With the score tied at 2-all Friday night at the Independence Events Center, Missouri Comets goalie Stephen Paterson made a play that left his teammates glowing with pride.
And it had nothing to do with the special gold color jerseys they wore in support of pediatric cancer patients.
Paterson jumped to the top right corner of the net, ricocheted off the goal post and somehow came away with a save that paved the way to a 7-2 victory for the undefeated Comets, who improved to 16-0 on the season.
“That save by Stephen inspired the boys,” Comets coach Vlatko Andonovski said, before a post-game auction in which the Comets’ special Go for the Gold for Pediatric Cancer jerseys were auctioned off to some of the 5,355 fans in attendance.
“That play – the entire game – shows what this team is all about. We are undefeated and we have clinched first place in our conference, but we don't want to stop playing the type of soccer that helped us get to 16-0. I was as proud of this win as any we have had this season.”
Comets defender Brian Harris was backing up the play where Paterson made the dramatic save and joked, “I was happy to look up at the net to see his right arm wasn't hanging there.”
Starting goalie Danny Waltman, who watched a portion of the game from behind the net, added, “Those plays define players. I want to be in there so badly, then I see Steve-o make a save like that and I am happy he's getting his chance in goal. We all have a lot of respect for him.”
Waltman, who starred in last Sunday's 8-7 overtime win over the Monterrey Flash in Mexico, is resting his injured ankle in preparation for postseason action. The Comets have four more regular-season games.
“Honestly, I didn't think it was that big of a deal,” Paterson said as he signed post-game autographs during the auction festivities. “I know I'm going to have a big bruise on my shoulder, but I'm OK with that.
“You see guys get beat up a lot worse than that and they keep playing. I'm loving this. This is such a great team with great guys. Even when I wasn't on the roster, they gave me my gear and a locker and put up with all my bad jokes. This is my way of paying them back.”
Seven minutes after Paterson's third-period defensive gem, midfielder John Sosa fired the ball past Mustangs goalie Jesus Flores to give the Comets a 3-2 lead. Sosa was named the Borden Man of the Game after finishing with that goal and three assists.
“We felt like if we could just get one goal, others would come,” Sosa said. “This was an important game for us, because we wanted to prove that there is still a lot to play for.
“There is a good chance that we could meet Chicago in the opening round of the playoffs, and we wanted to let them know what this game meant to us.”
Waltman wasn't the only Comets star on the sidelines as Max Touloute (groin), Milan Ivanovic (AC strain) and Stefan Stokic (abdominal strain) did not suit up for the match.
“The injured guys were with us in spirit,” said Harris, who teamed with Robert Palmer to turn away four Mustang shots in the scoreless first period. “I feel for Danny because I know how much he wants to be in there, but Stephen is doing a great job.
“He doesn't have the experience of Danny, but he works so hard and we're going to work hard for him and all the other guys on the sidelines.”
The score was 2-all at the half after Vahid Assadpour and Andre Braithwaite scored for Missouri and Edgar Martini and Hewerton Moreira added goals for the 8-6 Mustangs.
Following Sosa's third-period goal, the offensive floodgates opened as Palmer, Gibson, Josh Gardner and Braithwaite closed out another big Comets win with goals.