Comets set for Game 1 of Conference Finals in Milwaukee

by Nathan Dunn

Kansas City Comets vs Milwaukee Wave

MASL Ron Newman Cup Playoffs — Game 1 of Eastern Conference Finals

Friday, April 19 — 6:35 p.m. CT

Where | UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Stream | CBS Sports Golazo Network

The Kansas City Comets and Milwaukee Wave will renew their rivalry as they battle for the Eastern Conference crown and a spot in the 2024 Ron Newman Cup Finals. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals will kick off Friday in Milwaukee before returning to Kansas City for Game 2 on Monday.

In the Conference Semifinals, both sides defeated the top two seeds in the East. No. 3 Kansas City was the only team able to complete a sweep in the conference semifinals, defeating No. 2 Utica City FC in two games after an overtime win on home turf and a 7-5 road win on Monday. Milwaukee handed top-seeded Monterrey their first two losses of the entire season in Monterrey after going down 1-0 in the series.

This series promises to be a great spectacle not just for the rivalry but also the form both teams are in. The Comets have won eight straight, last losing on February 16. The Wave are fresh from a remarkable upset as they won Game 2 and the Knockout Game in Monterrey.

The trio of Nacho Flores, Zach Reget and Rian Marques were difference-makers against Utica City as they tallied five points a piece across the series. They will look to build on that and get the Comets to the franchise's first-ever Ron Newman Cup Finals.

It was also a staunch defensive effort last round from the Comets as they held one of the highest-scoring offenses that averaged nearly 8 goals per game in the regular season to just nine goals across two games. Among the key components of that defense is Chad Vandegriffe, who scored and assisted in the series.

Vandegriffe will be going up against some familiar faces in the Conference Finals, having spent four seasons with the Wave and winning the 2019 Ron Newman Cup with them. He is the only Comet with a Ron Newman Cup championship.

Defender Ray Lee (foot) is doubtful for Friday's contest.

While the Comets are 9-4 against the Wave since 2021, this will be their first postseason meeting since Milwaukee swept KC in 2019. KC hasn't won a playoff series against MKE since 2016.

Milwaukee is led into battle by Giuliano Oliviero, the longest-serving head coach in the Eastern Conference. This will not be a new occasion for the longtime Wave player turned coach, who has won championships on both sides of the bench.

Milwaukee beat Monterrey in the knockout game thanks to Derek Huffman's overtime winner. No stranger to this rivalry, Huffman scored one of his 20 regular season goals in the matchup last November.

Ricardo Carvalho is another offensive threat. Carvalho led Milwaukee with six points in the Conference Semifinals after a 26-point regular season campaign.

Milwaukee will be without leading scorer Marcio Leite (knee) in addition to Tyler Howard (lower leg) and Breno Oliveira (knee). Max Ferdinand (knee), Alex Sanchez (Toe), Ben Ramin (hamstring) and Ian Bennet (lower leg) are listed as probable. Bennett has been a great thorn in the COmets' side and is one of six Wave players that were also on the team for the 2019 championship.

After Friday, both teams will play the return leg on Monday at Cable Dahmer Arena. Tickets for Monday's matchup are available on Ticketmaster.