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All Decade team: Kansas City Comets

The staff and experts weigh in on who should be on the All Decade team for the Comets

Thad Bell

The first of three All-Decade team articles.

The 2010’s, (that feels so weird to write) was an amazing decade for soccer in Kansas City. The sport blossomed all around the city at every level and each professional team had their highs and lows.

The Kansas City Wizards became Sporting Kansas City and moved into a beautiful new stadium in 2011. The city responded with enthusiasm over the next few years. A full and raucous stadium combined with entertaining and successful teams on the field blended to make Sporting KC games THE place to be in Kansas City. Three U.S. Open Cups and the 2013 MLS Cup gave the hardware to show off the success.

FC Kansas City was one of the highs and lows for soccer in Kansas City. The U.S., Canadian and Mexican federations (for a short time) came together to kick start a new women’s league. After two previous leagues failed to make it past the three-year mark (hubris, mismanagement and more) the NWSL started with a less lofty attitude and a better plan. Kansas City was awarded a franchise to the then owners of the Comets. A coach with an indoor soccer background and not well known outside of an arena (and youth soccer) was given the reins. Vlatko Andonovski led the “Blues” to the playoffs in the first three years with championships in 2014 and 2015. Ownership struggles in 2016 and outright ownership mismanagement in 2017 bordering on negligent malpractice forced the team to be shut down and the franchise moved to Utah. Two trophies and a beautiful style that led Andonovski to be elevated to the highest profile job in women’s soccer as the U.S. Women’s National Team coach is a pretty good legacy for a team that lasted just five years.

At the same time the Wizards were transitioning to Sporting Kansas City, the original soccer sweetheart of Kansas City made another comeback. Indoor soccer exposed a lot of Kansas Citians to a form of the sport in the 80’s and third and latest version made their return in 2010. The Missouri Comets brought back “Hot Winter Nights” playing at the Independence Events Center. The team later replaced the Missouri with Kansas City to better represent who they are and have only missed the playoffs once while winning their league title in the 2013-14 season. A couple ownership changes and struggles but the team seems to be on a strong path with local management, home grown players and a new excitement for the future.

The first coach for the Comets was indoor legend Kim Roentved who put together a team that was the foundation for later success. Always looking for a team that played solid defense and a quick passing offense the team grew over the first few years. When assistant coach Andonovski took over the team stepped up another level, winning the championship and setting a model for other teams to try and follow.

The Comets have been fortunate to have some of the best players in the indoor game, some former Sporting KC players and a lot of players with local ties as the backbone of the squad. Trying to pick an All-Decade team for the Comets at first sounds easy but as the experts we consulted gave their teams they all realized just how deep and competitive the Comets have been over the last decade.

With two full teams including a goalie on each team as the generic format, former coaches, management and media have made their All-Decade selections in whatever format they wanted.

Brian Budzinski:

Budzinski was the driving force behind the Comets return and an original owner. With a love and knowledge for the indoor game that is rare amongst ownership, Budzinski has been a huge factor in building the team upon it’s rebirth and again this year when he joined the new ownership group.

1st team

G Danny Waltman, D John Sosa, D Brian Harris, M Vahid Assadpour, M Bryan Perez, F Leo Gibson

2nd team

G Boris Pardo, D Ryan Junge, D Robert Palmer, M Lucas Rodriguez, M Ramone Palmer, F Stefan Stokic

Sosa, Gibson and Perez are all deserving of being on the All Decade team.
Thad Bell

Goran Karadzov:

“G” was an assistant under Andonovski for both the Comets and FC Kansas City before becoming the Comets head coach in 2016. He is a noted local youth coach that has taken his teams to the national level numerous times.

1st team

G Danny Waltman, D John Sosa, D Robert Palmer, M Ramone Palmer, M Vahid Assadpour, F Leo Gibson

2nd team

G Boris Pardo, D Brian Harris, D Alain Matingou, M Max Touloute, M Lucas Rodriguez, F Stefan Stokic

Alan Mayer:

Alan is a legend in Kansas City soccer. Former Comets and U.S. National Team keeper, Mayer has been a coach for the Comets, the Wizards, SKC Academy and local colleges in the area. It is no coincidence that Mayer has coached several of the best keepers in both indoor and outdoor.

1st team

G Danny Waltman, F/D Leo Gibson D John Sosa, M Vahid Assadpour, M Lucas Rodriguez, F Byron Alvarez

2nd team

G Boris Pardo, D Robert Palmer, D Brian Harris, M Ramone Palmer, M Bryan Perez, F Stefan Stokic

Jeff Husted:

Jeff was the PR/Media relations (and other hats) staff for both the Comets and FC Kansas City and this year bumped up to the MASL league office. I told most people they could do it anyway they want and Jeff took advantage of the freedom to name a full roster. He may have given us one too many starters but we will overlook that since he is the only to spell out every name and not just use nicknames or last names.

Forwards

Leo Gibson*, Byron Alvarez*, Ramone Palmer, Stefan Stokic

Midfield

Vahid Assadpour*, Lucas Rodriguez*, Bryan Perez, Geison – HM, Milan Ivanovic

Defense

John Sosa*, Brian Harris*, Ryan Junge, Robert Palmer, Alain Matingou

Goalkeepers

Danny Waltman*, Boris Pardo, Stephen Paterson

*starters

Vlatko Andonovski

Andonovski was the head coach when the Comets won the MISL Championship and has a tremendous amount of insight to the team still today. Current head coach Leo Gibson lists Vlatko as his mentor as a coach. One of the fun things in talking to the various contributors for this was watching and listening to them decide who to include. Speaking with Andonovski was almost a coaching lesson in itself, listing off which players contributed to the championship and wanting to make sure players were recognized that did not always get the glory.

1st team

G Waltman, D Harris, D Sosa, M Vahid Assadpour, M Lucas Rodriguez, F Leo Gibson

2nd team

G Boris Pardo, D Robert Palmer, D Alan Matingou, M Bryan Perez, M Ramone Palmer, F Stefan Stokic

Nick Vasos

Nick has been the broadcast voice of the Comets and has obviously watched them closely. Nick works in local news and is a wealth of historical knowledge about the game. #prayersforNick

1st team

G Danny Waltman, F Leo Gibson, M Vahid Assadpour, M Bryan Perez, D Brian Harris, D John Sosa.

2nd team

GK Stephen Paterson, F Byron Alvarez, M Geison Moura, M Lucas Rodriguez, D Guerrero Pino D Robert Palmer

Mike Kuhn

Mike is the unofficial historian of all things soccer in Kansas City for the past two decades. Need a stat? Mike has it in a spreadsheet somewhere.

1st team

G Waltman, D Sosa, D Harris, M Assadpour, M Rodriguez, F Gibson

2nd team

G Paterson, D Junge, D Andrews, M Geison, M Perez, F Alvarez

Nathan Dunn

Nathan has the Comets beat writer for The Blue Testament and can be read around the internet. Nathan not only provided his teams but his reasonings as well.

1st team:

GK- Danny Waltman

One of the best keepers in the modern era of indoor soccer; great shot-stopper and great with his feet; shoes still haven’t been filled five seasons after departure

D- Brian Harris

Full of energy; Difficult to replace after he didn’t return after 2016/17; 2014 MISL Championship MVP

D- John Sosa

Vital on dangerous restarts; on-field coach; great intelligence and ball control

M- Vahid Assadpour

Connected defense to midfield better than anyone else; still hasn’t been replaced; vital on restarts

F- Leo Gibson

Stats speak for itself; Incredible that he’s scored more goals than he has games played despite spending some time playing defense;

F- Byron Alvarez

First three seasons were sensational; big goal against the Wave in playoffs

2nd team

GK- Mark Saxby

By default; only keeper other than Waltman to have an impact for multiple seasons; great story (working at Olive Garden and signing as an emergency keeper)

D- Robert Palmer

Great shotblocker; picked over Stokic because Palmer doesn’t miss as many opportunities as Stokic; good physical presence

D- Alain Matingou

Intelligent player; unorthodox approach that could cause the opposition trouble when attacking; provided good balance

M- Bryan Perez

Solid and consistent contributor throughout his career; former captain

F- Ramone Palmer

Blazing speed and quickness; knows his role; unique player for the indoor game

F- Kiel Williams

Has gradually made himself a solid forward; gets better every season

Thad Bell

Since I am compiling the list, I get to go last and make/break my own rules guidelines.

1st team

G Waltman, D Sosa, D Harris, M Assadpour, M Rodriguez, F Gibson

2nd team

G Pardo, D Junge, D Palmer, M Perez, M Palmer, F Stokic

Byron Alvarez, Milan Ivanovic, Alain Matingou and Coady Andrews all deserve to be on this team as well and would be on my roster.

There is a reason every single person named Waltman, Gibson, Assadpour and Sosa to the first team. At their best they would be starting for any team in the league and should be in the indoor hall of fame.

Waltman not only was a top keeper in the league for years but was also the most fan friendly player possible. Post-game autograph sessions drew the longest lines for kids (and their parents) to get his autograph again and again. He could stand on his head and spin around his curly locks to steal a game and was good enough with his feet to be an asset out of the box. Pre-game introductions have not been the same since he left with no more backflips off the wall.

Waltman doing his normal flip before the game
Thad Bell

Gibson is so talented he could be listed in any of the field player roles and he has played them all. Could be the prototype of an indoor power forward. He leads the team in just about every statistical category and now leads the team as the player-coach this year.

Sosa went from the midfield to defense so he could better control the game with his vision. He keeps the ball moving as a deep lying playmaker and is normally on the ball during set pieces.

Assadpour has not played for a couple years but was a true leader for the Comets. Need a goal to tie the game up or take the lead, odds are he would he have scored it or set up the goal when the team was dominate.

Harris was one of the most physical defenders for the Comets.
Thad Bell

Rodriguez and Harris round out my first team and was on most of the lists, just not all of the first teams. Harris was a rough and tough defender that would run through a wall if needed. Added a fair amount of spectacular goals as well.

Alvarez celebrating a goal
Thad Bell

At mid it was a tough choice between Rodriguez and Perez but Lucas got the nod from me for the first team. Perez was a key contributor for the Comets but Lucas brings a little more offense.

On the second team I wanted to include Byron “El Matador” Alvarez. He was such a big part of the early success of the Comets and was a deadly sniper, especially on restarts and power plays. His celebrations jumping on the wall and sometimes into the stands became so legendary they created an Alvarez rule to stop him.

Ultimately, I had to include Stefan Stokic in that spot. There is nobody more dedicated and consistently hard working on the field than Stokic and nobody more committed to blocking shots. His work on the penalty kill alone would earn him consideration.

A number of other players could and probably should be considered. Let us know if we missed someone or who would be on your All-Decade team.

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