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Underdog Comets open semifinals at home against Florida Tropics

The Comets are not the favorite in a semifinal meeting between the winners of the Central and Eastern divisions.

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Thad Bell

The Kansas City Comets are matched up with the Florida Tropics for a best-of-three semifinal series. The winner of this series will make their first-ever Ron Newman Cup Finals appearance.

With a trip to the championship series on the line, both sides are seeking to make up for unfinished business. Both KC and Florida were eliminated at the semifinals stage last season.

MASL Semifinals- Game 1

Kansas City Comets vs Florida Tropics

When: Saturday, April 16, 6:00 p.m. CT

Where: Cable Dahmer Arena, Independence, Missouri

Tickets: Ticketmaster

How To Watch: Twitch

The Comets will host game one on Saturday at Cable Dahmer Arena. After game one, both teams will have another week to prepare as the series shifts to Florida on April 23.

MASL Semifinals- Game 2

Kansas City Comets vs Florida Tropics

When: Sunday, April 23, 5:00 p.m. CT

Where: RP Funding Center, Lakeland, Florida

How To Watch: Twitch

In a way, this is exactly where the Comets wanted to be since their semifinal elimination last season. While they are back in a position to make the Finals, KC would have preferred to be playing better.

The Comets got to the playoffs after a Central Division title with a 13-9-1 regular-season record for 41 points. Ending January winning nine of their first 10 games, the Comets lost nine of their last 13 games.

The Comets squeezed past the Dallas Sidekicks in the quarterfinals, winning the series-deciding mini game 3-1 on Tuesday. Taking game one in Dallas, the Comets were forced to win the mini game after the Sidekicks took game two in KC.

Looking to piece together a championship-caliber team, they will be doing so with a goalkeeper not completely healthy. Nicolau Neto has not been near 100% since January, but he was good enough to help the Comets take down the Sidekicks.

The Brazilian keeper, with a 5-2 career playoff record, became KC’s all-time leader in MASL playoff wins with his fifth in game three. Neto’s next playoff win would see him pass Danny Waltman to become the team’s all-time playoff wins leader.

For the first time all season, the Comets enter as the clear underdog. In order to advance, they will need to have some more consistent performances and play to their full potential.

Players to Watch:

Leo Gibson - The Comets got past Dallas in the quarterfinals with KC’s leader in points and goals not registering a single point. It is going to be tough to get past Florida if Gibson’s offensive production doesn’t improve.

Ignacio Flores - Averaging a career-low 0.04 points per game the last two regular seasons, Nacho turned it on in the quarterfinals. The midfielder scored three goals in the series against Dallas, bringing his postseason average to 1.0 points per game.

Rian Marques - Ending the regular season as KC’s second-leading goal scorer with 21 goals, the target forward was held to just one goal in the series with Dallas. Similar to Gibson, Marques will need to have better offensive production if KC is going to get past Florida.

KC Availability Report

OUT: Christian Duke (right ankle); Absalom Solorio (right knee); Henry Ramirez (right knee); Benji Monreal (concussion protocol)

Benji is going to be the biggest loss for KC, previously scoring in each of his three games as a rookie. Picking him to become a breakout star this postseason, I didn’t quite expect him to go as viral as he did for his goal on Tuesday, as it was picked up by ESPN FC, SiriusXM FC 157, B/R Football and was No. 5 on SportsCenter’s top 10 plays.

With a divisional record of 11-7 and 2-3 against the West, Saturday’s matchup will be the first time the Comets will play a team from the East this season.

These two teams have undergone a lot of changes over recent years. The last time these two teams met was last season when KC was swept by Florida at the beginning of 2021. Even since then, KC has acquired a lot of new players.

Florida Tropics

The Florida Tropics are in their third season of MASL dominance. Founded in 2016, the Tropics are still managed by original head coach Clay Roberts, who has an all-time regular-season record of 70-52 and a playoff record of 2-2.

The Tropics cruised through a weak Eastern Division to earn the No. 2 overall seed, concluding the regular season with a record of 18-3-1 for 56 points. While the West gave them a pair of losses in addition to a loss against Dallas, Florida’s only divisional loss came against Utica City FC.

Previously, the Tropics made their postseason debut last season as the No. 1 seed and were swept by the San Diego Sockers in two games.

Florida’s first two playoff wins came this year in the quarterfinals, coming from behind in both games to sweep the St. Louis Ambush last week. After shaky starts, the Tropics eventually came through. Florida was especially good in the second half, outscoring St. Louis 9-3 across both games.

The Tropics were efficient on the powerplay in the quarterfinals, scoring on all four chances with a man advantage. Defensively, Florida killed two of three power plays.

There are also two ex-Comets playing with Florida this season. In his second season with the Tropics, Kiel Williams recorded 15 points from eight goals and seven assists in 20 games. Williams missed the quarterfinals through injury.

The other ex-Comet is goalkeeper Brett Petricek, who stopped 67% of shots faced this season and had a 4-1-1 regular-season record. Petricek, who did not appear in either playoff game, was part of a three-man goalkeeping crew who filled in once first-choice keeper Hugo Silva was sidelined with visa issues.

The playoff pairing was Rainer Hauss, who went 3-1-1 in the regular season before getting the win in game one, and the undefeated Jorge Navarrete, who went 3-0 in four regular-season games before closing out the series against St. Louis.

Players to Watch:

Zach Reget - The 2018-19 MASL Rookie of the Year had the most productive regular season of his four-year career. Reget averaged 1.9 points per game with 43 points from 27 goals and 16 assists (all career highs). From two playoff games, the Wisconsin native led Florida with seven points from five goals and two assists.

Victor Parreiras - Concluding the regular season with the second-most points in the league, The Brazilian midfielder had a career-high 52 points from 29 goals and 23 assists. Recording two goals and four assists in the quarterfinals, Parreiras is going to be another big threat.

Chad Vandergriffe - The veteran defender led the league with 54 blocks. Not a big threat in the attack, the St. Louis native is one of the league's toughest defenders. Playing alongside Drew Ruggles, 2019-20 Defender of the Year, Florida’s defense will not be easy to crack.

FLA Availability Report

OUT: VcMore Eligwe (leg); Bruno Henrique (leg)

DOUBTFUL: Kiel Williams (foot); Lucas Montelares (abdominal injury)

Final Predictions

If the Comets are clinical in front of goal, they will have a chance. Otherwise, it could be a quick two-game series.

I think the Comets will make the most of their home-field advantage in game one. I predict a 7-5 Comets win.