One monstrous question loomed over the head of first-year Kansas City Comets coach Goran Karadzov as his team headed into the 2016-17 Major Arena Soccer League season.
Could a team that had been goalkeeper rich – with names like former legends Enzo DiPede and Alan Mayer, and more recently Danny Waltman and Boris Pardo – survive with a first-year starter in the net?
“We were all wondering how that would play out,” Karadzov said Tuesday morning after goalkeeper Stephen Paterson was featured on a live television feed from practice at the Sports Lodge in Independence, “and it didn’t take long to find out.
“Stevie has been outstanding, all you could ask for in a keeper and a great teammate. The boys on the team love him and he loves playing for the Comets. He’s been a big reason for our success this season.”
Paterson and the Comets host Game 1 of the Central Division championships at 7:35 p.m. today at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
This is the seventh straight season the Comets have appeared in postseason and also the seventh time they have faced Milwaukee. Kansas City has won the past four postseason series matchups.
Paterson recently found out he was named the MASL’s Goalkeeper of the Month. It’s the first monthly award for Paterson, who previously won two Player of the Week awards.
This is the second month in a row the Comets have been represented, as Karadzov was the MASL’s Coach of the Month in January.
Paterson has had a spectacular season for the Comets, as they have the third-ranked defense in the league.
Paterson was 4-1 in February as the Comets secured their third straight regular season Central Division title. Not only did he get it done in the net, he contributed to the Comets’ cause with two assists and his second goal of the season.
“Stevie is Mr. Everything for us,” said an appreciate defender, Brian Harris. “Need a goal? He scores (laughing). He gets assists, he wins awards – when you look back at the history of keepers, he’s right there with Danny and Alan and all the rest of the great ones who have played for the Comets.
“There was some concern when Boris chose to play with another team, and Stevie stepped right in and got the job done.”
Not bad for a guy who often has to leave practice at the Sports Lodge in Independence a few minutes early so he can get to his 40-hour-a-week job as an apprentice electrician.
“People ask if I’d reflected on all our success this season,” said Paterson, who had to beat his teammates into the showers so he could get to Capital Electric Construction Co., in downtown Kansas City, “and I really haven’t.
“The biggest games come this week. We play Milwaukee here on Thursday then go there over the weekend (Sunday). Those are the games that really matter. I’ve been lucky – both as an individual and as a member of this team – to have some recognition and some success.
‘But I’m not going to reflect on anything until the season is over.”
A year ago, Paterson was a guy who thought his playing days were coming to an end.
“I played a few games,” said Paterson, who won all three previous appearances before the start of this season, “but I was thinking about being a full-time electrician. You know, you have to do something to pay the bills.
“Then, Boris left the team and I was offered this opportunity and I couldn’t say no. This season has been pretty amazing. But let’s be honest, I’m nothing without the guys in front of me. Our defenders are amazing, we have great leaders, guys who can score, we really have a complete team and I’m just a small part of it.”
He is the lone goalkeeper in the history of the MASL to score two goals in one season, and both came via a kick. Some goalies have scored by throwing a ball the length of the field into an empty net, but Paterson got his goals the old-fashioned way.
“I feel confident bringing the ball down the field,” said Paterson, who is an MASL second-best 15-4 with a 4.56 goals-against average (third in MASL) and a .704 save percentage (fifth in MASL). “Some of the guys give me a hard time when I take some shots in practice, but I guess they’ve paid off.”
They sure have – much like the 29-year-old apprentice electrician who has provided enough electricity to power the Comets into another postseason.