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Neto, shorthanded Comets stuff Sockers

By Bill Althaus
bill.althaus@examiner.net
Kansas City Comets goalkeeper Nicolau Neto celebrates with the crowd after making 25 saves on 28 shots in a 5-3 win over the San Diego Sockers Friday night at Cable Dahmer Arena. The Comets halted a four-game losing streak despite missing eight players, including player/coach Leo Gibson, because of COVID-19 protocols.

As the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard inside Cable Dahmer Arena Friday, Kansas City Comets goalkeeper Nicolaus Neto raised his arms above his head, clenched his fists and let out a roar that could be heard throughout eastern Independence.

He had just stopped 25 of 28 shots taken by the San Diego Sockers to lead the Comets to an improbable 5-3 win that was made even more important by the fact that eight Comets – including leading scorer and player/coach Leo Gibson – were out because of COVID-19 protocols.

The Comets (2-4) ended a four-game losing streak that included overtime setbacks and gut-wrenching losses in the final minutes of their previous games.

“Tonight was all about heart,” said Comets assistant Stefan Stokic, who won his first game behind an Major Arena Soccer League bench, pounding his chest. “This team has so much heart, especially Nicolau.

“He was not going to allow San Diego to come back in this game. And we got some huge goals, especially that last one from Nick (McDonald). That goal won the game for us – that, and a team that played with as much heart and desire as any team I have ever been associated with.”

The Sockers, who were making their season debut, had cut the deficit to 4-2 and brought in a sixth attacker at 11:38 of the fourth quarter.

Just 10 seconds later, McDonald stole the ball at midfield and rifled a shot past Hiram Ruiz to make it 5-2.

“That was a big goal,” said McDonald, who lives in Blue Springs. “But this was such an emotional night. This was a team victory. Neto was huge in the net and we played our best game of the season. 

“We’ve lost so many close games, we deserve one like this. This is the type of win that can turn a season around.”

The goal loomed even larger as the Sockers scored their final goal 12:13 of the fourth quarter. 

“Nick’s goal was huge,” said Neto, who walked around the arena, prompting fans to stand as he waved his arms and pounded on the glass. “I let all the emotions of this season come out tonight.

“This was an amazing win, just amazing. You could tell when we went out for our warmups that we weren’t intimidated, we were ready. Stefan had us ready and when we scored those early goals (by Adam James and McDonald to take a 2-1 lead) we all knew we were going to win this game.

“I’ve never been as proud to be a part of a team as I am tonight. I am proud of our fans, our team, everyone!”

The Comets will enjoy a much-needed bye week, and then host the St. Louis Ambush Feb. 12 at Cable Dahmer Arena.