The Kansas City Comets opened the 2021/22 MASL season with a pair of wins over the St. Louis Ambush. The first win came on Friday in St. Louis by a final score of 6-4 before an 11-6 win on Saturday at home.
Starting the season with a pair of wins is always good. To do it against a big rival like the Ambush makes it even better.
“It was a great test for us,” said Comets player-coach Leo Gibson after Saturday’s win. “And for us to come out on top is absolutely incredible.”
Both teams entered the doubleheader with depleted squads as the main problem for the Comets was visa issues while the Ambush were mostly dealing with injuries.
Friday’s win was a come-from-behind win as the Comets came back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits in the first half. Entering halftime tied at 2-2, the Comets poked in front to gain advantages of 3-2 and 4-3, but each time the Ambush equalized. Finally, the Comets fended off the Ambush after taking a 5-4 lead that was extended to 6-4 against the sixth attacker.
Gibson led the way in St. Louis with two goals and an assist, followed by Ray Lee’s two goals. John Sosa and Kyle McLagan also notched goals.
“All these games are always difficult,” Kevin Ellis said about the rivalry with St. Louis. “The intensity’s high. The tackles are harder.”
Saturday’s 11-6 win was completely different from Friday’s game. The Comets had a commanding 6-1 lead after the first quarter as John Sosa scored twice, accompanied on the scoresheet by Kevin Ellis, James Togbah, Ignacio Flores and Leo Gibson. Then things turned ugly for KC in the second quarter as the Comets suffered four blue cards and allowed four goals to let the Ambush back in the game with a halftime score of 6-5 in favor of KC.
“We took our foot off the pedal,” Gibson said about Saturday’s second quarter. “We started playing a little bit lackadaisical and started putting us in foul trouble, but I think as the season goes on that’s something that we will develop. Better habit, regardless of the score, just stay disciplined and consistent.”
The Comets bounced back late in the third quarter as Gibson and Ellis scored inside the last 30 seconds of the period, giving KC a more comfortable 8-5 lead heading into the final frame. The veteran pair each completed their hat tricks in the fourth quarter as Togbah also added his second.
The veteran presences of Gibson and Ellis, in addition to John Sosa and Ray Lee, accounted for eight goals, five assists and a total of 13 points on Saturday. Gibson, who has started the season hot with five goals and two assists, was credited with the game-winning goals for both games as he scored the fifth on Friday and the seventh on Saturday.
“We’ve got all these young guys running around for us now,” Ellis explained the role of the veterans. “Now it's our job to get in good spots and when we have the opportunity to put the ball in the back of the net we have to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Some of those young guys who can do a lot of running include rookies Absa Solorio and Lesia Thetsane, who both recorded their first career point in the regular season with an assist on Saturday.
An interesting note from Saturday’s game was the Ambush debut of a pair of Kansas City area products who previously played at local M3 club Sunflower State FC, coached by Comets midfielder Nick McDonald. The first one was Wyatt Fowler, an Olathe, KS native who played for John Sosa at Benedictine College. Fowler picked up several shifts throughout the game and was credited with two shots on target and a block.
The other debut was Chris “Tito” Favela, a native of Kansas City, MO who played at Kansas City Kansas Community College. After Ambush keeper Josue Mazon was given a red card for three blue cards in a game, Favela came on to make his MASL debut in the fourth quarter. Favela played the majority of the final 10 minutes where he made a number of saves and was never beaten.
The Comets will get some time to fix errors before returning to action on Saturday, December 11, when they visit the Dallas Sidekicks. That matchup will be followed by a highly anticipated match when the Comets return home to face the Baltimore Blast.