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Orlando SeaWolves Eliminated from Playoff Contention with 7-6 Loss to Kansas City

Orlando struggled to finish in a seesaw affair and gave up too many easy goals.

Nigel Worrall

The inaugural MASL season for the Orlando SeaWolves will not end with a playoff appearance. The SeaWolves (8-13) were eliminated from postseason contention after falling at home to the Kansas City Comets (12-10) by a final score of 7-6 at Silver Spurs Arena. It was a seesaw battle for the first half but the Comets took control in the third, out-scoring Orlando 3-0 in the period.

The SeaWolves were offensively challenged without the injured Victor France and the suspended Richard Schmermund. As a result, perhaps the other players tried to do too much in front of goal as a number of excellent opportunities were just off target.

Orlando fashioned the first good opportunity in the second minute. Jonny Mendoza fired from the top of the offensive zone but his shot missed the net just wide to the left. A moment later, Rainer Hauss made a great save for the SeaWolves off a Bryan Perez set piece shot to keep the game scoreless.

It didn’t stay scoreless long. Kansas City’s star man, Leo Gibson, smashed a cannon shot past Hauss from long range to make it 1-0 to the Comets at the 2:54 mark.

Orlando had a chance to pull that right back on a 2-v-1 break but Osvaldo Rojas chose to shoot and missed wide rather than sending it over to his trailing teammate. But the SeaWolves did equalize at the 4:46 mark of the first when a long outlet found Derek Huffman. All alone behind the Comets’ defense, Huffman slotted his fifth goal of the season past Kansas City goalkeeper Mark Saxby, making it 1-1.

A few minutes after the tying goal, the Comets got in behind on a 2-v-1 break and Drou Goff bailed out Hauss by heading a Perez shot away after it was sent toward the gaping net.

Orlando nearly took the lead with 6:26 to play in the first off a Gordy Gurson steal. He turned and fired in one motion but missed the net by just inches. Huffman then hit the right post at the 11:36 mark, giving the SeaWolves three near misses by about a combined foot in length in the period.

Huffman had a chance to equalize again at the 13:12 mark when Thiago Freitas gave him a wide open net but he leaned back on his shot and missed over the bar. Moments later, Freitas tried a blast from distance but Saxby made the save. Hauss made another save at the other end on an Anthony Grant effort and that was it for the first period. The Seawolves trailed, 2-1.

Hauss opened the second period with a vital save on a tricky shot by former Orlando City USL player Kevin Ellis. It was big, because Joshio Sandoval tied the match moments later at the 2:11 mark off a Gurson assist. That assist gave Gurson a new career high with 50 points on the season, but the SeaWolves’ star man wasn’t finished.

Orlando nearly took the lead less than a minute later. Goff saw an empty net but hit his shot softly and Mirko Sandivari cleared it off the line for the Comets.

The game then started to open up, with the Comets getting three good cracks at goal from right in front but that trio of attempts were either blocked or hit teammates on the way toward goal. That led to a SeaWolves break but Mario Alvarez fired wide and Gurson couldn’t make good contact with the rebound, which dribbled in easily for Saxby.

The SeaWolves again fell behind with 5:08 to play in the second. A wayward pass on the break resulted in Orlando giving up a 3-v-1 opportunity, which gave Palmer an easy tap-in on the left from an Ellis assist at the 9:52 mark.

Gurson answered less than a minute later. His blast from the boards on the right side got past Saxby and tied the game at 3-3. It was his 30th goal of the year and it came with 4:25 to play in the half.

The SeaWolves had some chances to take the lead just before the break. Huffman had his shot blocked by Perez from a good spot with 2:21 to play. Then James Togbah boarded Eduardo Cruz and picked up a blue card, putting Orlando on the game’s first power play.

On the man advantage, Rojas missed wide from inside the area right in the middle. Saxby then made a good save to deny Freitas in the final minute. The time expired and the teams went into the break at 3-3.

Kansas City out-shot the SeaWolves in the first half, 21-16 (16-10 on target). Orlando was 0-for-1 on the only power play of the half and fouls were just about even with the ‘Wolves picking up seven to the Comets’ six.

Kansas City killed off the remainder of the penalty time to open the third quarter. Orlando wasn’t able to muster a shot attempt on the end of it. Gurson sent a ball across the face of goal but out of the reach of Alvarez.

Orlando pressed for a go-ahead goal but struggled to find it. Alvarez fired over the bar from the yellow line, then Lewis Neal’s long-range effort forced a diving save from Saxby.

Kansas City then scored on an awful turnover, with Grant turning and slotting home to make it 4-3. Orlando couldn’t equalize this time, with Gurson firing just inches over the bar. The Comets then went for the kill with several good opportunities and finally cashed in through an Ellis goal to make it 5-3 with 10:10 to play in the third.

Rojas again missed the net from a good spot at the 8:04 mark off a nice look from Gurson on a night when Osvaldo just wasn’t sharp in front of goal.

Kansas City essentially put the game away with 1:58 remaining in the third. Ellis scored from the yellow line with just three seconds remaining on a Comets power play with Orlando’s Stefan Mijatovic in the penalty box. The 6-3 advantage was ultimately just too much to overcome.

However, Rojas finally found the target in the first minute of the fourth period to give Orlando a shot.

The SeaWolves came within about six inches of tying the game in the next couple of minutes, with Luiz Mota and Gurson both hitting the top of the goal frame at 0:53 and 2:09, respectively.

The near misses again left the SeaWolves wishing they could have been just a tad more clinical because Ignacio Flores restored the three-goal advantage with 9:28 to play in the game, firing a tough-angle shot through Hauss and in.

Gurson pulled one back with 4:54 to play, finishing high into the net after sixth attacker Sandoval’s shot was stopped out in front of goal.

Kansas City threw Orlando a lifeline with a Togbah foul that gave the hosts a power play, but the SeaWolves were far too deliberate on the advantage, refusing to just send the ball at the net and firing out of play on the few shots they did take. The SeaWolves got a cosmetic goal with 6.3 seconds to play when a Freitas shot was deflected by Rodriguez into his own net for the final tally.

Orlando ended up with the advantage in shots, 42-34 (26-24 on target). The biggest difference in the end, aside from so many near misses by the SeaWolves, was special teams. Orlando was 0-for-2 on the power play and Kansas City converted its only opportunity with the man advantage.

Once again Orlando dug a hole it couldn’t escape from, as it has done throughout this inaugural MASL season. The SeaWolves will miss the playoffs but they’ve been a competitive side all year long, showing a lot of resiliency when the chips have been down. Unfortunately, the team simply lacks that little bit of quality needed to prevent conceding an untimely goal or scoring a timely one.

Left to play out the string, the SeaWolves will travel to Milwaukee for a Sunday afternoon matinee against the division-leading Wave at 2:05 p.m. ET.