Sports and the superstitions that go along with them are as old as the games themselves. You don’t need to be a sports fan to know that the number 13 is probably the king, queen and entire royal court when it comes to bad omens. Well, in the case of the Tacoma Stars this number 13 actually represents some fantastic news for their fans and the team alike.
There are 13 games remaining on the Stars’ regular season schedule, and with only the top two teams from each division of the Major Arena Soccer League qualifying for the playoffs, they need as many chances as possible to reel themselves back into that all-important second slot of the Pacific Division.
Tacoma hit a rough patch closing in on the Christmas break, dropping four games in a row before capturing a 4-3 overtime win over Soles de Sonora on Sunday, Dec. 17. The win felt like a bit of manna from heaven for all parties involved and turned the upcoming home game into the biggest game of the season so far.
They may not have the most recognizable name in sports, but Stars fans know the Ontario Fury all too well. As a matter of fact, Tacoma and the Fury have been the two clubs jockeying for the final playoff position in the division the last two seasons. Tacoma’s Mike Ramos scored last-second goals against the San Diego Sockers and then Ontario to close out the regular season and capture a playoff berth two seasons ago.
Ontario returned the favor by winning their final game of the season February, crushing Tacoma’s bid the following night to pull an upset over the Sockers and sneak into the playoffs. The games against the Fury have been some of the most intense soccer that has went down in the MASL the last two seasons.
Tacoma faced Ontario just three times last season, coming out on top in two contests. The Stars topped Ontario 8-5 on Nov. 13 last season, and then edged the Fury 9-8 via another last goal by Ramos on Dec. 10. They didn’t meet again until Feb. 16, and the score flipped 7-5 for Ontario in another incredibly physical match.
Even though Tacoma had the edge head-to-head, they were their own greatest enemy to end the season. While the Fury were languishing in the standings, the Stars began a tailspin that would ultimately shoot them right out of playoff contention. Tacoma dropped seven of their final eight matches, while the Fury caught some major fire, winning six of their final eight. It was enough to reel in Tacoma’s lead and ultimately overtake them for second place and a trip to the postseason.
Stars fans have had this match circled on the calendar the moment the new schedule was announced. As far as the team goes, expect the sort of physical play that has been the hallmark of the matches between these two clubs. The contest is going to be tight and there’s a good chance that it will come down to the last seconds of the game.
That may sound like a prediction, but it’s more of a trend analysis. It’s just what happens when these two clubs meet up. So, if you’re heading to the Accesso ShoWare Center in Kent on Friday, Jan. 5, for the 7:35 first kick, be prepared for a loud arena and a heart rate that will probably be more than a few beats ahead of the usual pace.
Remember when that friend of yours is always telling you how they think the game of soccer is so boring? Call them up and tell them you’re taking them to a game that will have them riveted. Introduce them to a new favorite thing. It’s a new year, why not make this a resolution?
Tacoma will enter the game with a new addition to the roster. Shortly after their last match, the Stars announced the signings of indoor veteran Nick Perera and former Pacific Lutheran goal scorer Eddie Na. While Na will probably be spending his time getting up to speed with the Tacoma Stars Reserves on Saturday, Jan. 6, at the Tacoma Soccer Center for a 7 p.m. Western Indoor Soccer League match against Snohomish, Perera is scheduled to join the big club against the Fury.
Perera has been a thorn in the side of Stars the past three seasons. Standing a full 6-3, the Spaniard eats up quite a bit of space in front of the opposition’s goal, and it causes massive problems for defenses. Expect an instant injection of offense with Perera now in the fold, which should help to free up Tacoma’s other goal scorers. If there’s anything the Stars need badly, is more goals. They currently sit in last place in goals scored with 43 on the season. However, the 54 goals allowed by the defense has them in the top half of the MASL.
The Stars are currently 3-6 on the season, while the Fury sit at 5-4. The two teams will face each other a total of four times in the regular season, so every single game is going to be of mammoth proportions. There will be no break between the clubs after they meet in their first match, as Tacoma will head south for a rematch on Thursday, Jan. 11. Tacoma will return to Ontario on Thursday, Feb. 15, and then the teams will lock horns on Friday, Feb. 23, for what will be the second-to-last game of the regular season.
Mark your calendars, because if you don’t know it by now, these guys are Tacoma’s biggest rivals. It’s going to be a wild ride, buckle up.