Wichita, Cleveland Look to Distance Themselves from the Pack

Last week we pointed to a critical weekend for the Cleveland Crunch and Detroit Waza Flo who each had two games on their schedule. Cleveland rose to the occasion with a pair of wins, while Detroit was virtually eliminated from the Eastern Division race with a pair of lopsided losses.

Cleveland now sits atop the Eastern Division with a 6-1 record, 1.5 games ahead of 4-2 Rapid City FC, and the two teams will meet for the third time this season on Saturday. The Crunch won the first two meetings 10-6 and 16-9 -- Rapid City's only two losses -- and a third win would open a big lead in the division.

A similar scenario greets the Wichita Selection (4-1) and Houston Bolt (4-3) who meet up on Saturday and Sunday, with both games in Wichita. The Bolt find themselves two back in the loss column and probably need at least one win to remain viable in the Southern Division. 

Saturday, February 18

Brew City United (0-3) at Omaha Kings (5-0)
Season Series: Omaha leads, 1-0

One of two winless teams, Brew City United will try to unseat the league's only undefeated team. Omaha will not willingly oblige. The Kings are led by Manuel Lira, who was recently dethroned as the league's leading scorer, but has two games in hand against Cleveland's Admir Suljevic.

Cleveland Crunch (6-1) at Rapid City FC (4-2)
Season Series: Cleveland leads, 2-0

Cleveland has beaten Grand Rapids convincingly twice, but Rapid City has reinforced their roster with Daire O'Riordan and Elmedin Zukic. Not to mention Alex Mendez, who set league records for goals (6) and points (9) in his season debut. That trio joins Nermin Crnkic (12 goals, 17 points) and Jacob Potts (11 goals).

They will have to slow a Crunch team that has won six in a row and leads the league in goals per game (11.00). After Admir Suljevic's league-leading 30 points, Cleveland boasts players like David Jordan (15 points), who might be the best two-way player in the league, Ryan Minick (15 points), and Tom Beck, who has three hat tricks this season.

Illinois State Line Falcons (1-3) at Chicago Mustangs (2-2)
Season Series: Chicago leads, 1-0

Chicago will have their hands full with a potent, but inexperienced Falcons team. The recent signing of ex-Mustang Omar Santillan gives the Falcons an added dimension and plugs a defensive hole. Damian "el Tanque" Bolanos is a dynamic player to watch.

The Mustangs  are led by Michael Marchionna's eight goals in four games. Chicago hasn't played since January 17. The Mustangs won the only previous meeting between the teams 7-4 on December 10.

Austin Emerald (0-6) at Springfield Demize (5-3)
Season Series: Springfield leads, 2-0

Bygones will be bygones. Austin's 24-1 loss to Springfield on December 10 is no longer a record thanks to last week's Grand Rapids/Detroit game. 

That doesn't mean the Emerald won't be looking for revenge, not to mention their first win of the season. Desmond Williams (19 points), Dominique Salcedo (13 goals), and Moises Jacobo (8 assists, 11 points) lead a formidable Demize offense.

Houston Bolt (4-3) at Wichita Selection (4-1)
Season Series: Wichita leads, 1-0

The first of two games between the teams in 18 hours. Wichita beat Houston last week 9-5 in Houston in their first meeting.

Radley Arnold is Wichita's leading scorer, while Houston's Jeminson Mejia and Lucio Martinez are tied for fourth in MLIS in points with 18 each.

Sunday, February 19

Monday, February 20

Brew City United at Chicago Mustangs
Season Series: Chicago leads, 1-0

If Brew City falters in Omaha they'll get a second bite at the first-win apple Monday in Chicago. The Mustangs are hosting a rare week day game on President's day.

The Mustangs won the only prior meeting 7-3 on December 17.