by Michael Lewis

Christian Anderaos knows a thing or two about pressure.

Growing up in soccer-crazy Brazil, the Kansas City Comets midfielder lived it as a nine-year-old.

His youth team, Esporte Clube Banespa, played Corinthians for the Sao Paolo state championship in front of a packed house of 5,000 spectators.

Now, that's plenty of pressure for any young soccer player, let alone a nine-year-old.

"They had the drums going really loud. They had horns, and chants were being screamed out loud," Anderaos said. "And imagine you're nine-years-old, about to play a match.

"We just grew up feeding off that environment and having to learn how to deal with pressure at a very young age. I'm grateful I have those experiences because nowadays, it brings me comfort. It makes me feel at home when we are around crowds and when we have to deal with pressure."

On Monday night, April 22, Anderaos and his teammates found themselves under plenty of pressure.

The Comets had seen their 6-0 advantage at the start of the fourth quarter vanish into a 7-6 deficit to the Milwaukee Wave. The Wave tallied seven, that's right, seven consecutive sixth-attacker goals, at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence, Missouri.

If the Wave held on, the visitors would force a mini-game to decide the Ron Newman Cup finalist.

Kansas City, however, forced overtime with a sixth-attacker goal of its own by Robert Palmer, with only 35 seconds remaining in regulation for a 7-7 deadlock.

When push came to shove, Anderaos showed how he could handle the pressure, connecting for the game-winner, his third of the match, in overtime to put an exclamation point on an epic game, an 8-7 Kansas City triumph.

"That's a great accomplishment and the job is definitely not done yet," Anderaos said.

An instant classic

The encounter already is considered one of the most classic indoor playoff games since the professional game was introduced to North America in 1978. It had all the ingredients of an historic match – great goals (Milwaukee's Derek Huffman had a hat-trick in the fourth quarter), fabulous comebacks against the odds on the road (six goals in one period), sixth-attacker goals by both sides (how few times, if any, have we seen that?), and the game-winner in overtime by an unlikely scoring hero.

"It was tough for the hearts of the fans and the players and everyone that was watching the game," said Anderaos, the unlikely scoring hero.

This encounter certainly wasn't for the faint of heart.

"We were playing with our hearts," Anderaos said. "We were putting every effort to keep the lead. We were all very focused."

But then again, so were the Wave, which had stunned the undefeated Monterrey Flash in the Eastern semifinals.

"We were playing against an extremely competent team that beat a team that was undefeated at their house [Monterrey]," he said. "Milwaukee has a lot of great players. We had to stick to our game plan. Somehow, they figured out a way to come back from 6-0 to 7-6 and that is very impressive. They had a great team to make it possible."

Comets head coach Stefan Stokic experienced the entire spectrum of emotions from joy to despair and back to joy again.

"I was telling my wife after the game I felt I had been through every emotion a man can go through in 15 minutes," he said. "But I knew that the important thing was to make sure that I keep them calm and focused because you have to win games. In those 15 minutes, we had everything go wrong, from the way we played, blue cards. When things won't go your way,  you have to find a way to win."

Which the 5-foot-6, 155-lb. Anderaos made sure at 3:41 of overtime.

He picked off an errant pass by sixth-attacker Ricardo Carvalho at midfield, raced toward the net on the left flank before depositing the ball into the lower right corner past a Wave defender.

"I saw that the ball was going to stick around me," Anderaos said. "After that first touch, I was able to have a clearer view and I noticed that the goalie was stepping up. My second thought was, I just need to beat the goalie, and then I can shoot anywhere because the guy that is in the goal cannot use his hands.”

Anderaos, 28, then ripped off his red shirt and twirled it over his head, leading Comets celebration that they haven’t seen in a decade.

"It felt like a dream," he said. "Those guys, they worked so hard, and so does the coaching staff. Being able to provide them [with the goal] was just pure happiness. I'm actually having goosebumps talking about. I've never reached that type of excitement before. It was just amazing thing, the whole crowd going crazy. And I'm blessed that I had that opportunity."

First hat-trick

To truly appreciate Anderaos’ accomplishment, he scored six goals during the regular season, his third year with the Comets. It was the first time he recorded an indoor hat-trick.

His first responsibility hasn't been to fill the net, but to make sure Comets' foes don't.

"He's amazing every game," Stokic said. "Even when he doesn't score, he does his part defensively, I'm very proud of him. He's come a long way since we started this season. He's improved a lot and I'm actually very happy for him that he gets on the scoresheet as well. His role is really difficult. He does the defensive stuff. As I said to the boys, in playoffs, every player has to give their best and make a difference. On some days, it will be one player, the next day will be the other player. I'm just glad that he got rewarded for his hard work that he has been doing all season long."

Stokic can relate to that because he had a similar role as Anderaos as a player.

"I played that role for many years for the legend, Leo Gibson," he said. "It is just learning the angles and how to press and what to cut off. He's been a big part of our success. Mentally, he is more focused, but the most important thing is understanding how important the tactical side [is] and forcing teams to go one way and for us to be able to win the ball. He's a big part of our success in the last 10 games."

That would be a 10-game winning streak.

The Comets have experienced one of the more unusual indoor seasons, a campaign that has been defined by three streaks. They won seven of their opening eight matches, and then dropped eight in a row (and nine out of 10). They haven't lost in more than two months, since a 3-2 home defeat to the Savage on Feb. 16. We'll get to that in a minute.

That mid-season skid was perplexing to KC. Stokic, who is in his first season as head coach after serving 3 1/2 seasons as an assistant, said he learned about how to push through adversity.

"I was talking to my father before the game and he was like, 'What you've been through this whole season this one season, a lot of coaches don't go through in five seasons, 10 seasons,' " he said. "I prepared myself for this moment. I learned the most about myself in that eight game losing streak.

"I learned a lot about my team. It was a big learning tool for me to get better. When your back is against the wall, you try to figure out things, you learn things about yourself. Gratefully, I had people supporting me, the ownership group, my staff and my family."

The Chihuahua challenge

As Anderaos stated, the Comets' job isn't finished quite yet.

KC's next challenge comes in the form of the defending MASL champion, Chihuahua Savage, for the honor of winning the Ron Newman Cup. The trophy is named after the late San Diego Soccer head coach who guided his team to 10 indoor titles in the Major Indoor Soccer League and the North American Soccer League. The Comets will host the Mexican team on Sunday, April 28 at 5:05 p.m. ET, before traveling south of the border for the second contest on Tuesday, April 30 at 10:05 p.m. ET.

The Comets dropped both their regular season matches to the Savage, losing in Chihuahua, 8-2, on Jan. 19 and then in overtime at home, 3-2, on Feb. 16.

In Chihuahua, Kansas City finished off a four-game in eight-days streak.

"We had injured players," Stokic said. "We're not a full squad. I don't like to make excuses, but it was a tough game.

"We learned that it's very hard to play in that arena. I've seen a few arenas in my lifetime. When I played in that arena, just everything about it is tough. The small field, the fans, how close everything is and how good Chihuahua is on that field. That's where their comfort zone is.

"When they played in Kansas City, we did a good job of pressing and keeping them behind the yellow line and limiting their possession. Even though we lost in overtime, I felt like we were the better team during the four quarters. We didn't put away our chances. And, especially against a team like that if you don't put away your chances, you'll get punished."

The Savage (16-7-1), which finished second to the San Diego Sockers in the Western Division, has done its share of punishing, besting its west coast rivals in the divisional finals. Forward Hugo Puentes led Chihuahua with 21 goals in the regular season, followed by three players with 15 tallies - forward Erick Tovar and midfielders Miguel Angel Diaz and Enrique Canez. Puentes has seven goals in the playoffs and defender Roberto Escalante has six.

Goalkeeper Diego Reynoso, a second-team all-star, was virtually unbeaten during the regular season with a 14-2-1 record and a league-best 3.31 goals-against average. The Savage allowed an MASL-low 103 goals.

"Chihuahua has depth," Stokic said. "They showed that against San Diego away. They have players they can rotate more than we do at this moment.

"We know what to expect when we go there and what to expect when they come here. They're a really good team, really technical, well coached. It's going to be a difficult game for us. But we're up for the challenge."


It would be a dream come true

The Comets are no pushovers themselves. They are led by Zach Reget, who tied the Empire Strykers' Marco Fabian for the goal-scoring championship (35), leading eight teammates in double figures. Midfielder Nacho Flores leads the squad with six playoff goals, while forward Rian Marques had registered a team-best nine points (three goals, six assists). Keeper Nicolau Neto was an honorable mention all-MASL selection.

If the Comets do win the title, they will win their first championship in a decade. With former U.S. Women's National Team head coach Vlatko Andonovski at the helm, KC captured the 2014 MISL crown (the MASL was formed the next season). Stokic was a member of that team.

"It'll be unbelievable," he said. "It would be a dream come true because I was a part of that championship team that we won a decade ago. It would just be somewhat of a Cinderella story. For me, it means a lot more than just winning a championship. I've been waiting for this moment for a long time.

"We have a chance to win a cup and we'll do everything we can to fulfill that, but it means a lot to me personally, my family and to the players. They’ve been waiting for this moment since we started preseason six months ago. We were preparing for this moment. I know they're very excited and it means a lot to them and to their families, to the staff and owners as well. They put a lot of money and sacrifice and time into this. Kansas City is a huge sports city. We would really want to bring this back for the fans, for sure."

The same went for Anderaos.

"My God, it would mean everything," he said. "That would mean my whole life would make sense. It would truly be a dream. My whole family is from Brazil. My dad called me yesterday. He's screaming out of his lungs. He's just like, 'I don't have money, but I'm going find a way to be there. I have to be there for Sunday because I cannot miss this opportunity.' It means more to my whole family, everyone that has supported me on the way. So, I'm really going to try to do everything I can to make sure we win this."

Michael Lewis, the editor of, can be followed on X (formerly Twitter) at @SoccerWriter. Lewis can be reached via email at He has written two books" Alive and Kicking: The incredible, but true story of the Rochester Lancers and a sequel, STILL AND ALIVE AND KICKING: The story of the 21st century Rochester Lancers. It has many features about indoor soccer and MASL players. Both books can be purchased at