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Comets book semifinal place with mini game win over Sidekicks

The Comets are still alive, winning their first mini game since 2014.

Comets advance to the next round of the playoffs
Thad Bell

Fans were treated to 75 minutes of MASL action on Tuesday night inside Cable Dahmer Arena. In a tense quarterfinal matchup between the Kansas City Comets and Dallas Sidekicks, the Comets booked their ticket in the Ron Newman Cup semifinals for a second straight season.

After losing game two of the quarterfinal matchup to Dallas7-5, the Comets came out to clinch the best-of-three series in the 15-minute mini game by a score of 3-1.

The long night at Cable Dahmer Arena began with game two of the series, with KC only needing a win in game two or the mini game. Dallas had to win both game two and the mini game.

In game two, Dallas opened the scoring in the opening five minutes when Felipe Silva knocked in a restart goal against a disorganized Comets team. About two minutes later, Ignacio Flores equalized, streaming down the right side alone and beating the keeper at his near post.

The Comets took the 2-1 lead with about five minutes remaining in the second quarter when Benji Monreal showed wonderful skill and confidence. Receiving the pass off the glass from Lucas Sousa, Monreal pulled out an incredible skill to finish with his right foot in the most unorthodox way possible.

Dallas managed to pull level when Oscar Romero took advantage of a poor clearance, rifling in a shot from near the top of the arc to make it 2-2 at halftime.

The Sidekicks added another in the third and two more early in the fourth, taking a 5-2 lead. Then the Comets opted to introduce Benji Monreal as the sixth attacker with 6 minutes, 37 seconds remaining. It started well as the Comets cut the lead down to one after goals from Sousa and James Togbah. Then David Ortiz put two past the sixth attacker, restoring a three-goal advantage. Ray Lee scored late for KC as they fell 7-5.

Even with a loss in game two, player-coach Leo Gibson knew the importance of the way they finished the loss.

“We knew we just had to weather the storm and build momentum going into the mini game,” he said. “We were taking chances. We didn’t give up. If it had ended the way it was, then we needed that momentum going into the game. We couldn’t let them maintain it. It was really good to kind of break their momentum and gain ours.”

After a 15-minute intermission, both teams returned for the 15-minute series-deciding mini game. Nick McDonald replaced Milos Vucic in KC’s lineup.

After being held at bay all series long, Rian Marques put the Comets in front 36 seconds into game three. Posting up inside the arc, the Brazilian turned on the defender and rolled it into the corner.

“That was incredible,” Gibson said. “That was the momentum and it was really good to get rewarded for it. It was uplifting, it was motivating.”

Kansas City went 2-0 up after Lesia Thetsane unleashed a vicious effort from the yellow line after winning the loose ball. Desperate to keep it a one-goal game, Dallas challenged the goal, claiming there was a foul before the goal. After video review, the goal was held and the Comets had a 2-0 lead to defend with nearly nine minutes remaining.

“We told ourselves that we need to work,” Thetsane said about his game-winning goal. “Obviously, the motivation to score a beautiful goal, but anybody can do that. So it’s the team I’m happy for.”

Just over a minute after Thetsane’s goal, Dallas pulled one back. An unfortunate sequence for the Comets as Dallas capitalized on a good bounce off the referee. After KC’s pass was deflected by the referee, the ball fell to Luiz Morales, who calmly rolled it into the corner.

With 4 minutes, 50 seconds remaining, Dallas thought they had equalized. Julio Varela knocked it in to make it 2-2, but a Comets challenge denied the goal due to the ball going out of bounds in the buildup to the goal.

Hanging on to the single-goal lead, Lee gave the Comets some breathing room after smashing home a rebound with 42.4 seconds remaining.

Nicolau Neto improved his postseason record this year to 2-0 while Benji Monreal took his first loss. Neto conceded six goals and made 12 saves.

The star of the show for Dallas was goalkeeper Juan Gamboa. Gamboa made 15 saves in game two and four saves in game three. Jamie Lovegrove also played a key part in the game two win, contributing two goals and two assists.

The Comets will open their best-of-three semifinal series against the Florida Tropics at home on Saturday, April 16 at 6 p.m.

While they will enter the semifinal matchup as the underdog, the Comets are looking to give the Tropics a good fight.

“If we show up, you can bring anybody and it’s going to be a good competition,” Gibson said.