Fresh off their Central Cup win, the Kansas City Comets are adding the final touches in preparation for the upcoming 2021 MASL regular season, which begins on Jan. 2.
The Comets will be among the 11 teams who have committed to play in 2021, which will require each team to play a minimum of 12 games before April 18 to be eligible for the playoffs.
Teams committed to play: Kansas City Comets, St. Louis Ambush, Dallas Sidekicks, Florida Tropics, Tacoma Stars, San Diego Sockers, Ontario Fury, Rochester Lancers, Baltimore Blast, Utica City FC, Harrisburg Heat
Teams sitting out: Monterrey Flash, Soles de Sonora, Mesquite Outlaws, Milwaukee Wave, Turlock Cal Express
The schedule for all MASL teams this season will be announced on a month-to-month basis, but January has sent the Comets on the road for four straight before a pair of home games against West coast foes to conclude January.
Comets @ Dallas Sidekicks- Sat, Jan. 2- 7:00 p.m. CST (season opener); Featured Match
Comets @ Florida Tropics- Fri, Jan. 8- 6:05 p.m. CST
Comets @ Florida Tropics- Sun, Jan. 10- 2:05 p.m. CST
Comets @ St. Louis Ambush- Sat, Jan. 16, 7:05 p.m. CST
Comets vs Tacoma Stars- Fri, Jan. 22, 7:05 p.m. CST (home opener)
Comets vs San Diego Sockers- Fri, Jan. 29, 7:05 p.m. CST
2019/20 Season Recap
Record: 10-11 (6th place in Eastern Conference)
Goals For: 145
Goals Against: 136
Goal Differential: +9
Having already been eliminated from playoff contention, the Comets were set to miss the playoffs for the second time in three years before the season was cut short with the Monterrey Flash being declared Western Conference champions and the Florida Tropics being declared Eastern Conference champs.
While the Comets performed well at home, their 2-8 road record stung as the Comets dropped all three games in St. Louis. It was also the first season of Leo Gibson’s role as player-coach, replacing Kim Roentved.
There have also been some significant departures and exciting additions, so here is a full list of transactions over the offseason.
Kiel Williams- signed with Florida Tropics as a free agent
Ray Saari- injured
Robert Palmer- unknown
Ray Lee- unknown
Odaine Sinclair- unknown
Lucas Rodriguez- retirement
Stefan Stokic- retirement; joined coaching staff
Nick McDonald- yet to sign a contract, but training with KC and played in Central Cup
Ramone Palmer- visa issues resolved; missed all of 2019/20 season
Lucas Sousa- visa issues resolved; missed all of 2019/20 rookie season
Henry Ramirez- played at UMKC and AFC Ann Arbor of NPSL; signed from KC’s open tryouts
Alvaro Beltran- returns after playing 10 games in 2017/18 with KC
Kyle McLagan- son of former Comet player and assistant coach Doug McLagan
Rian Marques- comes to KC after winning PASL championship with Springfield Demize
Trialists: Nick McDonald, Felipe Abreu, and Jose “Ze” Ramos
Five of the six additions got some valuable minutes in the Central Cup and showed great promise. They will certainly need to fill the void with the loss of players that took up a lot of shifts last season.
What is different about 2021?
Aside from all the effects of COVID-19, the loss of four key veterans (Williams, Palmer, Rodriguez, and Stokic) is going to be difficult to fill, but it will also give the team more fresh legs. Additionally, the Comets won’t have to face the Milwaukee Wave this season, a team that has beaten KC 14 times in 16 attempts since 2017/18. With two MASL powerhouses like the Wave and the Flash out this season, it could pave the way for an underdog, like the Comets, to take the crown.
Potential Breakout Star
Some have said that midfielder Lucas Sousa is the early frontrunner to win Rookie of the Year, but Henry Ramirez is another player that could have a big breakout year. Ramirez showed great speed and tenacity throughout the Central Cup. He will be a real asset if he can further develop as an indoor player.
If the Comets can manage to be amongst the top few teams in the league, Kevin Ellis is going to have to play a major part. Since coming to the MASL midway through the 2018/19 season, Ellis has scored 30 goals in 24 games from all competitions while playing all three field positions. No matter where you put the ex-Sporting KC defender, he finds ways to be effective and he finds ways to score. Ellis transforms the game for the Comets and he is a player the Comets will need to keep fresh.
Expectations for 2021
This Comets team can go in either direction this season. I could see them plummeting near the bottom or continuing to build from their impressive Central Cup display. With so many players with such little experience, it would be surprising if the Comets truly compete with teams like the Florida Tropics or Tacoma Stars near the top of the table. I think a realistic expectation for the Comets is to finish towards the middle of the table. With the playoff format still not released, it is hard to judge how the Comets will fair in the playoffs.
How to watch
The MASL announced that all games this season will be available through Facebook. Fans can purchase games through three options: the regular season pass for $74.99, single game passes for $7.99 per game, or by purchasing team passes that will be available later. Additionally, the league will offer a series of featured matches each month for free, starting with this weekend’s matchup between the Comets and Dallas Sidekicks. The league also announced that the playoff package will be priced at $14.99 per game and the playoff pass will be $29.99.