When the Missouri Comets trailed the Monterrey Flash Sunday at Arena Monterrey in Mexico, goalkeeper Danny Waltman did his best to keep his team focused and confident in the closing seconds.
“During a timeout, Danny was so positive, saying, 'Come on, we can do this! We can do this!' And we believed him,” said forward Robert Palmer, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime to help the Comets complete a weekend sweep in Mexico, improve to 15-0 and clinch the MASL Central Division title.
Missouri's Ramone Palmer (no relation) tied the game at 7-all with just 17 seconds left in the fourth quarter, and Robert Palmer won it seconds into the overtime period.
“I am extremely proud of the guys and very happy for them,” coach Vlatko Andonovski said after six different players scored for the Comets and team captain Vahid Assadpour completed a hat trick. “Tonight we were disciplined, organized and aggressive. However, that didn't win the game. Tonight our players played with passion. Our passion won the game.”
Robert Palmer agreed it was the team's heart that kept it undefeated.
“We do have a lot of talent on this team,” Palmer said, “but we have so much passion for the game. And we are not a team – we are a family, a band of brothers. We care so much for each other, we will do anything to win. We would not let Danny lose that game after working so hard.
“When Ramone tied the game, we all knew we would win it in overtime. When I scored that goal, I just looked at Danny and smiled and he smiled – everyone was smiling. It was just an amazing feeling. Monterrey is such a great team and to come back and tie the game and win in overtime reminded me of our win against Baltimore in the MISL championship game last year.”
Less than three minutes into the match, Monterrey's Angel Hernandez opened the scoring to give the host Flash (14-2) a 1-0 lead.
However, Assadpour notched an unassisted goal followed by a rocket by Alain Matingou to give Missouri a 2-1 advantage going into the second period.
Monterrey forward Erick Tovar scored three consecutive goals in the second quarter, giving the Flash a 4-2 lead, before Assadpour notched his second goal with 30 seconds left in the half to make it 4-3 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Missouri’s John Sosa and Monterrery’s Angel Curiel received yellow cards for misconduct before Robert Palmer was issued a blue card for tripping. That led to Tovar's fourth goal of the night.
Max Touloute scored his lone goal of the match to make it 5-4 going into the final quarter.
Early in the fourth, Stefan Stokic fed Andre Braithwaite who scored to knot the score at 5-all. But seven seconds later Monterrey took the lead when Yotsi Martinez ripped the ball past Waltman.
Halfway through the fourth, Assadpour completed his hat trick, but at the 12:42 mark, Monterrey's Lourenço Andrade put the ball out of Waltman's reach to make it 7-6.
With only 17 seconds left and Sosa in as the sixth attacker, Ramone Palmer took advantage of a Monterrey back-line mistake and beat goalkeeper Diego Reynoso to force the 10-minute golden goal overtime.
Touloute received a blue card 25 seconds into overtime for kicking a player, giving Monterrey a power-play opportunity. But the Comets won on Palmer's short-handed goal.
“To share a win like that with my brothers is something I will never forget,” Robert Palmer said. “We had a great trip, won two games, won our division and now we can come home and play in front of our great fans Saturday night.”
• Following the 7 p.m. Saturday game, the Comets will auction off special gold jerseys that represent the fight against pediatric cancer. The voice of Truman High School sports, Jerry Kaylor, will serve as the auctioneer. Replica jerseys will also be raffled with tickets going for $1 or six for $5.
• With Waltman suffering from a high ankle sprain, defender Brian Harris played nearly three quarters in goal in Friday night's 14-8 win over Saltillo Rancho Seco.
“I had the long pants, the gloves, everything,” said Harris, chuckling. “Man, it's a tough position. You just feel so bad for the guys when you give up a goal. We had a 6-1 lead six minutes into the game and they scored three goals on Danny and you could tell he was hurting.
“We needed him Sunday, so I went in and played goal and we survived. Danny was amazing in the two games. Now that we have clinched first place, I hope he gets some rest so he is ready for the playoffs.”