Comets ready to open season with mix of old and new
The energy inside the SoccerDome is electric, which is just what player/coach Leo Gibson hoped to see from his Kansas City Comets at a recent practice session.
"We are all so excited about the upcoming season," said Gibson, as the Comets play at St. Louis Friday night to open the season and then return to Cable Dahmer Arena at 7:05 p.m. Saturday for the home opener. "You can see how competitive practice is, and that is the type of atmosphere we want to create when the season starts."
The 7-5 Comets overcame a slow start and finished in third place in the regular season last year. But a strong second half helped them reach the Major Arena Soccer League playoff semifinals, before being eliminated by the Ontario Fury in a mini-series game.
"We did not get off to the start we had hoped for last season, then came so close to going all the way to championship," Gibson said. "We have done a great job bringing back key players and I feel like we have a real team now, even though we have not played a regular-season game. We are all optimistic and very excited."
A major reason for optimism is the Comets' successful defense of the 2021 Central Cup, as they defeated the Wichita Wings 14-2 and the Omaha Kings 9-2.
Gibson did not play, which gave him more time to evaluate new talent, and the Comets’ offense did not skip a beat as newcomers Ali Sodal and Lesia Thetsane caught his attention.
"The first-year players looked good," Gibson said, "very good."
The Comets also return their core from last season, which could spell trouble for their MASL opponents.
Gibson, who says he may spend more time on the bench this season and less on the field, led the team in scoring with eight goals and 12 assists and was a member of the All-MASL second team.
MASL Rookie of the Year, midfielder Lucas Sousa (9 goals, 8 assists), is back along with forwards Adam James (11 goals, 5 assists) and Rian Marques (12 goals, 3 assists).
Defenders John Sosa (3 goals, 11 assists) and Ray Lee (9 goals, 4 assists) were MASL second-team selections last season, and Mike Da Silva (7 goals, 4 assists) and Ramone Palmer (4 goals, 7 assists) round out the core of returnees who give Gibson hope for a championship campaign.
"It's an exciting time," Gibson said.
Goalkeepers Nicolau Neto (5-5, 5.74 GAA), who earned All-MASL honorable mention honors last season, and Lou Misner (2-0, 4.00 GAA) return, and their play got stronger as the team improved last year.
"We are looking very good at every position on the team," Gibson said. "We are very happy with our goalkeepers and defenders, our forwards and midfielders, and we are eager to see what Lucas does this year after winning the Rookie of the Year award last year.
"We have a very nice mix of veterans, younger players and some new players our fans are really going to enjoy watching."