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Gibson chasing history as Comets host Stars at T-Mobile Center

With the return of the United Soccer Coaches Convention, the Comets return to T-Mobile Arena.

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Thad Bell

MASL Regular Season- Matchday 9

Kansas City Comets vs Tacoma Stars

When: Saturday, January 22, 7 p.m. CST

Where: T-Mobile Center, Kansas City, Missouri

Tickets: AXS

How To Watch: MASLtv

For the second time in franchise history, the Kansas City Comets will host a regular-season game at Kansas City’s largest arena, T-Mobile Center, as part of the United Soccer Coaches Convention.

Previously hosting 8,276 fans on Jan. 14, 2012 at then-named Sprint Center, the Wichita Wings came out with a 10-9 win over the Comets. Signing out of UMKC, rookie forward John Sosa got his seventh career assist that night while defender Leo Gibson recorded one shot in the loss.

More than a decade later, Sosa and Gibson are the only players that will wear a Comets jersey twice inside Kansas City’s nearly 19,000-seat arena.

For Sosa, it was just the start of a remarkable career in the game, spending 10 of his 11 seasons with the Comets. Since his rookie season, the Medellin, Colombia native has spent most of his career in midfield and defensive roles, though he remains one of the league’s most dangerous and deceptive players from restarts. Sosa recently became KC’s third player to record 250 goals/assists in league play.

Coming off two goals and three assists last weekend, the Comets captain enters this weekend sixth in the league with 15 points and second in the league with eight assists.

For Gibson, the player-coach has found legendary success no matter where he is on the field. Now in his 16th year of indoor soccer, the Comets all-time leader in points, goals and assists is looking to become the first player-coach in league history to win the Ron Newman Cup while continuing to reach milestone after milestone.

The Monrovia, Liberia native could become the second player to hit 400 points in MASL history, currently sitting at 396 points since the league’s first season in 2014. Ontario Fury’s Franck Tayou became the first to 400 points in Ontario’s 10-4 win over the Baltimore Blast on Friday.

Gibson, with 271 goals in league play, is also nine goals away from tying KC Attack/Comets legend Wes Wade for most goals in Kansas City’s indoor soccer history. He is also two goals shy of 300 in his Comets career.

Alongside Sosa and Gibson, here are three other players to watch.

Players to Watch:

Christian Anderaos - The rookie midfielder has a ton of speed and energy. Despite his endless energy, he’s remained out of the penalty box with 13 fouls. All three of his points have come within the past four games.

Ray Lee - One of the nine local products signed with the Comets, Lee has a point in six of KC’s seven games this season, including three multi-point performances. The Park Hill graduate is averaging 1.3 PPG and already has a career-high five assists this season. Slick on the attack.

Rian Marques - Has 10 points in five games this season. The second-year target forward was mostly ineffective last week in his attempts to post up around the top of the arc but still managed to score in his sixth straight regular-season game.

KC Injury Report

OUT: Henry Ramirez (right knee sprain); Nick McDonald (health and safety return to play protocol)

DOUBTFUL: James Togbah (left great toe)

PROBABLE: Nicolau Neto (right groin strain)

Returning from suspension is defender Matt Lewis.

The Comets (7-1; 21 points) sit at the top of the Central Division with six points of separation between the St. Louis Ambush (5-5; 15 points) and Dallas Sidekicks (5-5; 15 points) while the Milwaukee Wave (2-5-1; 7 points) sit at the bottom of the division.

After losing their undefeated record in St. Louis last Friday, the Comets bounced back with an 8-7 win in Tacoma last Sunday.

Goalkeeper Nicolau Neto, who has been dealing with a right groin strain for weeks, is looking to improve after posting two consecutive season-low save percentages, recording a .538 Sp% against STL and a .667 Sp% against TAC. Neto still leads the league with seven wins with some big performances.

Ramone Palmer, who spent one season with the Stars in 2017/18, is still looking for his first point of the season. The veteran has played in four games, registering three shots and seven penalty minutes while dealing with some injury issues.

Since 2015 the Comets hold a record of 5-3 against the Stars, including three wins with a win margin of seven or more. The Stars won both games in KC last season.

Tacoma Stars

Starting the season 2-3 with a five-game homestand, Mike Jennings is leading the Stars on their first match away from home since being named as head coach in the preseason.

That comes after the Stars spent all of last season on the road, finishing the regular season 4-7 before their first-round playoff elimination to the San Diego Sockers.

Desperate for a win, the Stars (2-3; 6 points) sit third in the West Division, trailing the first-place San Diego Sockers (4-0-1; 13 points) and second-place Ontario Fury (4-3; 12 points).

Tacoma is 2-2 against Central Division teams, getting wins over the Dallas Sidekicks and Ambush with losses against the Ambush and Comets.

The Stars lead the league on the penalty kill, killing all nine penalties until the Comets scored two powerplay goals last week, now putting their penalty kill percentage at .909.

Players to Watch:

Nick Perera - Another veteran of the game, Perera and Sosa entered the MISL in the same season with Perera being named to the All-Rookie team in 201/12. The 2018/19 MASL MVP leads the league with 3.8 PPG this season and is second with 12 goals.

Vini Dantas - Dealing with an injury, but has totaled three goals and three assists in two games this season. Another big veteran attacker that can give KC trouble defensively. Now in his seventh season in the MASL, the former Baltimore Blast forward has 236 career points.

Danny Waltman - Lined up as the Comets keeper the last time indoor soccer was played at T-Mobile Center. The former Comet fan-favorite always plays well when he returns to town, but isn’t coming off a good performance, recording two saves and a .200 save percentage in last weekend’s 8-7 loss against KC. Will the 40-year-old bring back his famous backflip off the glass for the special occasion?

Final Predictions

These are two of the league’s greatest offenses as Tacoma leads the league with 8.0 goals per game, followed by KC with 7.63 goals per game.

I think this game is going to be more of a defensive battle, resulting in a 6-5 win for the Comets.