Kansas City Comets defender Brian Harris was happy to get back home.
And he was even happier that he and his teammates claimed two big West Coast victories to move into a virtual tie for first place with Cedar Rapids in the Major Arena Soccer League’s Central Division.
The Comets claimed a 7-6 thriller over the host San Diego Sockers Saturday, after dominating the Ontario Fury 5-2 late Friday night.
Kansas City’s Alain Matingou led all scorers with his first career hat trick, including the game-winner with 21.4 seconds left, in Saturday’s game.
Defender Brian Harris opened the scoring with just under four minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
“It was a crazy game, that’s for sure,” Harris said. “It’s been a season of ups and downs. We lose at home to Florida, go on the road and win in St. Louis (in the last game of 2016) and go out to California and win back-to-back must-win games if we’re going to do anything in the playoffs. We were on the outside looking in a couple of weeks ago and now we’re tied with Cedar Rapids (both teams are 8-4).
However, the Rampage hold the edge over Kansas City because they have won both matchups against the Comets this season. The two top teams from each division go to postseason play.
“If we’d have gone out to California and lost a couple, the season might have been over,” Harris added. “Now, we’re playing with a lot of confidence and can’t wait for Friday’s game.”
The Comets play host to the Syracuse Silver Knights at 7:35 p.m. Friday at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
Matingou scored his first goal of the game to open up the second quarter. Leo Gibson scored a goal in his seventh straight game and Matingou followed with his second goal, seconds before halftime.
At the break, the Comets led 4-0 and seemed to be cruising to a victory.
“Maybe we got a little too confident,” Harris said, “because we were playing a different team the second half. San Diego really came after us the second half.”
Holding a 5-1 lead after a Vahid Assadpour goal early in the second half, the Comets defense broke down to the tune of five straight San Diego goals. Former Comets forward Max Touloute scored two goals in San Diego’s run, including the score that put the Sockers ahead 6-5 early in the fourth quarter.
“It was a total collapse,” Harris said. “But thank goodness, we were able to regroup and find a way to win the game. It was a must win, it really was.”
The Comets regrouped and attacked the San Diego defense throughout the remainder of the period. Guerrero Pino parked himself on the San Diego back post as Ramone Palmer beat the defense and found him open for the equalizer with three minutes remaining.
As both teams tried to find the back of the net in the final minutes, Ignacio Flores poked a ball to a streaking Matingou on the left side of the field. He beat his defender and fired the game winner past former Comets goalie Boris Pardo for the win.
“They talk about the Wild West – that was the Wild West,” Harris said.
• On Friday in Ontario, five different players scored as the Comets opened the trip with the 5-2 win over the Ontario Fury.
The Fury showed respect for the Comets offense all game as they were content to let the Comets bring the ball into their half unopposed much of the night. Their strategy worked midway through the opening quarter as they were able to quickly counter and score the first goal.
Just two minutes later, Kansas City’s Alain Matingou was able to find Bryan Perez open in front of the net. The veteran midfielder wasted no time and scored the equalizer..
The Comets controlled the ball throughout the second quarter as they patiently waited for opportunities. Seven minutes in, Leo Gibson held the ball to the left of the penalty box as Assadpour came streaking in toward goal. The team captain only needed one touch to put the ball into the net as Kansas City took a lead it wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the night.
In the second half John Sosa chipped a ball towards Guerrero Pino in the box. Rather than attempt a shot, the rookie simply turned as the ball passed him and rolled into the goal. Leo Gibson scored his 13th goal of the season at the start of the fourth quarter and Pino added the final tally on an empty-netter.