Forward Leo Gibson is yin to midfielder/assistant coach Vahid Assadpour’s yang.
They have different personalities and styles of play, but they have become the Missouri Comets' dynamic duo on the playing field.
“I can’t think of Leo without thinking of Vahid,” said defender Brian Harris, who has been teammates with the two perennial all-stars for five years. “Leo has the big smile, scores all the goals and always keeps everyone loose, while Vahid is a lot more serious and not afraid to get in your face when you need someone to get in your face.
“They’re so different, but they’re the same. I’m just glad they’re on our side, because together, they are unstoppable.”
Assistant coach Goran Karadzoz, who has been running practice at the SoccerDome this week while head coach Vlatko Andonovski is visiting family, agrees wholeheartedly with Harris.
“I have very few gray hairs because of the way Leo and Vahid complement each other and play so well together and with the rest of their teammates,” Karadzoz said. “It all starts with them knowing each other so well.
“They have been with us five years, and although they are two very different players, they play like one individual. But just because you have been teammates for a long time does not mean you can accomplish what Leo and Vahid have done for this team. Talent and hard work are a very big part of their success. They make my life easy. They make Vlatko’s life easy. They don’t even need to look at each other during a game, and they know what the other is thinking and going to do.”
Gibson is the No. 2 scorer in the MASL with 22 goals and 21 assists for 43 points. Assadpour is right behind with 16 goals and 14 assists for 30 points. But they mean so much more to the Comets than point production.
“They have a symbiotic relationship that you don’t see with many teammates,” team president Brian Budzinski said. “I don’t know how they do it – but they’ve been doing it for a long time. They are two very special players.”
Following Friday’s practice, the heart-and-soul Comets stars discussed their unique relationship.
“I hate Leo,” Vahid said, cracking up Gibson, who doubled over with laughter. “I never enjoyed playing with him.”
That set the stage for the type of give-and-take that comes from two good friends who have been in the trenches and emerged with championship hardware.
“We have been teammates for such a long time, we do know what to expect from each other when we are playing,” said Assadpour, who teamed with Gibson to win an Extreme Soccer League championship in 2008-2009 with the Detroit Ignition. “It goes beyond our time here with the Comets. We were teammates in Detroit, and it’s great to be teammates the past five years in Missouri. We won the (last) MISL championship last year and we’re undefeated in the MASL this year – and you’ll notice that it took four years to have that type of success …”
Gibson quickly adds, “It’s all developed over the years. We had success in Detroit and we carried that success over to the Comets, but not so much in the first three years. In Year 4 we won the MISL championship and we are having a lot of success this year, but it takes time for something like this to develop. We have always had that bond, that chemistry and now I feel like our entire team has that type of chemistry.
“And that’s what has made the past two seasons so special.”
When asked about their different personalities and styles of play, Gibson has a ready answer.
“We have different approaches to the game,” said Gibson, a finalist for the MISL MVP Award last season. “Vahid is a great leader, a real force for this team. We all respect him so much. He is an assistant coach and he takes that seriously. He takes everything seriously.
“And that is why he is such a special player.”