Wave looking for strong finish to season
The franchise has six of them, and has played in several other finals. But it's a long season to get to the playoffs, so goals have to be set along the way. One of them is claiming the regular season championship and gaining the home field advantages that come with it.
"We've been training so hard this year and we've been going one game at a time but honestly, we want to win everything," forward Ian Bennett said. "We want to win the regular season, we want to take first, and we want to win the championship, too. We're trying to win everything. Every game. We're trying to win it all. We're not worried about the playoffs (yet); we just trying to keep going one game at a time and winning everything. We're trying to dominate the league."
With just four regular season contests remaining, that goal is in reach for the Wave (14-2), who play the St. Louis Ambush (4-12) tonight at the Family Arena in St. Louis.
"I think St. Louis has done a really good job of putting together a team together for the first year – they're very indicative of their head coach, Daryl Doran, who was an All-Star defender, a very tough player and very good player," said Wave coach Keith Tozer, who also noted the Ambush benefits from the soccer talent in the Gateway to the West. "It's going to be tough. Both times we played there we've gotten behind the eight ball and we were fortunate enough to come out on top. I don't think we can do it a third time."
Then, the Wave head back home to Milwaukee to face the Missouri Comets (10-6).
"It's a playoff look toward the end of the year and both teams will want to prove to the other that they're better," Tozer said.
The Wave hold a regular season tiebreaker for rival Baltimore (13-3) having gone 2-0 against the Blast this year, but while history says the Wave have handled the Comets quite easily, this year has been a little different in that the third place team from Missouri have played the Wave a bit tighter than usual:
- Nov. 16 at Missouri: Win, 23-21
- Dec. 13 at Missouri: Loss, 15-6
- Jan. 17 at Missouri: Loss, 22-4
- Jan. 18 vs. Missouri: Win, 16-4
"They're a really tough team – they're athletic, they're fast and they want to run the whole game," Wave goalkeeper Marcel Feenstra said. "It's going to be a tough battle, for sure."
And now, the week before meeting for the fifth and final time in the regular season, Missouri added three new players to their roster before the league deadline for doing so passed on Wednesday. The Comets acquired forward Max Touloute from Pennsylvania for cash considerations and signed two free agents.
"It's crazy – they play kind of weak against other teams and they don't bring it, but for some reason when they play us, it's a battle, it's a war and they just want to beat us," Bennett said. "It seems like two different teams when we play them all the time. We see them play against these other teams and they're kind of lackadaisical and they're not really into it, but when they come to play us it's a crazy battle. It's intense. I don't understand it. I don't get it. But that's how they like to play us, I guess."
These three teams will get a good feel for one another as St. Louis visits Milwaukee in March and Missouri is back to close out the regular season on March 2.
The Wave are 7-0 at U.S. Cellular Arena this year, heading into the weekend and end the year with three home games in a row, a welcome change for the team that has spent the last several years ending seasons with long road trips.
"It's a huge difference this year," Tozer said. "The last couple years we've left our building, playing four out of five, five out of six, nine out of 10, at the end of the year and kind of like a homing pigeon, you've always got to come home to kind of feel this is where I'm at and go back out again, but at the end of the year when you're playing teams in their own building where they've made adjustments, have added players, they've gotten fitter, they've gotten better, they've gotten smarter. It's tough."
"You don't get that 'OK, I've got to get home and get my good feeling back to me.' This year we end four of five at home against very good opponents. I think it's huge. I think it helps build momentum and excitement for the playoffs. This year, the schedule was fantastic for us."
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