by Pete Richmire

INDEPENDENCE, MO. – The Eastern Conference held close with the Western Conference through two quarters of play but two runs of markers from the West  powered their squad to a 9-4 win in the first MASL All-Star Game in front of an excited crowd at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence, MO.

The festivities for the evening got underway before the game kicked off as streams of youth soccer players paraded around the pitch as the Heartland Soccer Awards were presented. Two MASL club owners were on hand and recognized for their efforts in the advancement of arena soccer. Rochester Lancers owner Salvatore “Soccer Sam” Fantauzzo was joined by Tacoma Stars and Kansas City Comets owner Lane Smith for a double ceremonial first kick as the fog cleared the pitch following the player introductions.

Fantauzzo was one of many people, players, fans, and staff who appreciated what this game meant. “Seeing the kick-off, seeing the All-Star Game, seeing guys come together as a family, this meant so much to me and our sport. I am happy that Brian (Budzinski, Comets owner) and Lane put this together. I’m happy all the players showed up and showed their support for the game. I think we’re on to something here” he said.

Budzinski recognized the hard work the staff of the Comets put into this event when he said “I’m really happy with our staff. These guys worked their tails off. The guys and gals in the front office, the game day staff, we’re blessed to have a fantastic staff here in Kansas City.” Their hard work showed as fans tuned in to the match on the pay-per-view stream internationally and those who were in-arena loudly welcomed the teams to the pitch to get the game started.

A game which had the potential to be a goal-fest, wound up a 1-0 Western Conference lead as Tacoma’s Cory Keitz picked up the first-ever MASL All-Star goal, on an assist from Dallas’ Lipe Andrade for the only marker during the first 15 minutes of play. He promptly celebrated his goal with ‘The Jet’ celebration in honor of Tacoma Stars and Ontario Fury player Joseph ‘The Jet’ Cairel, who tragically passed this year. It was a fitting gesture on this night. Aside from Keitz’s goal, the first quarter was such a defensive battle that both teams combined for only eight first quarter shots.

Asked about that goal, and his game overall, Keitz said “It was unbelievable. It’s an awesome experience to play in the game first and foremost and to score a goal is just unbelievable. It’s nothing that I really expected. It was awesome, it was a good team performance.”

Once the action started for the second quarter it took just 18 seconds for the East to level the match on an unassisted goal, courtesy of Utica City FC’s Nate Bourdeau. Just over two minutes later, the East took a 2-1 advantage when St. Louis’ Max Ferdinand found Harrisburg’s Dominic Francis for the goal. The final goal of the first half came by way of Ontario’s Charlie Gonzalez on Andrade’s second assist of the night to send the teams to the locker room knotted up 2-2.

Each team made goal keeping changes to begin the second half with Paulo Nascimento of St. Louis taking the field along with eventual All-Star Game MVP Danny Waltman of the Tacoma Stars. The third quarter belonged to the West as they held the East off the scoreboard while picking up three goals of their own including Keitz’s second of the game and one from San Diego’s Cesar Cerda and Kraig Chiles. Both Sockers’ players goals came on assists from Tacoma’s Mike Ramos.

Bringing a 5-2 lead into the final frame, the West increased that advantage on Gonzalez’s second of the match to make it 6-2 with 11:30 left to play. Harrisburg’s Elton de Oliveira connected on a Vini Dantas assist to snap the West’s run with 7:29 on the clock and bring the East back within three at a 6-3 score. Three consecutive West goals from San Diego’s Guerrero Pino, Cerda, and Ontario’s Uzi Tayou put the match out of reach at 9-3 with just 2:49 to play. The final goal of the match came from Milwaukee’s Ian Bennett on a Ferdinand assist to reach the 9-4 end score.

Waltman’s performance in goal, which earned him the MVP Award was also fitting for this night as he returned to play in front of fans who were once his home-town fans. On a team with several players who could have been named MVP he said “It feels great, it’s an honor to get that award among such great players who had such tremendous games. I was just happy to play in this event.”

The response of the crowd in Cable Dahmer Arena and on social media showed fans are ready for the return of MASL action. Stars and Comets owner Lane Smith said “Tonight was about the fans. They were the winners tonight when we brought the best players together and had them play this All-Star game as return to action ahead 2020-21 MASL season. It was a great night and a lot of fun being in front of our fans again.”


1st – West – Keitz (Andrade) 11:56. Penalties – none.

2nd – East - Bourdeau 0:18; East – Francis (Ferdinand) 3:29; West – Gonzalez (Andrade) 4:38. Penalties – none.

3rd – West – Cerda (Gonzalez) 1:28; West – Keitz (Ramos) 10:39; West – Chiles (Ramos) 14:40. Penalties – none.

4th – West – Gonzalez 3:30; East - De Oliveira (Dantas) 7:31; West – Pino 11:26; West – Cerda 11:44 SH; West - Tayou 13:11; East – Bennett (Ferdinand) 13:41. Penalties – none.

Shots in the Game 

 East  3-5-7-15 (30), West 5-11-10-5 (31)