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Comets giving rookies a look against Ambush

In the final week of the regular season, as many as 11 rookies could feature for KC in the home-and-home series with St. Louis.

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Thad Bell

With the No. 3 seed secured, the Central Division champion Kansas City Comets will conclude the 2021/22 MASL regular season with a home-and-home series against cross-state rival St. Louis Ambush.

The doubleheader will begin Saturday when the Comets visit St. Louis. Sitting with a 5-6 record away from home, the Comets are looking to conclude the season with their first .500 road record since 2018/19.

MASL Regular Season- Matchday 23

Kansas City Comets @ St. Louis Ambush

When: Saturday, April 2, 7:05 p.m. CT

Where: The Family Arena, St. Charles, Missouri

How To Watch: Twitch

Less than 24 hours later, both teams will meet again at Cable Dahmer Arena.

MASL Regular Season- Matchday 24

Kansas City Comets vs St. Louis Ambush

When: Sunday, April 3, 4:00 p.m. CT

Where: Cable Dahmer Arena, Independence, Missouri

Tickets: Ticketmaster

How To Watch: Twitch; 38 the Spot (regionally)

The Comets cruised through the first portion of their schedule, starting the season by winning nine of the first 10 games. Since the start of February, the Comets have lost seven of 11 games with no wins coming on the road.

KC played twice last week, picking up a 7-3 win at home over St. Louis before falling 8-6 in Milwaukee.

Leading the Comets once again has been Leo Gibson. In his third season in the player-coach role, Gibson is second in the MASL with 2.4 points per game with 43 points from 26 goals and 17 assists.

Over the past week, the Comets have restocked their roster by signing four rookies. That now makes a total of 11 rookies on the roster, including Christian Duke who has yet to make an appearance after picking up an injury.

The club’s most recent announcement was the signing of 2018 NAIA Player of the Year Adrian Gutierrez Llorente out of Central Methodist University. Llorente led CMU to the 2018 NAIA national title and is currently a volunteer assistant at his alma mater.

“Adrian is extremely comfortable in tight spaces, and he is an intelligent player who has a bright future in our game. Anytime you can add a National Champion and NAIA Player of the Year, you have to be excited,” said Brian Budzinski, Comets managing partner.

Recording 19 goals and 29 assists in three seasons at CMU, Llorente’s MASL debut may be put on hold after picking up an injury this week.

Players to Watch:

Milos Vucic - The Montenegran made his debut last weekend, showcasing some promising talent with a pair of goals against Milwaukee. He will be a player to watch for the future with an opportunity to make an impact this weekend and in the postseason.

John Sosa - The veteran defender is having a career year offensively. He leads the team with 23 assists, one shy of tying a career-high. Sosa’s 14 goals this season is a career-high and his 37 points is tied for a career-high.

Junior Kazeem - Signing out of CMU, the London native scored 29 goals in four years with the Eagles. Kazeem won back-to-back NAIA national titles before back-to-back NPSL Heartland titles with Tulsa Athletics.

“Junior is a strong, active, and fast forward. He is going to create some matchup problems for teams around the league as a target forward,” Budzinski said.

KC Availability Report

OUT: Henry Ramirez (right knee sprain); Christian Duke (right ankle sprain); Lou Misner (right rib fracture)

DOUBTFUL: James Togbah (left wrist fracture); Adrian Gutierrez Llorente (right groin strain)

QUESTIONABLE: Lesia Thetsane (left knee contusion)

After causing some troubles in recent years, the Comets have regained control of STL this season as KC leads the season series 3-1. STL’s only win over KC came in January at The Family Arena.

St. Louis Ambush

The Ambush are in a heated battle for a playoff spot. A pair of wins over KC would clinch a spot. A win and a loss by Milwaukee and Utica would also clinch.

The Ambush (8-12-2; 25 points) will be desperate for back-to-back wins for the fourth time this season. Since co-owner/general manager Jeff Locker took over coaching duties, St. Louis is 6-10.

They are coming from a 7-3 loss in KC last weekend. Goalkeeper Eduardo ‘Pollo’ Cortez made 20 saves but took his second loss of the season, dropping to 5-2 this year with the Ambush.

STL announced the return of veterans Axel Duarte and Chris Mattingly. Duarte played last season, recording three points in eight games. Mattingly last played in 2019, playing one game. Mattingly’s last multi-game season was in 2017/18 when he played eight times.

Players to Watch:

Duduca Carvalho - Scored twice in STL’s visit to KC last weekend. Has scored 16 points from 10 goals and six assists. Target forward could be heating up after a slow start. Now has three goals from last two games.

Mo Ndiaye - Leads STL with 42 points from 19 goals and 23 assists, averaging 2.1 points per game. Was held without a point last week in KC for just the second time this season.

Axel Duarte - This could be a signing that puts them over the edge. The veteran defender brings good experience to the worst defensive team in the Central Division.

STL Availability Report

OUT: Paulo Nascimento (acl); Stefan Mijatovic (foot)

DOUBTFUL: Tony Walls (calf)

PROBABLE: Christian Briggs (hip flexor); JT Thomas (ankle); Jeff Michaud (quad); Niko Karidis (shin splints)

SUSPENDED: Chris ‘Tito’ Favela (contract violation)

Playoff Picture

The Comets are already locked into the playoffs as a No. 3 seed. Their quarterfinal matchup will come against the No. 6 seeded Dallas Sidekicks.

KC’s road to a Ron Newman Cup championship will likely run through the top two seeded Florida Tropics (18-2-2; 56 points) and San Diego Sockers (21-0-1; 60 points). If the top-three seeds win the quarterfinal round, KC will get the Tropics in the semifinals.

Game one of the quarterfinal series will be on Saturday, April 9 in Dallas. The Comets will host game two and the mini-game if needed on Tuesday, April 12 at 7 p.m. If the Comets advance past the quarterfinals, they will host games on Saturday, April 16 for the semifinal series and April 24 for the championship series.

Final Predictions

It will be a good experience for KC’s new signings to play against a team fighting to keep their season alive. The biggest worry for the Comets is keeping everyone healthy, especially at the goalkeeper position.

I predict the Comets split the weekend with a 6-4 loss in St. Louis before a 7-5 win in KC.