When the Missouri Comets returned to indoor soccer in 2010, they played their first game at home against the Milwaukee Wave. Since then the Comets have faced off against the Wave more than any other team, including a seemingly annual matchup in the first round of the playoffs. With the dawn of the new MASL, it seems only fitting that the Wave are the first team to visit the Independence Events Center this season as they open the 2014-2015 home schedule for the Comets.
The series is nearly even overall (Wave leads 16-15), but the Comets have had the best of it lately. Last season, including playoffs, Missouri went 6-3 and won the second straight playoff series against the Wave.
Managing a move to a new league was not the only offseason hurdle for the Milwaukee Wave to jump through this season. The most successful head coach in team history, Keith Tozer left the team shortly after the 2014 campaign ended for his side. Shortly after that, a new ownership structure was announced for Milwaukee in an effort to shore up the team’s long-term stability.
The Wave didn’t have to go far to find a replacement for their long-time head coach. Giuliano Oliviero, a veteran who also served as a player/assistant coach over the past six seasons, was named head coach of the Wave on May 27th. Joining him on the coaching staff is goalkeeper Nick Vorberg, who started in Milwaukee’s game last week against the St. Louis Ambush.
"This transition has been unique to say the least," says Oliviero. "To date, everything’s been good. We’ve got most of the team back from last year and we’re just really looking forward to getting back to Missouri for the game this weekend."
MASL’s leading scorer, Leo Gibson looks forward to the renewed rivalry this weekend, "It has been really fun playing some new teams and seeing some new guys. Now going back to playing Milwaukee there will be a lot of familiar faces, so it will be like old times for us."
Familiar faces will be all around the Independence Events Center on Saturday night. The Comets will return 12 of the 14 players who suited up for them in the MISL Semifinals, while Milwaukee brings nine players from that exciting series, plus former Comets player Bato Radoncic.
Both teams come into the match undefeated so far. While the Comets collected 13-4 and 12-6 victories over the Dallas Sidekicks and Chicago Mustangs, the Wave opened their season with a hard-fought 8-4 win in St. Louis last weekend.
Comets head coach Vlatko Andonovski expects his team to have to work harder against the Wave than they did in either of their two matches so far this season. "I don’t see many differences between Milwaukee this year and Milwaukee last year. They are going to be organized, they are going to work hard, they are going to be disciplined."
Andonovski has focused his team on getting back to basics this week as they prepared for their home opener. "Every time we play (Milwaukee) it’s the details that make the difference. Little details here and there…one mistake can decide the game."
On the injury front, the Comets will be without forward Ramone Palmer who suffered a knee injury last week against Chicago. Although the injury isn’t serious, the team wants him to be available later in the season and chose to rest his knee at least one more week.
The Comets have been waiting since March 17th to raise their championship banner in front of their fans. Andonovski thinks those who make it out to the sold-out arena will not be disappointed.
"It’s going to be a good show…We of course are going to do our best, give our fans a good performance, but at the end of the day it’s going to be Comets versus Wave and you never know how those games are going to end up."