STARS GETTING CLOSE Tacoma pushes Sockers to the limit

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Tacoma head coach Darren Sawatzky gathers his troops together before doing battle with the dreaded San Diego Sockers. Photo by Kayla Mehring

Every team, no matter the sport, has that one opponent that seems to give them the battle of the century every time they meet. Longstanding fans of the Tacoma Stars will know this team to be none other than the San Diego Sockers, the franchise with the most championships in their decades of indoor soccer. While San Diego has had Tacoma’s number when the Stars pay a visit down south in recent years, the matches have been much tighter when the Sockers visit the Puget Sound.

Such was the case, yet again, when Tacoma hosted their nemesis on Friday, Dec. 1, at the Accesso ShoWare Center in Kent.

The Sockers entered the game undefeated at 5-0, and had handled the Stars pretty well in their matchup on Sunday, Nov. 12, sending Tacoma home with an 8-3 defeat. The team, and fans alike, knew the Stars were going to have to bring their top game this time around if they wanted to keep the score close, let alone snatch the victory.

Former Bellarmine Prep and University of Washington standout Danny Waltman is as dangerous with his feet as he is with his hands. The veteran had his mitts facing the Sockers, yet only gave up a very respectable four goals to the visitors. Photo by Kayla Mehring

Despite outshooting San Diego by a mark of 17-15, Tacoma was unable to overcome the veteran-laden visitors, falling 4-3 in an action-packed affair.

San Diego would get on the board first, and as usual, it was Kraig Chiles finding the back of the net. Chiles has been a thorn in the side of the entire league during his long professional run, and he had already scored four goals against the Stars in their first contest. Just over six minutes into the first quarter, Chiles took a feed from Hiram Ruiz and slipped a shot past Tacoma goalkeeper Danny Waltman for the 1-0 advantage.

Tacoma’s Troy Peterson mixes it up on both ends of the field for Tacoma, and also donned the sixth-attacker jersey to close out the game. Photo by Kayla Mehring

The teams would battle to a stalemate for the remainder of the first period, and well into the second stanza. It would take nearly nine minutes of second-quarter play before Tacoma found their equalizing goal when former Seattle Sounder Philip Lund rifled a left-footed blast past San Diego goalkeeper Boris Pardo. Former Wilson High School star Joey Gjertsen would earn an assist on the score, and the match was tied at 1-1 with just over six minutes remaining in the second quarter.

San Diego would find the back of the net again off the foot of Brian Farber to take a 2-1 lead with 3:39 remaining in the first half. The Stars would find an answer just 26 seconds later when former Franklin Pierce stud Derek Johnson slapped one past Pardo to even the score at 2-2. The teams would take the tie game into the locker rooms at halftime and the hometown crowd was thrilled to see their boys playing so well.

Vince McCluskey has a knack for finding a sliver of daylight close to the opposition’s goal. Photo by Kayla Mehring

The Sockers would strike first in the third quarter off the foot of Raymundo Reza to take a 3-2 lead with over 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter. San Diego owned the period, outshooting the Stars 5-1, but there would be no more scoring in the period.

San Diego would then take a two-goal lead when Chile one-timed a brilliant feed from Luis Ortega for a goal that Waltman had no chance at. Now, with a two-goal cushion, the Sockers buckled down on the defensive end and made the offensive going very difficult on the Stars.

Robert Palmer fights for control of the ball. Photo by Kayla Mehring

With just under six minutes remaining in regulation, Tacoma closed San Diego’s lead by one on a solo blast by Chase Hanson. Tacoma would then get several opportunities before time expired, but were unable to slot the ball inside the posts. Troy Peterson donned the sixth-attacker jersey for the Stars in the waning moments, but it wasn’t going to happen for Tacoma.

Now sitting at 2-3 on the season, the Stars look like a team bent on a run at the second-place playoff berth out of the MASL Pacific Division. With San Diego owning a 6-0 mark, as well as two victories in-hand against Tacoma, it would take a big drop-off in San Diego’s play for the gap to tighten. However, anything is possible in this crazy game of indoor soccer.

Tacoma’s Philip Lund may be a newcomer to the game of indoor soccer, but he already leads the team in goals scored with five on the season. The 28-year old from Denmark spent time with the Seattle Sounders, as well as a bevy of international clubs before taking his game to the Stars. Photo by Kayla Mehring

Currently, the Ontario Fury owns a 3-3 mark and sits just above Tacoma in second place in the division standings. Neither team has faced each other yet, and when they do, it is always one of the most intense games of the season. The two teams will face each other four times over the final 17 games of Tacoma’s regular season. Ontario will pay a visit to the Pacific Northwest on Friday, Jan. 5, and then the two teams will face each other in Ontario on Thursday, Jan. 11.

Tacoma’s next opponent will be desperate for a win. Soles de Sonora pays a visit to the ShoWare Center on Saturday, Dec. 16, at 7:05 p.m. and again the following evening at 5:05 p.m. Sonora, the two-time, defending MASL Western Conference champions, are currently 1-4 and have played a brutal schedule. A couple more losses could be devastating to Sonora’s playoff hopes, as Monterrey (4-0) and El Paso (4-1) sit above them in the MASL Southwest Division standings.

The Stars will visit the Kansas City Comets on Friday, Dec. 8, at 5:35 p.m. The following night, the Stars will visit a Milwaukee Wave club that knocked off Tacoma in the season opener in overtime. That game starts at 4:05 p.m. local. Both games can be watched live streaming on MASLTv channel on Youtube.

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