by Pat Clifton

KANSAS CITY (Dec. 28, 2019) – The Kansas City Comets returned home and to winning ways with a 9-2 win over the Tacoma Stars Saturday at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena. Kansas City product Ray Lee paced the team on offense with a hat-trick, and Kiel Williams chipped in two himself.

The star of the night, though, may have been debutant goalkeeper Lou Misner. After failing to make the team 10 years ago, he gave the open tryouts a second look this fall, earning a roster spot.

An injury to regular starter Mark Saxby and Steven Hamersky’s return to the Wichita Wings meant Misner would start in his MASL debut, holding the Stars to just two goals, their second not coming until the Comets had five on the board. His spirited play was welcomed by fans, who chanted his name after several saves.

“I’m glad to get the first win out of the way in the first game,” said Misner, the 28-year-old rookie who has played most of his soccer recreationally at the Kansas City Soccer Dome since graduating from Oak Park High School. “Honestly, with the chanting and everything, it was like high school again.”

The win improves the Comets to 3-3 on the season and 2-0 at home. The loss makes four-in-a-row for the Stars, who sit at 2-5. The Comets are back at Silverstein against the Milwaukee Wave Jan. 4.   

The opening 10 minutes of Saturday’s match were a defensive struggle, with the Comets intent on setting a physical tone. A flurry of early Kansas City fouls frustrated the Stars, who reciprocated with several of their own. The visitors finally drew first blood 11 minutes in, with Eddie Na finishing off a two-on-one to beat Misner.

The Comets were on attack just as much as the Stars throughout the first half, peppering the boards immediately around the Tacoma net. After a shot from Kiel Williams midway through the second quarter, Leo Gibson found a crease from the top of the arc, beating former teammate Danny Waltman to tie the game at 1-1.

The coach’s goal opened the floodgates, as the Comets averaged a goal-a-minute to close out the first half. Ray Lee netted Kansas City’s second and third goals of the night, the first a great individual effort and the second the fruit of stellar team play.

On the first, Lee stripped the Stars of the ball deep in their own end, faked a shot at the top of the arc to buy some space before blowing the ball past Waltman. Seconds later, Leo Gibson quarterbacked a three-on-one, setting Lee up with an easier look. Then Robert Palmer connected with Matt Lewis on a give-and-go, with Palmer netting his first score of the season.

The onslaught carried through the intermission, with Lucas Rodriguez scoring 90 seconds into the second half. Gibson was tripped deep in the attacking end, setting up a free kick in the corner. John Sosa tapped the ball to a charging Rodriguez, who converted the set play to give Kansas City the 5-1 lead.

While Kansas City’s player/coach, Leo Gibson, was serving five minutes for dissent, Tacoma’s scored. Nick Perera posted up Ray Saari at the top of the box, spun and shot, ending the five-goal skid. Adam James snatched the momentum right back, powering through the last defender and poking a goal past Waltman to make it 6-2 at the end of the third quarter.

Perera picked up a blue card midway through the fourth quarter, as Tacoma’s frustration with the officials became increasingly apparent. The Comets couldn’t score during the power play, but Williams did when Tacoma returned to full strength. He executed a stepover in traffic before freezing Waltman with a shot from long range, adding to Kansas City’s lead, 7-2.

 The Stars pulled Waltman with more than five minutes left, resulting in another blue card when the sixth attacker was sent off for an intentional handball while scrambling back in defense. Rodriguez attracted the keeper’s attention on the penalty play, setting up Williams for his second-straight goal. Lee then scorched a laser over the sixth attacker’s head in the 58th minute, extending the Comets lead to 9-2.