Gemini, 27, 2078, m249
Let's flash back to some key Season 1 trends to see how Season 2 might play out as we countdown to the MAFL opening weekend.
As runners-up of Season 1, the Titans started strong. They roared in with a 12 game winning streak after week 3, ending with the best overall record—16 and 5. However, many wonder if the Titans peaked too soon as they limped to the playoffs with only one win in their last four matches.
“We might have tried too hard to impress early on, and we suffered a number of injuries down the stretch,” said Titans manager, Pablo Salgado. “Captain Raenia Ware went down mid-season, then our leading scorer Readale Nash, and then the list kept growing. We were definitely not at full strength at the end.”
Ware elaborated on adjustments for Season 2, “This off-season, we stepped up our endurance training and Pablo will be managing the minutes of our key players more carefully this season. That means all of us will need to step up and provide more balanced play.”
Balanced play was key to the Comets’ championship run.
They did not experience the same peaks and valleys as the Titans and ended the season with strong. Going into the playoffs 4-2. The Comets were also far less reliant on a few star players, with more balanced play on both the defensive and offensive end.
“Coach made sure we stayed even throughout the season,” said Comets Captain, Liddell Bradley. “Even after all three losses to the Titans, Coach wouldn’t let us get too down having us just focus on fixing our mistakes. We’ll need to keep that kind of focus throughout Season 2 if we are to defend our title.”
Defending that title will not only mean fending off the Titans, but also the offensive fury of Amrita (with leading scorer Uday Lanka), and Al’amal’s trio of Musaddiq Baddour, Arwa Farra, and Hamad Fayad.
Based on off-season rumblings, both teams have been busy. Amrita is looking to add complementary players to Lanka while Al’amal is reportedly dangling either Fayad or Farra to get some high level defenders back.
And what are the other teams up to?
Europa is hoping that Darkeem Dennis to help enhance their anemic offence. However, Dennis was relatively quiet after Week 4 having scored only one goal for the remainder of the season.
Tiangong is hoping the subtraction of manager Bobby Chung will help add a new winning culture and enable growth such as the type that forward Vygintas Respsas started to show at the end of Season 1.
Huacheng is hoping additional training, player growth and potential new players will help their Season 2.
They can hope but new additions are unlikely to come. If anything, there is a trend towards players leaving MAFL as at least 8 players have confirmed they will opt out of their pro-sporting career.
While most of these players are from the larger squads (Europa, Comets and Titans), this will have a ripple effect across the league as teams will look to aggressively poach and recruit from others.
For now though, barring any injuries, the Comets and Titans are still the front-runners for Season 2. However, if Al’amal can engineer a deal to shore up their defence, they would be our dark horse pick.