One, and you’re done.
That’s the playoff scenario the undefeated Missouri Comets face tonight when they play host to Milwaukee at 7:05 p.m. in the Major Arena Soccer League's Central Division final at the Independence Events Center.
“It’s kind of crazy,” said all-league defender Brian Harris, “you work so hard all season, go undefeated and then you can lose one game and your season is over. That’s why Vlatko has been pushing us so hard in practice. That’s why we take our practice games like they were real games, because Milwaukee is coming in here off the high of beating Chicago to advance to play us.
“But we’re ready. I’ve never been on a team that was so ready to play.”
And that’s saying something as Harris and the Comets won the final MISL championship last season.
Milwaukee defeated Chicago in back-to-back MASL playoff games to earn the trip to Missouri. The Wave had to come back from a first-game playoff loss to the Mustangs to advance.
“They are in their playoff mode, ready for anything,” Comets coach Vlatko Andonovski said after a recent practice. “We did not play a game in the last week of the regular season and because we won our division, we had a bye. So we have not played a game for two weeks, but … the boys are ready.”
Forward Leo Gibson backs that statement.
“We’re so ready,” Gibson said. “Vlatko has done a great job at practice creating a playoff atmosphere, and we’re worked hard. Our games are much like real games – we want to win for bragging rights among the guys on the team. Thursday we know we have to win or the season is over, and we’ve worked too hard for the season to be over after our first game.”
Missouri brings a 20-0 record and a world of confidence into tonight’s game against the 13-7 Wave.
“We know what we have to do to win,” captain Vahid Assadpour said. “We just have to keep playing like we did in the regular season. And I might add, we have to keep playing like we have in our practice games.
“We’re playing against the best players in the league in our practice games. It gets pretty intense out there. Our fans should watch a practice if they really want to see how intense the last two weeks have been for us.”
Gibson, the MASL scoring leader and a favorite to win the MVP award, Assadpour, Harris and John Sosa were all named to the MASL All-League first team. Goalkeeper Danny Waltman, who led the MASL with 17 wins, was named to the second team.
“We have some of the best players in the league, and they are all such character guys,” Andonovski said. “I am blessed to have the best job in the world. I get to come to work every day and coach a bunch of players I respect and really enjoy being around. I cannot promise you a win because no one knows the outcome of Thursday night’s game, but I can promise you our team will be ready.”