When the powers that be got together to form the partnership between the old MISL and PASL, tonight's match between the Missouri Comets and the San Diego Sockers was everything they hoped for. These two storied-rivals, playing each other for the first time in over 10 years, put on a display of exciting end-to-end indoor soccer action. The Comets faced the toughest challenge to their undefeated streak yet, but behind a Hat Trick from Vahid Assadpour and a four-point night from Brian Harris, Missouri was able to keep the streak alive with a 10-7 victory at home.
The Comets have been winning games by pressuring their opponents and jumping on the mistakes that followed. San Diego looked to use that strategy against them tonight. Fourteen seconds into the game, former Comets player Jeff Hughes created a turnover shortly after the opening kickoff, then dished it to midfielder Chiky Luna open on the left side. Luna drew the defense, then threaded a pass through the entire defense where veteran Kraig Chiles was waiting at the back post.
Five minutes later, the Sockers once again broke the Comets high pressure attack. This time a shot from Assadpour missed high and the ball found its way back to the midfield line where John Sosa was alone with two Sockers. An easy head flick to Matias Kruger and San Diego suddenly had an odd-man rush developing. As Kruger surveyed his options, Ney made a run across the field. He didn't even have to look as he one-touched the pass from Kruger to the far post, just out of Danny Waltman's reach.
It took San Diego nearly five and half minutes to score their first two goals, but the Comets would rally.
"Obviously we didn't start the way we wanted it," recalled head coach Vlatko Andonovski. "But, I just like the fact that we reacted very well after those first two goals.
Andonovski was a little understated in his analysis. The Comets didn't just react, they exploded with the next five goals of the game. Brian Harris, Leo Gibson, Alain Matingou each got on the scoreboard, while Assadpour collected two goals.
Chiles and former Milwaukee Wave midfielder Nic Perrera got the Sockers within 1 at halftime with two late 2nd quarter scores. Then, coming out of the halftime break Ney got an early goal before Hughes was able to help his team take a 6-5 lead over his former squad.
"I wasn't happy with the way we played," said Andonovski. "The mentality, the effort, the intensity though was tremendous."
Missouri forward Max Touloute was a perfect example of the effort his coach was looking for. After another Sockers breakaway, the 'Haitian Sensation' raced across the field to catch the attack, make the steal and clear the ball. Not done yet, he raced all the way back across the field where Gibson was able to feed him on the right side of the goal. Seemingly on effort alone, Touloute was able to push the ball through the San Diego defense and past the goalkeeper.
Going into the fourth quarter, with the game tied at 6, the Independence Events Center had an air of excitement that had not been around yet this season. There was a quiet confidence in the Comets ability to pull out the win, but for the first time in 2014, a win was far from certain. Missouri opened the period on a power play, thanks to a penalty for Boarding called on San Diego's Luna as the third quarter expired.
Although the team was unable to convert the penalty, the tone was set. The Comets continued to pressure, but immediately had four or five players behind the ball whenever San Diego gained possession. Gibson, Harris and Matingou put the game out of reach for the Sockers with less than five minutes to play. A sixth attacker score from Chiles (his third of the match) gave San Diego brief hope. However, Assadpour quickly closed that down with a precision cross-field shot from his own yellow line. He completed his hat trick with a shot that lobbed over the Sockers' sixth attacker and rolled straight down the middle of the empty net.
The Comets are now 9-0 as they add on to their franchise-best start this season. They will be tested on Wednesday when they travel to Milwaukee on short rest for a New Year's Eve match against the Wave. The Wave are the only other team to truly give the Comets some competition this season. Against a tired Missouri squad, and at home, this one should be another close match.