If the Wichita B-52s fail to qualify for the Major Arena Soccer playoffs, they will have plenty to look back at as a cause.
Saturday night at Hartman Arena became the latest example for Wichita, as it lost 14-12 to the Milwaukee Wave. It was the fifth loss in six games when the final score is decided by two goals or less.
With the B-52s vying with Chicago for the final playoff spot in the Central Division, a team it now trails by three games in the loss column, those close losses and the small mistakes that led to them are magnified.
“It’s a concern because it’s so late in the season and we shouldn’t be making these mistakes,” Wichita defender Alex Moseley said. “But we’ve got to make the most out of our next three games and for sure come out with three wins to have a chance for the postseason.”
Wichita can likely secure two wins with Tulsa, a cellar dweller, scheduled for two of those games. But in order to make it a clean sweep, which must happen as well as Chicago losing three of its final four games, the B-52s will have to beat Missouri, a 17-0 machine that is scoring over 11 goals a game.
Milwaukee was a quality team, as it improved to 11-6, but Saturday’s night loss becomes even more disappointing considering Wichita led 9-8 in the fourth quarter.
“We shut down at critical times,” Wichita’s leading goal-scorer Matt Clare said. “We switched off and a team like Milwaukee, they’re going to capitalize on it.”
In what became a troubling habit, Wichita would gain momentum by scoring a goal and then immediately give it back up. It happened five times on Saturday, as Milwaukee scored in less than a minute after a Wichita goal.
But that was the style of play Wichita coach Kim Roentved preferred, as the B-52s coaxed Milwaukee, a defensive side, into a high-scoring affair. Wichita became just the second team this season to score double-digits on Milwaukee.
The 14 goals were the most allowed by Wichita this season.
“It turned into a cat-and-mouse game,” Roentved said. “I didn’t know when to hold the horses back because I thought we did a good job of pressing them. Yeah, we gave up some goals on fast breaks, but I was okay with it as long as we were scoring on our end.”
The strategy worked for the majority of the game, as the teams were tied 10-10 midway through the fourth quarter.
Milwaukee took the lead back, at 11-10, then shifted the pressure back on Wichita by doubling its lead with another goal. Wichita brought on an extra attacker for the final three minutes and Clare scored to slash the lead to one with 2:25 remaining, but Wichita’s bad habit struck again.
Not even 10 seconds had passed after the goal when Milwaukee was at the other end and Ian Bennett was delivering the knockout blow to Wichita, and possibly its playoff hopes.
Not much separates Wichita from playoff-caliber teams, but the small mistakes have piled up and now have the B-52s facing a bleak outlook for the playoffs in their inaugural season.
“We just have a very bad habit of shutting down right after we score,” Moseley said. “It’s just individual mistakes, shutting our minds down. Just things you can’t do. It’s stuff that we can’t do against teams that are going to be in the playoffs.”
First quarter—1. Wichita, Alvarez (Pittman), 0:22; 2. Milwaukee, Bennett (Oliveira), 4:50; 3. Wichita, Sebele, 8:00; 4. Milwaukee, Bennett (da Silva), 8:45; 5. Wichita, O’Dell (Ten Eyck), 12:09; 6. Milwaukee, Oliveira, 12:27; 7. Wichita, Alvarez (Sebele), 14:38; 8. Milwaukee, Quiroz (Oliveira), 14:55. Penalties—Wichita, Ten Eyck (tripping), 4:36.
Second quarter—9. Milwaukee, Adamson (da Silva), 4:13; 10. Milwaukee, Leite (Greenfield), 6:13; 11. Wichita, Ten Eyck (Filho), 13:32; 12. Wichita, Pittman (Alvarez), 14:49. Penalties—Wichita, Hobson (boarding), 5:55; Milwaukee, Rampa (pushing), 13:43.
Third quarter—13. Wichita, Alvarez (Ten Eyck), 1:24; 14. Milwaukee, Bennett (Walls), 3:30; 15. Milwaukee, Leite (Radoncic), 4:13; 16. Wichita, Sebele (Pittman), 9:13). Penalties—Milwaukee, Lookingland (holding), 14:37.
Fourth quarter—17. Wichita, Sebele (Pittman), 1:19; 18. Milwaukee, Walls, 4:55; 19. Milwaukee, Leite (Fontana), 5:19; 20. Wichita, Clare (Filho), 6:45; 21. Milwaukee, Oliveira (St. Louis), 7:04; 22. Milwaukee, Radoncic (Leite), 10:38; 23. Wichita, Clare, 12:25; 24. Milwaukee, Bennett (St. Louis), 12:34; 25. Milwaukee, St. Louis (Bennett), 13:51; 26. Wichita, Filho, 14:55.
Shots—Milwaukee 22, Wichita 23.
Power plays—Milwaukee 2 for 2, Wichita 1 for 2.
Goalies—Milwaukee, Vorberg 13 shots, 8 saves; Greenfield 10 shots, 3 saves; Wichita, Pardo 22 shots, 8 saves.
Comets at B-52s
When: 3:05 p.m. Sunday
Where: Hartman Arena
Records: Missouri 17-0, Wichita 8-9