Bryan Perez showed the 3,596 fans at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena Saturday night why his teammates selected him as just the third captain in the eight-year history of the Kansas City Comets.
The veteran scored the game-winning goal in a white-knuckle 10-8 victory over the cross-state rival St. Louis Ambush in the Major Arena Soccer League season opener.
In a crazy 10-goal fourth quarter, Perez settled a rebound off a Patrick Kelly shot and sent it past St. Louis goalkeeper Paulo Nascimento at 8:27 of the fourth quarter to give the Comets a short-lived 8-7 lead.
The Ambush came back and knotted the score at 8-all at when a wide-open Jerjer Gibson dribbled the ball past Comets goalie Casey Gasson with just under three minutes left in regulation.
That’s when Perez took the game over, as he scored off a chest volley at 13:08 to make it 9-8. The Ambush then pulled their goalie and Kansas City’s Guerrero Pino scored an open-net goal to account for the final 10-8 margin.
“I don’t know if the boys know I have this blood pressure problem,” joked coach Kim Roentved, who is back coaching the team for the second time in club history. “I was looking for my blood pressure medicine down on the bench in the fourth quarter. That was just crazy, especially after just one goal being scored in the third quarter.
“At the end, I think we had a little more energy than St. Louis, and you could tell how much our boys wanted this win. And Bryan did what great players do, what captains do, he took the game over and helped us get a big win.
“We have so many new players and have just been practicing over a week or so, so this was big. There were some mistakes made, but nothing that can’t be corrected. I am happy for the boys and our fans. It got noisy in here tonight; there was just a great atmosphere.”
The first captain in the new Comets franchise’s history was Byron Alvarez, a former MISL MVP. Vahid Assadpour took over as captain in the third year, and Perez took over this year as Assadpour is no longer a part of the team.
“To be just the third captain in team history is very, very special,” said Perez as he was being congratulated by his teammates outside of the Comets locker room. “We’re not the team we want to be, but we have just had two weeks of practice – so we are going to keep getting better and better as the season goes on.
“I was proud of the job Casey did in the net, and every time St. Louis scored, we had an answer. To me, that’s the mark of a good team.”
St. Louis forward Victor France led all scorers with four goals and an assist, but it was not enough to keep the Comets from winning their season opener.
The Comets trailed 4-3 at halftime, but tied the score at 4-all on Ignacio “Nacho” Flores’ second goal of the night, a header just out of the reach of Nascimento.
That set the stage for the 10-goal fourth quarter that featured six Comets goals, four Ambush goals and four lead changes. Patrick Kelly started the scoring for the Comets in the fourth and Leo Gibson scored two, the second on an assist from Perez, to set the stage for Perez’s late heroics.
“It was crazy, that’s for sure,” said Gasson, who played his first-ever MASL game Saturday night. “It was back and forth, back and forth most of the game and it was just insane in that fourth quarter.
“The boys on the team kept encouraging me, supporting me, and that really helped because I had a lot of butterflies before the start of the game. I know this team has had some great goalies, and I want to fit in and help the Comets win a lot of games this season.”
Tanner Hunjak, Flores and Alvaro Beltran scored first-half goals for the Comets.