For one half of action Saturday night at the Independence Events Center, it appeared a rematch between the Wichita B-52s – guided by new head coach Kim Roentved – and his former Missouri Comets team would be a nail-biter.
There was no score after the first 15 minutes and the unbeaten Comets took a slim 2-0 lead into halftime.
That's when coach Vlatko Andonovski pinpointed the areas that the Comets needed to bolster. They must have listened as they scored five goals each in the third and fourth quarters and went on to claim a 12-3 victory.
“It was unusual looking over at the other bench and seeing Kim,” said veteran defender Brian Harris, who was given his professional start by Roentved five years ago. “He was my head coach for the first three years I played here, and he helped me a lot. Now, Vlatko is our head coach and he did an amazing job at the half tonight of getting us focused for the second half.
“There are two big reasons we're undefeated this year – Vlatko and the bond this team has. We're a band of brothers, and when you're playing with your brothers you work that much harder.”
While the first half didn't offer much offense, the 8-0 Comets exploded for 10 goals in the second half.
Forward John Sosa finished the night with two goals and three assists. Major Arena Soccer League scoring leader Leo Gibson added a goal and five assists and boosted his league-leading points total to 37.
Overall, nine different players scored for the Comets, with Harris, Vahid Assadpour and Max Touloute also scoring two goals each.
“This was a total team effort,” Sosa said. “We played a great defensive first half. Not allowing Wichita a goal, but we knew we had to put the ball in the back of the net, and we were able to get that done in the second half.”
Coady Andrews and Sosa scored in the first half, but all anyone was talking about was a defensive gem turned in my defender Stefan Stokic and goalkeeper Danny Waltman.
With the Comets holding onto that slim 2-0 lead, Waltman made a diving save on a close-range shot to keep the B-52s off the scoreboard at 4:23 of the second period. While Waltman was out of position, Stokic sacrificed his body to make two close-range blocks while Waltman scrambled back to the net.
“My man Stefan,” Waltman said, grinning, when asked about the play. “The boys played some great defense in front of me tonight. Stefan's plays were huge because it was still a close game when he made this blocks.”
When asked about the highlight-film blocks, Stokic said, “That's how you play when you care about your teammates and about winning. I would do anything to keep the ball out of the net – and that's how all of my teammates feel, too. We're a close team, more like a family.
“That is why we are off to such a good start this season in a new league.”
With the Comets holding a 5-0 lead, Wichita finally got on the scoreboard when former Missouri forward Johnny Markey scored at 9:15 of the third period.
“We played well tonight, offensively and defensively,” Andonovski said. “I am so proud of what this team has done this season. I went into this game only thinking about the game, and not the fact that Kim was on the other bench.
“I have so much respect for him and wish him well – as long as he is not playing our team.”