The pregame build up to the Missouri Comets’ sold-out home opener at Independence Events Center on Saturday night was 15 minutes of flashing lights, music, videos, player introductions and a performance by the dance team.
The festivities culminated with the unfurling of a banner for the team’s 2014 championship in the now-defunct Major Indoor Soccer League, and the presentation of championship rings to Comets players.
The Comets backed up all that excitement with a 9-7 comeback victory against the Milwaukee Wave in front of 5,812 cowbell-ringing fans.
The Comets improved to 3-0 and are in first place in the Major Arena Soccer League Central Division.
But the beginning of the game killed all the pregame buzz, as Missouri fell behind Milwaukee by three goals twice before halftime.
“There is nothing wrong with losing a game because of a mistake, but it’s absolutely wrong to lose a game because of effort,” Missouri coach Vlatko Andonovski recalled saying at halftime. “We didn’t play smart, but we also didn’t put the effort in.”
The Comets answered with a three-goal flurry in the first 2 minutes, 25 seconds of the second half on the way to victory.
“The second half we played just a little bit smarter, but the effort (between the halves) was night and day,” Andonovski said. “We cannot lose the game because of our hearts, and we played our hearts out in the second half.”
Down 5-3 coming out of the locker room, Leo Gibson scored within the first 63 seconds. A little more than a minute later Max Touloute put one in the net, tying the game at 5-5. Then Robert Palmer gave the Comets their first lead 16 seconds later.
The teams traded goals two more times before Gibson controlled a long pass from defender Brian Harris at the top of the penalty arc for a one-on-one situation.
Gibson spun quickly with the ball and sent a hard left-footed strike high past Wave goalkeeper Marcel Feenstra. That put Missouri ahead for good at 8-7 with 7:38 to go.
“I knew it was an incredible pass, I knew I had to calm myself, compose myself, and try to face the goal,” said Gibson, who led the MISL in scoring last season. “It just worked out, but it all started with the pass.”
The goal was Gibson’s seventh of the season. He also had two assists.