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Hewerton Action -23858486

Ambush player/coach Hewerton plays the ball on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017 against the Kansas City Comets in Independence, Mo. He now has given up his playing career but remains the team's coach. (Ambush photo by Amy Kontras)

Hewerton is about to begin his third season as the coach of the Major Arena Soccer League’s St. Louis Ambush.

But this year, the Brazilian, who goes by one name, is focused completely on coaching. In previous seasons, he was a player/coach.

“The guys, they’re kidding me about playing again this season, but that part of my career is over,” Hewerton said. “Last year, because of injuries (that limited him to eight games), most of my time was focused on coaching. I’m excited about it and looking forward to working with this group. We feel like we’ve put together a good team and I’m excited about the new season.”

The Ambush, who play home games at St. Charles Family Arena, open the MASL season Friday with a 7:05 p.m. home match against the defending league champion Milwaukee Wave. On Saturday, the Ambush play in Kansas City, taking on the Comets at 6:05 p.m.

A year ago, the Ambush (10-14) placed third in the South Central Division, behind Milwaukee (21-3) and Kansas City (13-11).

This 17-team league is split between two conferences this season. St. Louis is in the Eastern Conference along with Milwaukee, Kansas City, Florida, Utica, Baltimore, Harrisburg, Rochester and Orlando.

The Western Conference has Monterrey, Turlock, Ontario, Mesquite, Dallas, Tacoma, San Diego and Sonora.

The top four finishers in each conference will advance to the Ron Newman Cup playoffs.

“We’ve made changes and feel like it’s going to make us a stronger, better team,” said Hewerton, whose squad beat visiting Dallas 4-3 in an exhibition match here on Nov. 16. “The guys we’ve brought in are extremely coachable and they’re excited about the new season. We have some good, quality players back, but we’ve also added some new guys who’ll help us improve and hopefully make a run at a playoff spot.”

Among the key players returning for the Ambush include goalkeeper Paulo Nascimento, who’s appeared in 42 games over the past two seasons and earned all-league honorable mention honors a year ago; defender Magui Souza, an honorable mention all-league player who had 10 goals and 12 assists last year; and Axel Duarte, a Lindenwood University product who blocked 24 shots in 1998-99.

Key returning players in the attack include Ambush veteran Lucas Almeida. Beginning his fifth season here, Almeida led the team with 34 points a year ago, finishing with 12 goals and 22 assists. Another returning attacker to watch is forward Stefan St. Louis, who’s beginning his ninth professional indoor season. In 113 career games, St. Louis has 111 points with 57 goals and 44 assists.

“We have a solid group of returning players to build around,” Hewerton said.

Some key newcomers to watch include Duduca Carvalho, a 6-foot-1, 209-pound target forward from Brazil; former St. Louis FC outdoor player Tony Walls, a solid two-way forward who was acquired in a recent trade with the Ontario Fury; and a pair of players who had been with the Cedar Rapids Rapids — forward Diego Bobadilla and midfielder Jonnathan Pachar.

Hewerton is also excited about the addition of forward/midfielder Oitomeia Souza, a Brazilian who’s expected to join the squad in December.

“We feel like we’ve put together a deep and solid team,” Hewerton said. “We’re excited the start the season and we’re anxious to see how we stack up against Milwaukee and Kansas City.”

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