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Sunflower State FC MASL III 2020-2021 Season Recap

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

February 25th, 2021

Salvatore Sesti PT., DPT.

Sunflower State FC Finished 2nd in Inaugural MASL III Season

Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) is the organization that manages the highest level of indoor soccer in North America. MASL started in 2008 but was then known as the Premier Arena Soccer League (PASL)—they subsequently merged with the Major Indoor Soccer League in 2014. In July of 2020, MASL commissioner Joshua Schaub saw a need for teams to play in a developmental league that allowed players to improve their indoor game while keeping their eligibility/amateur status to play for schools and other organizations simultaneously (Husted, 2020). This led to the creation of Major Arena Soccer League III (MASL3 or M3), wherein there would be three conferences: The Great Lakes Conference, Heartland Conference, and Southwest Conference. Sunflower State FC (SSFC), based out of Kansas City, Kansas, naturally joined the Heartland Conference.

SSFC was brought together by head coach Nick McDonald along with assistant coach Kenny Mayer. The team consisted of some original players, players from the outdoor Summer team, and a few fresh faces who showed they belong after SSFC had their first open tryouts in the Fall of 2020. The newly organized indoor SSFC team began practicing in November of 2020 at Soccer Nation KC for the season that ran from December 2020 to February 2021. The team faced their fair share of adversity in their first season as they battled poor weather, injuries, and COVID-19. However, thanks to strong leadership from owners Joseph Lipoff, Andrew Lentell, and the coaching staff, SSFC successfully navigated their first season in great form. SSFC’s management laid the foundation for the club to grow and be successful for many years to come.

SSFC competed against three other teams in the Heartland Conference—Omaha Kings FC, Springfield Demize, and Wichita Wings II. The small number of teams this past season was due, in part, to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Springfield Demize was founded by Chris Hanlon in 2014 and were 2020’s PASL Champions. They brought a pedigree of success and experience to the Heartland Conference—Springfield is a strong team who know how to play together well and use the confines of the indoor game better than most. Springfield are coached by Guilherme Ferreira and play their home games at Soccer Dome within Lake Country Soccer in Springfield, Missouri.

Wichita Wings II, owned by Blake Shumaker, serves as the developmental team to the M2 Wichita Wings. The team, founded this past year, is extremely young with many players still in high school. They were joined by a few Wichita Wings I players, who acted as mentors while staying sharp themselves. They are led by head coach Kyle Eno, known for his developmental skills in the Wichita area. Eno also acted as an assistant to M2 Wichita Wings head coach Roger Downing. They play their games at Hartman Arena in Park City, Kansas, as well as the brand-new facility, Wichita Hoops, in Bel Aire, Kansas.

Omaha Kings FC were founded in 2019 by owners Emmanuel and Natalie Veil. They are coached by Fernando Gatica and are a very physical team that have been playing a lot of games together over the past couple years. They all had a great idea how to get the most out of each individual player — in the middle of this past M3 season, the Kings announced they would be joining M2 in the upcoming season.

SSFC came together as a team as the indoor season progressed. The growth was evident game-to-game as the players learned each other’s tendencies and developed trust with each other. SSFC is so grateful to all the players who were with us this year, and several players stood out over the year — Girma Kassa, Ruairi Cotter, Tito Favela, Isaias de la Torre, Spencer Jean Baptiste, and Wyatt Fowler.

SSFC’s head coach, Nick McDonald, signed to play with the KC Comets (MASL I League, based in Independence, MO), which forbade him from continuing as a player-manager for SSFC. As a result, SSFC needed a striker to replace him that they could rely on in a pinch. That striker turned out to be Girma Kassa. Throughout the year, Kassa rose to local stardom by amassing 12 goals in the regular season and 6 goals in the play-offs. Kassa could score from anywhere but his signature move was cutting in from the left, beating a defender or two, and launching a long-range shot from just outside the box and past the opposing goalkeeper. He adapted well to the indoor game and will look to build on that success this upcoming year for both SSFC and Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

SSFC goalkeeper, 20-year-old Tito Favela, also showed exceptional growth. At the start of the indoor season, SSFC lost their outstanding goalkeeper, Sam Glass, who went out for the year due to hernia surgery. A Kansas City Youth Rise graduate, Tito Favela came to SSFC with a considerable amount of natural talent. Throughout the season, he has displayed quick reflexes, athleticism between the posts, courage in 1v1 situations, and his ability to read the game well. At the beginning of the year, Favela proved himself able in important defensive moments. SSFC was still adjusting to the indoor game and had occasional lapses in defense— Favela made sure most of those lapses amounted to nothing with his shot-stopping skill. Favela substantially developed his positioning and foot skills throughout the season and became an asset in possession by improving his angles when stopping an opponent on breakaways. Favela showed a mastering of the indoor game by the end of the season tournament by picking up his first assist.

SSFC finished 2nd in both the 2020-21 regular season and playoffs after 3 wins, 3 losses, and a 2nd place finish in the MASL III League Heartland Tournament.

SSFC’s post season showcased two exciting games. SSFC beat Springfield Demize for a second time in two weeks after a golden goal in extra time from Spencer Jean Baptiste to take SSFC to the MASL III League Heartland Tournament Final. Going into the Final, SSFC had lost Ruairi Cotter and Isaias de la Torre to injury. However, that didn’t stop SSFC from giving Omaha Kings a run for their money. At the start of the second half, backed by 4 goals from Girma Kassa, SSFC were leading by 2 goals. Unfortunately, Omaha would go on to score 9 goals to put the game out of reach, with the final score being 13-7. It was a valuable lesson in championship play for SSFC, as they will look to continue their success and finish off their upcoming seasons strong.

SSFC’s next indoor season will start in November 2021. Until then, they will play their outdoor United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) season, which begins in April 2021.

A heartfelt “Thank You!” for all support from our fans and sponsors during our inaugural MASL III indoor season!

—SSFC Management 🌻

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