If you think the Missouri Comets get after it in their games, you should watch the Major Arena Soccer League’s only undefeated team during a practice session at the SoccerDome.
They push, shove, grumble and growl as they play what amounts to full-length games at the end of each practice.
And while fans may not know the outcome of these encounters, the players do. And they want bragging rights.
They also want to finish their first year in the MASL with a full head of steam going into the playoffs.
The 19-0 Comets play host to Tacoma at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Independence Events Center in the regular-season finale.
“You see how much they want it, how hard they work,” Comets coach Vlatko Andonovski said after a recent practice. “No one is taking any time off – not our coaches, our players, our staff – no one.
“We clinched first place two weeks ago, and I believe the boys worked harder after we clinched first place than they did getting there because they are not satisfied. They won’t be satisfied until we win the championship.
“That has been our only goal this season. Going into the new league, no knew what to expect. But we’ve worked too hard to let up now – in a game or at practice.”
Defender Brian Harris is running about the field like his hair is on fire. Team captain Vahid Assadpour is calmly assessing the situation on the field and scoring champ Leo Gibson is egging on a defender, whom he promptly scores against.
“Just another day at the Dome,” quips goalie Danny Waltman, a member of the walking wounded who have played such an important role in the team’s success this season. “We won the last MISL championship last season (before the league folded) and that made us hungry to win another championship this season.
“And this year is so much different than last year. There were times we struggled last year, and this year, we have gone into every game knowing that we were going to win. I mean, we’re just that confident.
“We win in overtime, we win the close games, we win the blowouts – we just win. And winning is fun. And this year has been a lot of fun for everyone.”
Waltman wasn’t having much fun after suffering a high ankle sprain three weeks ago in a blowout win against Wichita that had the veteran goalie first thinking his standout career might come to an early end.
“When I heard something pop in my ankle, and I felt that intense pain, I thought that was it,” said Waltman, who has returned to the starting lineup after watching Stephen Paterson win two games in his absence.
“When you’re away from something, even when it’s just a couple of games, it means that much more to you.”
And it means that much more to his teammates.
“Danny wants to talk about the defense, or the guys scoring the goals,” said Harris, who is Waltman’s roommate on the road. “But it all starts with Danny. With him in the net, we know we’re going to win – it’s a feeling of confidence.
“And now, we need that confidence. We need to wrap up the season with a win Sunday and then we need to work hard the next two weeks to be ready when it’s our time to play.”
The Comets will have two weeks off before they begin postseason play because there is still a week left in the regular season and they have an opening round bye in the Central Division playoffs.
“We can’t do anything about the schedule or the bye,” Waltman said, “but we want to start the playoffs tomorrow. We’re ready, we can’t wait.”