The thing about the MISL is, if you’re chasing a team in the standings, you’re going to get plenty of cracks at that opponent.
That’s especially true for the members of the three-team Central Division. One of those is the Wings, who have already played Missouri in six of their 13 games.
The next three games, and four of the next five, will come against Milwaukee. After that stretch, Wichita will have played the Wave seven times. Milwaukee leads the Central, and the league, with an 11-1 record.
The Wings are 5-8 with 11 games remaining, two behind Missouri for a postseason berth.
"We’ve got (Milwaukee) four times coming up," Wings coach LeBaron Hollimon said. "If we can get out of the four games with two wins, that gives us a decent chance of staying in the hunt for that final playoff spot."
After the final game against Milwaukee, the Wings conclude their schedule with six games against Eastern Division opponents. That’s a disadvantage not just for the inability to gain ground in the standings, but for the relative lack of familiarity Wichita has with those teams.
As the season has progressed, the Wings have found ways to adjust against their most common opponents. They just endured a stretch of four straight games against Missouri, winning two and losing by three points in the other two.
"It’s been a good thing for us, because it’s allowed us, as a new team to learn about ourselves and what our deficiencies are," Hollimon said. "That really allows us to address them sooner than if we weren’t playing the top teams the majority of the time."
Milwaukee has dominated the league but not the Wings. The Wave have won all three meetings, but only one, a 15-4 loss on Dec. 16, was decided by more than three points.
The next three games are at home, where Wichita has yet to play the Wave and where the Wings have outscored the opposition by 27 points.
"Even though we’ve played them close — and I think we’ll continue to play them close — what they have, and what they’ve shown the ability to do is continue the pass and punish our smallest mistakes," Hollimon said. "In that sense, it’s a very, very difficult match because we’ve got to continue our focus from the first whistle to the buzzer."
The Wings have had to scheme differently without Chile Farias, who was released late last month. He led Wichita in assists and often found Jamar Beasley, the team’s leading scorer.
With Farias, Beasley had 14 goals in 10 games. Without him, Beasley has scored once in three games.
"I don’t think it’s a coincidence," Hollimon said. "No doubt about it, we lost some talent. Chile had the ability to find Jamar in good scoring opportunities. Jamar now is going to have to learn, and the team is going to have to learn, to put him in more scoring situations."