MASL Regular Season- Matchday 6
Kansas City Comets @ Dallas Sidekicks
When: Saturday, January 8, 7:00 p.m. CST
Where: Credit Union of Texas Events Center, Allen, Texas
How To Watch: MASLtv
The two hottest teams in the Central Division will meet up as the undefeated Kansas City Comets visit the Dallas Sidekicks on Saturday, Jan. 8.
The Comets are coming from a two-game sweep over the Milwaukee Wave last week, something they previously hadn’t done in more than five years. KC took a 10-4 win in KC before a 6-5 win in Milwaukee.
The Comets (5-0; 15 points) sit at the top of the Central Division with a league-leading 39 goals scored. All five of KC’s wins have been against divisional rivals, posting a league-leading +16 goal differential.
Player-coach Leo Gibson is tied with Milwaukee Wave’s Ian Bennett for a league-leading 14 points from eight goals and six assists. Playing a limited role last Friday against Milwaukee, I would expect Gibson to play a bigger part in Dallas.
Gibson, sitting with 390 MASL points, will likely need a big performance Saturday to beat Ontario Fury’s Franck Tayou (397 points), to become the first player to hit the 400-point milestone in the MASL.
KC is tied with the St. Louis Ambush for a division-worst .400 penalty kill percentage, conceding a league-high nine goals from powerplays. The Comets will look to improve their offensive powerplay, scoring on just 8 of 17 opportunities.
Players to Watch: The Brazilian Trio
Nicolau Neto - Leads the MASL with five wins and second with 70 saves. Also leads the division with 4.60 GAA and a .761 save percentage. Named Defensive Player of the Month for December.
Rian Marques - Returning from visa issues, Marques has three goals in two games. The expectations are high for the Brazilian target forward.
Lucas Sousa - The last of the Brazilian trio is midfielder Lucas Sousa, posting a .462 scoring percentage with six goals. Sousa is tied with Gibson for a league-leading two game-winning goals.
The bad news for KC is a long-term injury for Henry Ramirez. The second-year midfielder was held to a shot, a block and a foul from three games this season.
KC INJURY REPORT
OUT: Henry Ramirez (right acl tear); Mark Saxby (head injury); Ramone Palmer (left knee rest).
PROBABLE: Nicolau Neto (right groin strain)
The Comets have an 8-1 record against the Sidekicks with five straight wins over the past two seasons, including two wins in Dallas. In the previous meeting this season, the Comets came out with a 6-4 come-from-behind win in Dallas.
It has been quite the rollercoaster for the Dallas Sidekicks over the past few weeks. Over the offseason, they signed a president and hired indoor veteran Pablo Da Silva as their new head coach, setting a new foundation aiming to bring success to a losing franchise.
The Sidekicks, who finished last in the MASL last season with a 1-10 record, tore down any foundation that Da Silva had built with his sacking on Dec. 21 “due to philosophical differences” after starting 0-3.
Since Da Silva’s departure, the Sidekicks have released five players and interim head coach Ricardinho Cavalcante has signed four players. Ricardinho and the Sidekicks went 3-0 last weekend with a pair of wins over the St. Louis Ambush and a win in Milwaukee, outscoring opponents 19-11. Since the coaching change, the Sidekicks have moved from last to second in the Central Division, tying the number of wins they had throughout the entire 2019/20 season.
The Sidekicks (3-3; 9 points) trail the Comets by six points but are three points clear of the third-place Ambush and eight points clear of the last-place Wave.
Defensively, the Sidekicks are playing as well as they have in a long time. They have allowed just 11 goals across a 3-game stretch for the first time since January 2016. The only better stretches came in February 2015, holding their opponents to eight goals across three games, and December 2014 when the Sidekicks held their opponents to nine goals across three games.
The Sidekicks post a division-best .688 penalty kill percentage, defending a league-high 16 powerplays. The Sidekicks have five goals from nine offensive powerplays.
Players to Watch:
Cameron Brown - One of Ricardinho’s five mid-season signings. In three games, the veteran defender has five assists.
Juan Gamboa - Leads the MASL with 72 saves. Sits behind KC’s Neto with a .502 GAA, .727 save percentage and three wins. Named Week 5 Defensive Player of the Week.
Luiz Moralez - Leads Dallas with 1.8 points per game with 11 points and eight goals. Coming off back-to-back multi-point games, the 22-year-old forward is putting together a solid campaign for Rookie of the Year.
DAL INJURY REPORT
OUT: Brenden Lee
Not many would have thought Dallas would have three wins and sit second in the division at this point in the season, but that’s exactly where they sit. KC should expect a tight contest on Saturday.
I predict the Comets get their fourth road win of the season with a 7-5 decision.