The Missouri Comets juggernaut continues to win in the new Major Arena Soccer League.
The reigning MISL champions overcame an early 3-0 deficit against the longtime rival Milwaukee Wave Saturday night at the sold-out Independence Events Center to claim a 9-7 victory that was sparked by the play of goalkeeper Danny Waltman.
“Danny was Danny, what can you say?” said Comets coach Vlatko Andonovski, whose stirring locker room talk helped spark his team as the Comets overcame a 5-3 halftime deficit with a trio of goals in an amazing 1-minute, 22-second stretch of the third period.
“Danny is always going to keep us in the game,” the coach said, “and at the half, I told the boys to go out and forget about the mistakes of the first half and play hard the second half. The boys responded and played so well the second half.
“Even when we trailed early in the game I felt like we could come back and find a way to win, and Leo (Gibson) and (Bryan) Perez scored some big goals and everyone responded. It was a great win and a great way to start the season at home.”
The Comets opened the season with convincing 13-4 and 12-6 road victories over Dallas and Chicago, respectively, then had to dig down deep to come from behind against the Wave.
“Vlatko is such a great coach,” Waltman said. “He really got us fired up at halftime. There were a few distractions before the game, like getting our (MISL) championship rings from last season, and we came out flat.
“We made some corrections and really played well the second half. That streak where we scored the three goals in like a minute was amazing. I've never seen anything like that.”
Gibson scored a freakish goal on a spinning shot that hugged the boards and slid past Wave goaltender Marcel Feenstra at 1:03 to make it a 5-4 game. Max Touloute and Robert Palmer followed with goals at 2:09 and 2:25 to give Missouri a 6-5 lead.
Milwaukee's Anthony Arrico scored his first goal of the night to tie things at 6-all, but Bryan Perez answered with a goal to put the Comets back up 7-6.
After Milwaukee’s Ian Bennett tied it up at the 5:04 mark of the fourth quarter, Gibson scored on assist from Brian Harris for what proved to be the game-winner at the 7:22 mark. Gibson then assisted on Perez's second goal at the 10-minute mark to provide an insurance goal for the Comets, who improved to 3-0 to take a 1 1/2-game lead in the MASL's Central Division over Milwaukee, Chicago and Tulsa.
Milan Ivanovic, Touloute and Andrew Braithwaite notched first-half goals for Missouri.
“This was such a great crowd, we had to reward them with a victory, then share it with them on the field after the game,” Gibson, the MASL scoring leader with eight goals and three assists, said as he signed post-game autographs. “We weren't as focused as we should have been early in the game.
“I think the ring ceremony had something to do with that. But we really played well the second half and Danny was amazing in the net. They had to work hard for their points.”
When asked about his magical first goal, Gibson smiled and said, “The ball had a lot of spin. I was just trying to kick it along the wall and with all that spin it went into the goal. Some nights, you are lucky. I was very lucky on that goal.”
Waltman, who was playing with a torn tendon in his hand, also took an early Wave shot off his face.
“It happens,” said Waltman, who downplayed his injury and the point-blank shot to his chin. “That's indoor soccer. I love it; I wouldn't want to be doing anything else, for any other team or any other fans. Tonight was just the best, a great win over a big rival, and the electricity in this building was off the charts. We need to thank the fans for all their support.”