Is it 7:30 Friday night yet?
Tom Traxler is asking for a friend.
The Orlando SeaWolves’ head coach has looked at the clock longingly at the clock all week, eagerly anticipating the kickoff of the team’s regular-season opener at the Silver Spurs Arena against the St. Louis Ambush.
“We’re really starting to feel the buzz,” Traxler said of his players, himself and all those around the franchise, which will play in the Major Arena Soccer League.
It’s the leadoff game of the 2018-19 MASL season and the first of 12 home games and 24 SeaWolves matches total.
Since winning an exhibition match, 3-2 in overtime, over the Brazilian National Mini-Football Team on Nov. 10 at the Spurs, the team has really been on the run, practicing in Kissimmee, Orlando, Maitland and Reunion, but the process has brought the SeaWolves together, Traxler said.
“Every day you learn and you work, so I think we’ll be markedly better than the Brazil game,” he said. “Those who saw that game will see a more-organized team … a different team, really.”
The last two weeks have been spent figuring out which players would go together on which lines and who the final players on the night’s 15-player active roster will be.
“We should have everything finalized by (tonight),” Traxler said earlier in the week. “We’ve really been focused on having the right guys out there for our set pieces, which are really important in the indoor game.”
The current roster shows 20 players. Against Brazil, Gordy Gurson, who scored the first goal, and Rafa Tobias, who scored the final one, also played on a line with Phibo Arriaga, who has fourth years of service in indoor soccer.
They may play together, as well as the contingent of players who came over from the Orlando City Soccer organization — Luke Boden, Lewis Neal, Tyler Turner and Johnny Mendoza. Two or three of them were on the field at a time together against Brazil.
Boden said he “had a blast” in the Brazil game playing in and getting used to the fast pace of the indoor game after a full career playing traditional outdoor soccer.
“It’s so different, the boards, the speed of plays, the different set pieces, and learning the edges of them to get extra goals while learning all the new rules.”
New fans to the game can expect a hockey-like pace and feel to MASL soccer, with on-the-fly line shifts, power plays after certain penalties and shots that narrowly miss the net pounding off the side boards or plexiglass and coming right back into play. The game also has a near-constant flow — even with a brief overtime the Brazil match took about two hours and ten minutes.
The schedule is favorable to start the season — five of the first seven games are at home and the two road games in that stretch are in Lakeland against the Florida Tropics. The team won’t leave Florida until a Jan. 27 match in Utica, N.Y.
After Friday, the next home matches are Dec. 14 (Baltimore Blast) and 22 (Ontario, Canada’s Missasauga MetroStars).