has already shut out last season's MISL Champion Blast squad in their building, and Fontana already has two goals in three game this season, so it looks good.
What about the rest of the league?
Baltimore Blast - Last year's league champions are 2-1 already this season, so don't worry about them. They have lost Ptah Myers (Pennsylvania) and Machel Millwood (Syracuse), but they bring back a solid nucleus and should compete for the championship.
Missouri Comets - Last season, the Comets won a double-header in Milwaukee in the playoffs, both on 6th attacker goals in the closing seconds to eliminate the Wave and propel the Comets into the finals. So how do they follow that up? They replace their head coach. Natch. They kept most of their firepower in Byron Alvarez, Leo Gibson, Vahid Assadpour, and Geison Moura. Look for the Wave / Blast / Comets to be in the top three again this season.
St. Louis Ambush - This expansion team is intriguing. They are 1-2 so far (all at home) with an average attendance of 5,721. They just might stick around awhile (provided the league can stick around awhile). On the field, the Ambush mix a lot of rookies with veterans Jeff DiMaria, former Waver Daniel Antoniuk and former Milwaukee Rampage GK (RIP, Rampage) Jeff Richey. Expansion teams rarely compete, and the top three in the league aren't going to beat themselves.
Syracuse Silver Knights - They have two name distinctions... the coolest team name in the league, and they have the player with the coolest name, too (Slavisa Ubiparapovic). Other than that, they're not horrible and they're not great. Kinda like an Ambush team that has been around for a couple of years.
Rochester Lancers - They have the oldest player in the league (Doug Miller) who got his start with the Pangea FC. The Lancers are just like the Silver Knights, except for different uniforms and a 90 mile distance.
Pennsylvania Roar - Let me tell you about the Roar. It's a stupid name, they are already 0-5, have been outscored 77-26, and have an average attendance of 362. No, I didn't forget a comma. Lookin' like they will be the first team in the "Adieu has been bid" section next year at this time... if they even make it through this season. Since nobody in Reading has noticed them, let's celebrate the Roar's aincient GK Peter Pappas, as well as former Waver and Rampager (RIP, Rampage) Angel Rivillo. Just by the looks of things 1/4 into their season, they'll be hard pressed to win a game. No professional soccer team has ever done that.
So join me at tonight's game at 6:00 PM. If you're on the ball, you'll miss him.
Can't make the game? That's OK, too, as all Wave games (home and away) are broadcast LIVE on YouTube.