SUBSCRIBE NOW
As low as $1 for 3 months
SUBSCRIBE NOW
As low as $1 for 3 months

Comets drop pair of road games at Florida

By Bill Althaus
bill.althaus@examiner.net
Kansas City Comets

LAKELAND, Fla. – Two Major Arena Soccer League stars proved why they have earned so many accolades Friday.

Kansas City Comets player/coach Leo Gibson posted another hat trick at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland. But his performance was offset by Ian Bennett’s five-point game – which included a hat trick, two assists and the game-winning overtime goal in an 8-7 thriller.

Bennett – usually a standout for Milwaukee, which took the season off because of the COVID-19 pandemic – is a first-year player in Florida and he is loving every minute of it.

“I actually feel a bit guilty being in Florida when my family and so many friends are back in Milwaukee,” Bennett said by phone. “It is nice to go around in a T-shirt and shorts and I don’t miss warming up my car for an hour before I get in it.

“This is a great organization and I think we can have a special season. I know anytime you beat a team coached by Leo, and you beat a team Leo plays for, you’re doing something special.

“They led most of the way tonight, but we just kept it close enough to find a way to win in overtime. Leo is such a wonderful player and a wonderful coach and man, I know he will make it tough for us to get another win Sunday.”

The two teams play again at 2:05 p.m. (Central time) Sunday.

The Comets saw their record dip to 1-1 with the overtime loss as Bennett’s Tropics improved to 3-0.

“They are a very good team, but I think we gave up too many easy goals tonight,” Gibson said by phone. “Ian is a tremendous player and we have to find a better way to keep him from getting easy shots Sunday.

“This is a loss we can learn from.”

And Gibson was already watching video after the loss.

“I just saw Leo in the hotel lobby,” Bennett said, “and he was on his computer watching video of the game. He is going to be as great a coach as he is a player. He’s still getting it gone out on the field. What a special guy.”

The Comets opened the game with three straight goals. Gibson’s first of the night was short-handed with 5:28 remaining in the first frame.

Henry Ramirez was in the right place at the right time and knocked in a rebound in front of the goal putting Kansas City up 2-0 with 3:17 to go. Lucas Sousa then managed to get one past Florida keeper Hugo Silva by trickling the ball along the ground from the left side with just two seconds left in the opening quarter. 

The teams then combined for seven goals in the second quarter, including the first two by Bennett and teammate Ricardo Carvalho.

Kansas City’s Kevin Ellis connected with Gibson, who fired a rocket from the left side to extend the Comets’ lead to 4-2. 

Bennett then assisted Guilherme Dos Santos to come within one at 4-3 with 5:20 remaining in the second quarter.

Back-to-back Comets goals from Matt Lewis and Adam James less than a minute apart built the Kansas City lead to three once again with one minute to go in the half.

Florida’s Victor Parreiras then scored to send the teams to the locker room with the Comets leading 6-4. 

Like the first half, Gibson opened scoring in the second half, this time on a power play goal assisted by Sousa for a 7-4 advantage with 11:02 left in the third. But it was the only goal the Comets could manage in the final two quarters.

A pair of power play goals from Bennett and Dos Santos brought Florida within one to end the third and set up an exciting final period.

Unlike the first three quarters, the fourth was a defensive battle with neither team looking to run on odd-man rushes. A total of three shots were taken in the fourth, two by Florida. Sobreira’s goal, on Bennett’s assist, knotted it 7-7 and sent it to a 10-minute, golden goal overtime period.

Bennett’s fifth point – a game-winning chip shot over Kansas City goalkeeper Nicolau Neto – ended the match.

“I was in the right place at the right time,” Bennett said. “The Comets played hard all night. We had to play hard to fight back and tie the game, so we had the opportunity to win it in overtime.”

SUNDAY'S GAME: The Comets could not get their offense on track as they lost their second game of the weekend to the Florida Tropics, a 7-4 Sunday setback that featured three blue cards, five yellow cards and a red card.

After Florida took a 2-0 lead on goals by Anthony Arico and Joey Tavernese, Kansas City’s John Sosa slid a pass to Ramone Palmer, who one-timed a shot to the back of the net with 8:18 left in the first half to cut Florida’s lead in half.

That was as close as the Comets would come the rest of the afternoon. 

After a Florida goal by Guilherme Dos Santos, the penalty fest began.

Kansas City’s Mirko Sandivari, along with Florida’s Drew Ruggles and Arico, were all sent to the penalty box on yellow cards for dissent. They were joined with 59 seconds to go when the Comets’ Palmer was given a blue card for kicking, followed by a yellow card for dissent, setting the Tropics up with a power play. 

Comets player/coach Leo Gibson then received a red card and the Tropics converted on a 5-on-3 power play as Ian Bennett scored his seventh goal of the season to make it 4-1.

Each team scored in the third quarter beginning with Kansas City’s Rian Marques. The Tropics’ goal came with 19 seconds left in the quarter when Ruggles scored on a Victor Parreiras assist.  

Back-to-back Tropics goals from Parreiras and Arico pushed that Florida lead to 7-2 with 8:46 left.

Matt Lewis and Sosa each scored for Kansas City in the final two minutes.