You had to see it to believe it.
That’s what his Kansas City Comets teammates and player-coach Leo Gibson were saying about a goal scored by Kevin Ellis, who led an offensive juggernaut Friday night at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena that paved the way for a 14-6 victory over the Orlando SeaWolves.
Ellis – the former Sporting Kansas City player who returned to the Comets this season after a short retirement – scored a career-high five goals, including a hat trick goal that he delivered while lying on the SEC Arena turf, knocking his own rebound into the back of the net. Gibson added two goals and four assists and Igancio Flores had a goal and four assists.
To top off the near-perfect night – which was witnessed by a handful of hearty fans who braved the predicted icy conditions that never really materialized until well after the game was over – Mark Saxby returned the net for the Comets and made several big saves, which put an even bigger smile on Gibson’s face.
“You know what makes this win so special?” Gibson said. “We did the things we have been working on in practice. We did the things that make us a better team – the little things, that can result in big things.”
When asked about the return of Saxby and Ellis, Gibson said, “Kevin means so much to this team. His return means everything. That one goal – oh my goodness! – I have never seen anything like it.
“He missed some games this year and decided that he missed the game of soccer and we are so excited to have him back. And tonight, you saw what Mark Saxby means to this team.
“Lou (Misner) did a great job while Mark was out (serving a three-game suspension and rehabbing from a series of foot injuries), but having Mark back in the net gives everyone confidence.
“After a game like tonight, a big win where so many players contributed, we can’t wait to get back to practice and prepare for the rest of the season.”
The win ends a two-game losing streak for the Comets, as they improved to 4-5. Orlando dropped to 1-6.
The game did not open with an offensive salvo until Kiel Williams scored at the 8-minute mark to give Kansas City a 1-0 lead.
The SeaWolves answered with two goals, including the go-ahead goal by former Comet Odaine Sinclair, who manhandled the ball away from Gibson to make it 2-1.
The Comets regained momentum when Gibson stole possession deep in the attacking end. Two passes later Ray Lee launched a rocket from well outside the box to tie it 2-2.
Orlando regained a quick 3-2 lead before Williams’ second goal of the night knotted it again.
Going into halftime, Gibson was fouled in the attacking end. Off the set piece, he teed up a perfect alley-oop to Ellis, who headed the ball into the back of the net, giving the Comets a 4-3 lead they never relinquished.
At the onset of the second half, Robert Kelly picked up his first career goal off a perfect pass from Lee.
Lee’s generosity was repaid, when Flores fed him his second goal of the night to make it 6-3.
Orlando scored one final goal before Ellis and Gibson continued their clinic.
Gibson and Ellis connected on another two-touch goal from an attacking penalty, as Ellis flicked the pass from behind his back, into the net.
Ellis completed the hat trick minutes later. Gibson fed Williams a header, and it bounced off the boards to Ellis. He missed off the wall to himself, twice, finally scoring off his shin while he sat on the turf.
“It is sometimes better to be lucky than good,” Ellis said of the goal. “Tonight, I owe it all to my teammates. They fed me perfect passes and all I had to do was shoot the ball.”
After Jeff Husted, a former Comets public relations director who now works the Major Arena Soccer League office showed him a video of the much-talked about goal, Ellis grinned and added, “Like I said, better to be lucky than good.”
Flores got in on the scoring party with just under three minutes left. He heel-poked a shot with his back to the goal past the keeper and off the post. Sinclair scrambled to keep it from crossing the threshold, but knocked it in.
Gibson had a shot in front of an open net and Sinclair earned a blue card for an intentional handball, preventing a sure score. Gibson made good on the ensuing penalty kick, sending Kansas City into double digits, 10-4.
Ellis wasn’t done, burying his fourth goal early in the fourth quarter. The SeaWolves started the period down a man, picking up another blue card right at the end of the third. Just as the power play elapsed, Ellis pulled the trigger on goal No. 4.
Orlando got one back a minute later but Gibson and Ellis connected yet again midway through the fourth quarter, giving Gibson his fourth assist of the night and Ellis his fifth goal, one shy of Gibson’s team-record six in 2014.
Gibson and Kelly added the final goals, making his return a winning experience for Saxby.
“I can’t even tell you how good this feels,” Saxby said, looking at his problem foot. “I was thinking about self amputation, but I’m glad I didn’t go to such great extremes. The guys really took care of me tonight, and Leo and Kevin were amazing.”