Kansas City Comets vs Milwaukee Wave
MASL Regular Season
Sunday, November 26 — 5:05 p.m. CT
Where | Cable Dahmer Arena – Independence, Missouri
TV | 38 the Spot (local)
Stream | twitch.tv/masl_soccer
The Kansas City Comets kick off the 2023-24 season Sunday when they host rival Milwaukee Wave. After playing each other six times last season, and the previous season, this will be the only regular season match-up this season.
The Comets were the better team head-to-head in both of the two previous seasons, winning each season series 4-2. While the Wave struggled against the Comets last season, they finished first in the Eastern Conference. The Comets were inconsistent and barely made the playoffs with a fifth-place finish.
The Comets have been busy in the offseason and will have a different look this season. The Comets have a new head coach and several new players. Stefan Stokic steps up from the assistant role to chart a new course. He played for the Comets, was an assistant and several MASL teams expressed an interest in him to fill a coaching role. Stokic has added two new assistants as well with Matt Gordon and Kye Martey. Goalkeeper coaches Alan Mayer and Kenny Mayer return.
Anecdotal evidence on why the Comets should be better this season
With a new coaching staff and so many young players, the veterans take extra time to help out the younger players. After a recent practice, Robert Palmer pulled several of the younger players down to one end and made them work to take him on. Leo Gibson joined him, and it became a masterclass for young attackers.
Palmer was not making it easy on the young players, but he was also giving them tips on how to take on a defender, find a teammate in transition, and make runs off the ball. Gibson was also showing them how to make runs, how to position for the shot, and where to play it for a teammate to pick it up off the wall. Both of them were showing little things that make players good. How to position their feet, angle their body, how to receive the ball in tight spaces. Young players lined up to get this MASL Masterclass, asking to keep trying.
Over and over.
The Kansas Comets roster breakdown
New players in Bold – Inactive players in italics
Nicolau Neto #1
Chris Frederick #13
Phillip Ejimadu #99
Neto has been the man in the goal for the last few years. He was in the top five in the league in Saves, Save Percentage, and Goals Against Average. The only keeper stat he was not near the top was wins and that says more about the team in front of him.
As good as Neto has been, he now has serious competition. While Frederick brings MASL experience from his time with Florida, Ejimadu has been very impressive in camp and may be quickly pushing for starts. Ejimadu was signed by LAFC in MLS and has played in USL Championship. It may take some time for him to fully adjust to indoor, but he looks like he is learning quickly.
Overall, a solid, maybe even spectacular keeper core. Neto has competition to push him and quality backups in either case.
Ray Lee #3
Chad Vandegriffe #4 Suspended card accumulation last season
Erik Pereira #6
John Sosa #19
Robert Palmer #51
DeBray Hollimon #91
One of the issues last year was the team consistently being vulnerable to counters. Signing Vandegriffe the 2021-22 Defender of the Year and trading to bring back Palmer who won the Defender of the Year the prior season should help. A lot of work on the transition game should help as well.
Veteran Sosa will still be a master on restarts and Lee with a lethal left foot will bang in goals. Neither will be required to carry all the load like that had to much of last season.
Holliman is a good defender and will be fighting for regular minutes as well. Pereira has some experience in St. Louis and was a guy the Comets wanted previously but could not manage the roster room at that time.
The one big loss in this position group is James Togbah. After a serious concussion midseason, he never returned to practice. He is now with the Ambush.
Expect Palmer, Vandegriffe, Sosa and Lee to get most of the time in rotation. The back line has been seriously upgraded.
Lucas Sousa #7
Francisco “Cisco” Lopez JR #11
Eduardo “Benji” Monreal #12 M Inactive – will play in Mexico
Henry Ramirez #16
Leonardo Acosta #17 Injured
Adrian Gutierrez Llorente #21
Eduardo “Lalo” Alonso Alejo #22
Ignacio “Nacho” Flores #23
Michael Lenis #29
Milos Vucic #30 M Inactive
Christian Anderaos #31
This position group opens up some questions for coach. Will he play 2 defenders, two mids and a target forward? Or will he go with a single true mid, and two forwards. Will Stokic use a regular defensive runner? Honestly it will probably vary depending on the line, the game, the opponent and who is healthy.
Nacho is the most experienced, can bring creativity and that grit when needed. Seems to have been injured every year but when healthy is good.
Sousa is another vet that is a good attacker and has some speed.
Ramirez and Lalo are two young guys that are not new, but have not had a lot of playing time yet. They have looked good in camp and this could be a breakout year if they seize the opportunity. Ramirez might end spending time as a defensive runner.
Because of visa issues, Monreal will probably only play the away games in Mexico.
Vucic is missing and his status is simply inactive at the moment.
Anderaos has played as a second forward, a defensive runner and as a pure mid. Wherever he plays, he will bring energy and skill as he continues to develop as an indoor player. He is now available with visa issues resolved.
Gutierrez has been on the team for a while but has not played much despite his skill. Complications with his other occupation have limited his indoor time but that looks to be in a better situation this season. If he plays to his potential, he may be the true attacking mid for the Comets.
Cisco is a rookie and will probably struggle for minutes but has definitely shown flashes of skill so do not overlook him.
Acosta has indoor experience in the 2nd division and was definitely ready to play at a higher level. Has looked very good in preseason. Skill, strength and quickness will earn him playing time.
Lenis comes from the Sporting KC Academy and also played for SKC II. His skills should transition to the indoor game well. Looked good in camp and should earn playing time right away.
The Comets have a lot of youth in midfield but the good news is they look ready to step up. Acosta and Lenis could both shine for the Comets.
Ramone Palmer #5
Zach Reget #8
Junior Kazeem #9 Injured
Leo Gibson #14
Rian Marques #26
Jacob Garza #48
Akins Banton #52 F inactive
Have to start with Gibson. He has been the player coach for a few years and that probably distracted him from being as good at either role as he could have been. Without the coach title he will still be a leader but can focus on scoring… And assists… And restarts… Leo already leads the Comets in almost every statistical category and despite his age, he will likely pad those stats quite a bit. Can be the target forward, the second forward and bang in goals from any role. Even defense…
Palmer is another long time KC veteran. Can play almost anywhere. With other goals scorers healthy and focused, Palmer should take advantage of opposing defenses a little more this season.
Marquess is big, strong and skilled. A prototypical target forward to knock in goals or play off of with second runners. If he stays healthy, he should stress the opponents defense a lot.
Reget came to the Comets last season after a fair amount of drama in Florida generated by their coach. There is no doubt that he can be one of the top goal scorers in the league. Getting a preseason with the Comets and fully settled in will only make him better.
Last season, Kazeem was strong and really dangerous in the box. This year he has improved his understanding of the indoor game. His biggest challenges will be finding a place in a very talented front line once his visa is cleared. Once he is on the field, expect some goals.
In Garza’s second season it will be interesting to see how much time he earns. Will likely play more as a defensive runner when he does see game minutes.
Banton (The Big Guy) is inactive at the moment but can play as a target forward or fill in on the back line. He improved from last season to this based on watching him in practice.
Lots of skill and lots of experience will make it a challenge for coach Stokic. How will he get them on the field and in what combination? There should be enough talent to rack up goals if they are healthy.