The Kansas City Comets returned to winning ways with an 8-7 win away to the Tacoma Stars on Sunday, Jan. 16.
Player-coach Leo Gibson, who missed Friday's 6-5 loss in St. Louis, recorded his third hat trick of the season and his third four-point performance of the season from three goals and an assist.
It took just 40 seconds for the Comets legend to open the scoring as Comets keeper Nicolau Neto picked up his second assist of the season. With about 10 minutes left in the first quarter, Gibson found Ignacio Flores to make it 2-0 before Lucas Sousa made it 3-0 40 seconds later. Tacoma got on the board after Allesandro Canale scored with 3.5 seconds remaining.
Sousa restored KC’s three-goal advantage with a blast 47 seconds into the second quarter. The Stars answered with a pair of goals from Michae Ramos and Raphael Cox to make it 4-3 KC at halftime.
The Stars pulled level just 12 seconds into the third quarter as Tacoma keeper Danny Waltman recorded his first assist in nearly two years, finding Nick Perera for his first of the night. With the help of a pair of powerplays, the Comets regained the momentum and replied with four consecutive goals to go in front 8-4 after three quarters.
Tacoma’s comeback started when they inserted the sixth attacker and capitalized with Perera scoring his second of the night with under five minutes remaining. That was followed by Tacoma goals from Caceres and Canale, leaving the Comets to defend a single-goal lead for the final two minutes. The Comets were able to fend off the Stars late, allowing just one shot that was sent high off the glass in the final two minutes as they escaped with an 8-7 win.
The Comets (7-1; 21 points) still sit at the top of the Central Division six points clear of the Dallas Sidekicks and St. Louis Ambush, who each sit with 15 points and records of 5-4. Sitting at the bottom of the division is the Milwaukee Wave (1-5-1; 4 points).
Sunday was a much better performance than Friday’s loss. They were much more efficient in front of goal, scoring on 8 of 12 recorded shots, leaving Waltman with a .200 save percentage and taking credit for just two saves.
KC also stayed out of the penalty box, avoiding the self-inflicted harm that hurt them on Friday. The Comets also went 2 of 2 on the powerplay, beating the league’s best penalty kill team who entered the game killing all nine penalties faced.
Alongside Gibson’s four-point performance, John Sosa had three points with a goal and two assists and Sousa had a pair of goals. Gibson now leads the league with 20 points and is second with 12 goals (tied with Tacoma’s Perera) and eight assists (tied with Sosa).
The Comets and the Stars will meet again at T-Mobile Center in downtown KC on Saturday, Jan. 22, for a special regular-season matchup as part of the United Soccer Coaches Convention.
While unlikely, Gibson could become the first player to reach 400 career MASL points in front of what is expected to be the biggest crowd in the MASL this season. Gibson, currently on 396 points, trails Ontario Fury’s Franck Tayou, who has 399 points and can hit the 400-point mark in Ontario’s trip to the Baltimore Blast on Friday, Jan. 21.