Leo Gibson and Adam James returning to Comets for 2021-22 Major Arena Soccer League season

By Bill Althaus
The Examiner
Kansas City Comets player/coach Leo Gibson celebrates a goal in a game last season. Gibson announced Wednesday night that he will return for the 2021-22 season as a player/coach.

While it's nearly four months before the Kansas City Comets kick off their 2021-22 Major Arena Soccer League season, veteran Leo Gibson is already making plans for it. 

He said Wednesday night that he will return to the team as a player/coach after casting some doubts at the end of last season that he would return to the playing field. 

"It's been a great offseason, and the body feels great, so, as of now, I plan on returning as both a player and the team's coach," said Gibson, the most honored player in franchise history. 

Gibson, who will turn 38 in August, leads the Comets with 251 career goals and 233 assists for 484 career points since joining the franchise in 2010. He also has 24 goals and nine assists in 24 postseason appearances. The Comets missed the MASL championship finals by one game last season after a regular season shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"We are so young and I think we are going to be a successful and exciting team to watch this season," said Gibson, who has served as the player/coach since the start of the 2019-20 season when he replaced former head coach Kim Roentved. "And I believe I can came come back and contribute as a player this upcoming season. 

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"Last season was very difficult. We did not play a full schedule and we had so many young players, but we got stronger as the season went on and came so close to making into the championship game.

"We're in the process of signing our key players and I can't wait to get back to work." 

One of those players is forward Adam James, who will return for his fifth season with the club on a new one-year contract, the team announced Wednesday. 

James started his professional career with the Comets midway through the 2017-18 season. Over his 3 ½-year career, he has played 72 games, scoring 39 goals to go along with 28 assists. 

Kansas City Comets forward Adam James, center, splits St. Louis Ambush defenders Richard Schmermund (23) and Lucas Almeida (10) during their MASL Central Cup match last year. James has agreed to a contract to return to the Comets for the 2021-22 season.

Last season, James started off strong, scoring six goals in the three-game MASL Central Cup preseason tournament. James appeared in all 12 of the Comets’ regular season games last year, scoring 11 times, including four goals in one game against the St. Louis Ambush. 

His 11 goals were second most on the Comets and his 16 points were good for third. 

“Adam has steadily improved over the past four seasons, from rookie to MASL honorable mention,” Comets managing partner Brian Budzinski said. “Now the expectation is for him to perform at the level of a consistent veteran every single game.”

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Gibson agrees that James will play an important role for the Comets. 

"Adam is going to be a key member of our team this season and we expect big things from him," Gibson said. "And he's going to have an entire season to show us what he can to make us a better team." 

Before joining the Comets, James played forward for four seasons for Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. While on the Ravens, he scored 27 goals and was named a second-team NAIA All-American and led his team in goals (16), points (38) and points per game (2.0). 

“I am excited to be able to represent the city and team I love so much,” said James, a Kearney, Mo., native. “This will be a strong year for the Comets as we look to go farther in the playoffs and win it all. I look forward to playing a big role in bringing a championship home this season.” 

5K scheduled 

The Comets will get an early jump on the 2021-22 season by hosting their first KC Comets 5K Run/Walk at 7 a.m. Aug. 21 at Cable Dahmer Arena, followed by an exhibition match that evening at 6 p.m. against the Omaha Kings FC of the MASL2 Division. The Comets’ regular season will kick off in November. 

All KC Comets 5K racers/walkers will receive a race T-shirt, a specially-designed medal and tickets to the exhibition match. Proceeds from the race benefit Team Fidelis, a charity whose mission is to prevent suicide among service members, veterans and their families. 

To sign up, visit kccomets.com or runsignup.com/Race/MO/Independence/KansasCityComets5K 

Full schedule planned 

Major Arena Soccer League Commissioner Keith Tozer has announced all teams will play a full 24-game schedule for the 2021-22 season, which will run from late November through early April, with playoffs to follow. 

This follows a season in which seven of 16 teams competed in a shortened regular season due to COVID-19. All MASL teams, including the new Chihuahua Savage, are expected to play the full schedule. 

There will be two eight-team divisions, and the Comets will play in the East along with St. Louis, Baltimore, Utica, Harrisburg, Rochester, Florida and Milwaukee. The West will be Turlock, Chihuahua, Monterrey, Ontario, Mesquite, Dallas, San Diego and Tacoma. 

Teams will be announcing up to three guaranteed dates over the next few weeks, subject to approval by the commissioner’s office.