by Pete Richmire

For the first time since 2001, professional arena soccer fans will be treated to an All-Star game when the MASL’s Western and Eastern Conferences clash on the pitch at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence, MO. The game marks the League’s return to action since the 2019-20 season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The game is a collaboration of the staffs from the Tacoma Stars and Kansas City Comets and will feature top players from almost every team in the MASL. Stars and Comets owner Lane Smith spoke about the true purpose of the game when he said “With the pandemic postponing or cancelling so much of the sports Fans enjoy in their daily lives, the Tacoma Stars and Kansas City Comets decided to team up and kick off the upcoming season with the first ever MASL All-Star Game. We are bringing the best players from around the league for a game, but the Fans are going to be the winners. The MASL fanbase is one of the best things about the League and the time is right for Saturday's event bringing top talent from around the MASL for what is going to be one of the best indoor soccer games played.”

Leading the teams are a pair of MASL MVP’s with Kansas City’s Leo Gibson at the helm for the Eastern Conference and Tacoma’s Nick Perera guiding the Western Conference. Gibson and Perera selected their squads from the top talent in the League.

While the fans are in for a treat, there is no doubt the players are looking forward to the contest as well. "As we approach the match, the excitement is building on sharing a locker room with so many talented players. Our league has such a vast array of incredible talent, that will be on display, and it's a real privilege for me to be involved with this special match, and these special players from the West" Perera said.

When kick-off time arrives on Saturday, in addition to viewing the game either in person at the home of the Comets, or through the Facebook event on the MASL page, fans can bid for a chance to win their favorite player’s autographed jersey and signed game balls as well.

Kansas City owner Brian Budzinski and his Comets staff have worked hard on this event which will take place in his team’s home arena. He said “I’m excited that the Kansas City fans get the opportunity to host this historic event, especially during these challenging times. I’ve challenged our staff to produce the best broadcast in the history of the MASL and I can’t wait to see the online fans feedback.”

In a game which promises to have no shortage of goals scored, the Eastern Conference holds the edge over the West as its players averaged 16.47 goals last season to the visiting team’s 14.2. The East-leading trend continues along most offensive categories including as-sists (9.71 to 9.67), power play goals (2.59 to 1.27), and shots (63.88 to 54.07).

Top three scorers for the Eastern Conference are Gibson with 60 points (29G-31A), Baltimore’s Vini Dantas and his 54 points (37G-17A), and Milwaukee’s Ian Bennett tallying 51 points (44G-7A).

The Western Conference All-Stars are led offensively by Monterrey’s Brayan Aguilar’s 48 points (33G-15A), Perera’s 42 (22G-20A), and Tacoma’s Mike Ramos with 41 points (28G- 13A). Defenders and keepers on both teams are sure to be busy in this match.

Once the conversation switches to defense, the Eastern Conference splits the leading stats with the advantage in blocks (22.93 to 16.35), and the Western Conference tops in saves (217.5 to 189.33). Western Conference keepers combined for a 19-12 win-loss record last season compared to the East’s 29-22.

Tacoma’s Danny Waltman and Chris Toth with be in goal for the West in the matchup. Toth took home the Goalkeeper of the Year award last season while playing for the Ontario Fury. Backstopping the East’s defense is William Vanzela (Baltimore), Nicolau Neto (Kansas City), and Paulo Nascimento (St. Louis).

While the All- Star Game is a collaboration between the Tacoma Stars and host team Kansas City Comets, it comes with great support from other MASL teams and fans. Kick of is set for 7 pm CT.

Here are helpful links for you to enjoy the game:

To watch live on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/events/417652376272019