The Missouri Comets haven’t made their Major Indoor Soccer League playoff run easy.
Not on themselves. And certainly not on the fans at the Independence Events Center over the past week.
Top-seeded Baltimore left the arena Thursday with a 21-12 win in the first game of the MISL championship series, and left the Comets in a familiar position in front of 5,279 in attendance. Missouri must win twice Saturday in Baltimore — a regulation 60-minute match and a 15-minute mini-game — to claim its first championship.
The No. 3-seed Comets faced the same scenario in last week’s semifinal series against Milwaukee. Missouri surrendered a 10-0 lead before falling 12-10 in overtime in Independence, then swept the two-time defending champions with a pair of do-or-die one-point wins on the road.
In Thursday’s game, Missouri never led as the Blast scored 12 unanswered points in the first half — all on goals in or near the penalty area — to take a 14-2 lead at halftime.
“I am so extremely disappointed right now,” Comets coach Kim Roentved said. “I understand that a lot of them haven’t been in a final before, but this is what it’s all about. If you want to win a trophy, you have to go out there and take it yourself. And we didn’t.”
Baltimore scored on its first six shots on goal, mostly in transition and with give-and-go passes to set up close-range chances.
“I think we came out a little soft early and put ourselves in a hole with a couple easy goals and we were playing catch up the whole game,” goalkeeper Danny Waltman said. “It seemed like we were just a step late going into tackles, a foot away on passes, and there was always a Baltimore Blast player open.”
By the second half, the Comets were able to chip into the lead, even closing to six in the final four minutes. Missouri finished with more shots (36-24) and shots on goal (21-20), but had few transition opportunities or unobstructed chances.
And the deficit proved too large sending the Comets off the field unsatisfied, Roentved perhaps most of all.
“We’re not ready to throw in the towel yet, but you can only put yourself behind the 8-ball so many times before it’s going to catch up with you,” Roentved said. “We need to remember a little more about how we played the second half than the first half going to Baltimore.”
No matter what, they know the season ends in Baltimore, where the Comets won 14-11 Jan. 24 — the Blast’s only home loss all season.
“Fortunately, we’ve been in this position before and we know that it’s not over yet,” Waltman said. “We’re feeling pretty good going in there.”
| Zachary Spain, Special to The Star