Leo Gibson never lost faith in his Kansas City Comets Friday night.
Facing a 7-2 deficit, the player/coach and his Comets scored seven unanswered goals to stun the Milwaukee Wave 9-8 at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
“Leo was so calm, so reassuring at halftime,” said Kevin Ellis, the reigning Major Arena Soccer League Player of the Week who scored the Comets’ sixth and seventh goals early in the fourth period to set the stage for one of the most dramatic comebacks in Comets history.
“He kept saying, ‘We need to go out and play hard and work on what we worked on all week in practice.’ And we did, and look at the end result. This was an amazing win.”
Ray Lee followed Ellis’ seventh goal with the goal-ahead score at 9:04 – off an assist from rookie goalkeeper Nicolau Neto – and Robert Palmer scored what turned out to be the game winner at 9:26.
What made it even more dramatic was the simple fact that the 6-foot-4 rookie goalie was in goal for the first time in his professional career as his visa was cleared Thursday and he passed his physical hours before the game.
“Neto is going to be a great goalie,” Gibson said. “He never panicked tonight and they had a sixth attacker the last six minutes of the game. He did a great job, and we are all proud of him and happy for him getting his first professional win.”
Neto, who wore a makeshift T-shirt in his pro debut, was thrilled with the end result.
“This was a team win and I was just a small part of it,” said Neto, who faced 23 shots on goal, and a barrage of shots once the Wave put in a sixth attacker at 5:42 of the fourth quarter. “Even when we were down 7-2, we were confident and had a lot of team energy. I never felt like we were going to lose the game, and we just kept scoring goal after goal after goal.”
The Comets scored seven goals in a row, as Gibson, Lucas Rodriguez and Kiel Williams scored in the third period to make it 7-5 going into the final quarter.
“Man, give them credit,” said Wave superstar Ian Bennett, who scored four goals and had a hat trick for the second time this season against Kansas City. “We’re up 7-2 and it’s looking good and they just kept attacking. That is a good Kansas City team.”
Palmer collided with a Wave player late in the game, and was limping off the field at the end of the game sporting the type of smile that comes when you score the game-winning goal.
“We won this game because we had a tough mindset, we knew what we needed to do and we went out and did it,” Palmer said. “Leo is so calm, as a player and a coach.
“He assisted on so many of our goals (four) and scored a goal himself and he just kept encouraging us. I am so happy for Neto to win his first pro game and so happy for Leo because he kept us going, kept us inspired when we were down 7-2.”