by Pat Clifton

KANSAS CITY (Nov. 12, 2019) – The Kansas City Comets have signed a pair of local standouts in defender Matt Lewis and midfielder Ray Saari. Both played DI college soccer before starting their professional outdoor careers in the United Soccer League, and both have signed one-year deals with the Comets. Per league and team policy, no other details of the agreements are available.

Lewis attended Rockhurst High School but played in Sporting KC’s Development Academy before starting all 84 of his games at Fordham, setting program records in both starts and appearances. He was a three-time all-Atlantic-10 selection and was named the conference defensive player of the year as a senior, helping the Rams to two conference titles and three NCAA tournament appearances. Lewis was signed by Sporting KC in 2018 before being loaned out to the Swope Park Rangers and landing with the New York Cosmos earlier this year. 

“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Matt for a long time, and I’m excited to be able to bring him back to play in Kansas City in front of his friends and family. He’s a talented, tall center back with very good feet. He is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential,” said Comets managing partner Brian Budzinski.

“It’s a unique opportunity for me, and I’m excited to get started. I’ve been away from indoor soccer for a while, so I’m kind of excited to get back into it and help the hometown team,” said Lewis, who joined the team’s preseason training camp Monday.

“I think for me that first week is going to be pretty big, in terms of acclimating to a new team. I’ve got a lot of things to learn and catch up on with the different styles, but I think it’s going to be a quick transition.”

Saari, diagnosed at 15-years-old, overcame childhood cancer to star for Oak Park High School and earn a scholarship to Tulsa. As a Golden Hurricane, he started in 53 of 69 games played, scoring 12 goals and recording 12 assists from the midfield.

While in school, he’d spend summers playing for the Tulsa Athletic of the NPSL and winters back in Kansas City training with the Comets, making two appearances with the club during the 2016/2017 season. He was signed by the Seattle Sounders after graduation, playing for the club’s USL side for two seasons before signing with the Sacramento Republic. 

“I have a special place in my heart for Ray. He’s an Oak Park High School graduate, like myself, he’s fought through tremendous personal adversity, and he’s a hell of a soccer player to boot. I’m looking for Ray to come in and play in the midfield, control possession and find those dynamic passing lanes,” said Budzinski.

“I’m excited to sign with the Comets. I’ve always learned a lot from the veteran players on the team. The advice and the experiences they’ve had as pros has helped me in my career,” said Saari.

“Obviously, playing with my hometown team is something I look forward to doing. I’ve been going to Comets games since I was a kid. Even back when they were the Kings and playing at the Soccer Dome, I went to those games, too. It’s special for sure.