Danny Waltman and Brian Harris have a pre-game routine before every Missouri Comets road contest.
“Danny says, ‘Brian, just point me in the direction of the right net and you guys take care of the rest,’” Harris said, chuckling. “And that’s what we do. We have so much confidence in Danny, and this year, the defense is really taking charge. You know, he’s getting old (laughing) so we want to help him all we can.”
The 33-year-old Waltman is having the time of his life this season in the new Major Arena Soccer League. He leads the league with an 11-0 record and has a sparkling 5.16 goals-against average.
At Wednesday’s practice at the SoccerDome in North Kansas City, he was feeling his oats as he played forward in a rough-and-tumble scrimmage that resembled a real game.
“The boys were kind enough to let me play a little forward today,” said Waltman, who has become the face of a team that won last year’s MISL championship and has enjoyed so much success in Independence over the past five years. “I’m getting to that point in my career, where I have to take a few days out of the net to get ready for the next game, and I love to get out and play with the boys, work on footwork and break a good sweat.
“I know it’s an old saying, but this year, I feel like that old bottle of wine that just gets better with age. I’ve never had this much fun in my life. This is the closest team I’ve ever been a part of, and the defense is – gosh, let’s see – it’s amazing! Those guys take such good care of me.
“All I have to do is show up and they take care of the rest.”
Don’t let Waltman downplay his role in the success of the undefeated Comets this season.
“I’ve been involved in soccer professionally 32 years and I have never been around a goalkeeper like Danny Waltman,” Comets goalkeeper coach and former Kansas City Comets goalkeeping legend Alan Mayer said Wednesday morning at the SoccerDome. “First off, as good as a goalkeeper he is, he is an even better person. I love him, I absolutely love him and all he stands for. He is one the real leaders on this team and the kind of player everyone can rally around.
“Since Vlatko (Andonovski) has taken over as head coach (in 2013) there has been a new emphasis on defense and it has benefited Danny. But it benefits him because he is in such great shape and such a student of the game. He loves what he does – you can tell is by watching him in the games, at practice or when he interacts with fans after the games.
“Most of the boys are back in the locker room (after the required 20-minute autograph session following each home game) and Danny and Brian are still out there signing. They enjoy it as much as the fans.”
While Mayer savors his time with Waltman, the only starting goalkeeper in Missouri Comets history feels the same way about his coach.
“Alan is so much more than a coach,” Waltman said. “He’s a mentor, a father figure, a good friend. When Alan says something, you pay attention because he’s been there. He knows how I feel in the good times and bad times. We are so lucky to have someone like him on the coaching staff.”
Following Wednesday’s practice session, a cameraman from a local television station placed a remote microphone on Waltman and did a quick interview while Harris slithered on the ground below camera range and did his best to make his buddy crack up.
In the background, Waltman is getting doused by water bottles, while dodging the occasional ball that was kicked in his direction.
He didn’t skip a beat.
“That’s Danny,” Harris said, with a touch of admiration in his voice. “Nothing bothers him. He’s the best at what he does – playing the game, representing the team doing interviews, you name it. He’s a special guy and we are so lucky to have him on our team.”