One goalie was a 28-year-old rookie, starting his first-ever Major Arena Soccer League game.
The other was an icon who once led the Kansas City Comets to their lone championship in 2014.
As Comets rookie Lou Misner, a 2009 graduate of Oak Park School, walked to the net at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena Saturday, he looked across the field and saw Danny Waltman, the former heart and soul Comets goalie whose pregame flips off the glass were nearly as memorable as his eye-popping saves.
What initially seemed like a mismatch turned into a 9-2 Comets victory.
“The kid was great, and Leo had the guys fired up and ready to play,” said Waltman, who spent nearly an hour after the game shaking hands, visiting with old friends.
“This isn’t the vision I had when I thought about coming back to Kansas City, but tonight you have to give credit where credit is due, and their kid was great in the net and they have a lot of offensive firepower. They’re going to be a tough team to deal with the rest of the season.”
While Misner starred in the net, the Comets defender Ray Lee paced the offense with a hat trick, and Kiel Williams chipped in two goals to pave the way for the rookie’s memorable win.
“This is unbelievable – a night I will never forget,” said Misner, who failed to make the team 10 years ago but decided to attend this year’s open tryouts.
An injury to regular starter Mark Saxby (who is expected to be back in goal tonight against St. Louis) and Steven Hamersky’s return to the Wichita Wings meant Misner would start in his MASL debut.
“I’m glad to get the first win out of the way in my first game,” said Misner, who was applauded by appreciative Comets fans throughout the game. “Honestly, with the chanting and everything, it was like high school again.”
The win improves the Comets to 3-3 on the season and 2-0 at home. It was the fourth loss in a row for the 2-5 Stars.
The opening 10 minutes of Saturday’s match were an offensive struggle, with the Comets intent on setting a physical tone. The visitors finally drew first blood 11 minutes in, with Eddie Na finishing off a two-on-one to beat Misner.
The Comtes trailed 1-0 going into the second quarter, and the coach made sure the rookie got some offensive support as Gibson followed a rebound off a shot by Williams to drill it past his former Comets teammate.
“This was such a big win,” said Gibson, who also added an assist. “First, for our fans. They were tremendous tonight. And we knew we were facing one of the best goalies in the history of this sport, and our guys really responded. This is just a great night for everyone.”
Gibson’s goal opened the floodgates, as the Comets averaged a goal-a-minute to close out the first half. Lee netted Kansas City’s second and third goals of the night.
Robert Palmer then connected with Matt Lewis on a give-and-go, with Palmer netting his first goal of the season.
The offensive explosion carried through the intermission, with Lucas Rodriguez scoring 1:23 into the second half. Gibson was tripped deep in the attacking end, setting up a free kick from the corner. Captain John Sosa tapped the ball to a charging Rodriguez, who converted the set play to give Kansas City the 5-1 lead.
While Gibson was serving five minutes for dissent, Tacoma’s Nick Perera – the Stars’ player/coach – posted up Ray Saari at the top of the box, spun and shot, ending the Comets’ five-goal streak.
Adam James snatched the momentum right back, powering through the last defender and poking a goal past Waltman to make it 6-2 at the end of the third quarter.
Williams executed a stepover in traffic before freezing Waltman with a shot from long range, making it 7-2.
The Stars pulled Waltman with more than five minutes left, resulting in another blue card when the sixth attacker was sent off for an intentional handball while scrambling back in defense.
Rodriguez attracted the keeper’s attention on the penalty play, setting up Williams for his second-straight goal. Lee then scorched a laser over the sixth attacker’s head with less than two minutes to play to complete his hat trick and account for the final score.
As the game ended, Misner was mobbed by his teammates and given a standing ovation by the crowd. Waltman even came over to give him a post-game hug.
“I was watching the clock and when it got down to :00, I just started to celebrate, and my teammates joined in on the celebration,” Misner said. “And to have Danny come over and congratulate me was the perfect way to end the evening.”