Just when everything looked like it was going to turn up rainbows and pots of gold for the Tacoma Stars, the difficulties of the road slapped the club with a big reality check. After two sensational upset road wins against rivals San Diego and Ontario, the team headed back out the next weekend for a double dip in the state of Texas.
Entering the match at the El Paso County Coliseum on Friday, Jan. 4, the Stars would face a Coyotes squad that was still looking for their first win of the season with a record of 0-3. This would turn out to be a group of players hell-bent upon sinking their teeth into the Stars and exacting a solid pound of flesh.
The match went back and forth through much of the first three quarters, with the teams deadlocked at 5-5 going into the final stanza. For a full five minutes, neither team gave ground to the other. For a moment it felt as though this contest was going to go into overtime, or someone would slip and the winner would leave the building with a 6-5 victory.
Instead, the teams exploded for six goals over the final 10 minutes of play. The big problem with the scoring onslaught was that it went 4-2 in favor of the Coyotes. A power play goal Tacoma’s Philip Lund pulled the Stars within one goal with four minutes remaining. As time ticked away, the Stars rolled out the sixth attacker to ramp up the offensive bite. It wasn’t going to work for Tacoma, as El Paso turned away every scoring opportunity. In the end, the Coyotes were even able to tack on one more goal to send their sparse home crowd into the night with a 9-7 victory.
Now the Stars were going to have to kick it up a notch for the following game against Rio Grande Valley on Sunday, Jan. 6. The Coyotes were supposed to be the lighter task on this road trip, now the Stars would face a Barracudas club that came into the match with a misleading 1-3 record. With two of their losses coming in overtime against powerhouses such as Monterrey and San Diego, it was clear that Rio Grande Valley was going to be everything that the Stars could handle.
The teams played to a 1-1 draw in the first quarter, and the second quarter saw no scoring at all. It wasn’t until the third quarter where the Barracudas began sinking their teeth into the Tacoma defense. When the smoke and dust cleared on the third quarter, the Barracudas had sent four more balls into the back of the Tacoma net and the home team was rolling with a comfortable 5-1 advantage going into the final 15 minutes of action.
Goals by Tacoma’s Nick Perera, Pablo Da Silva and Mike Ramos were negated by three goals by the Barracudas. Not only did Rio Grande Valley tack on an empty-net goal shortly before the end of regulation, but even goalkeeper Diego Angel Arriaga got into the act with a solo blast from nearly three-quarters down the field. The ball sailed, and just as it entered the box, a Barracuda attacker flashed in front of Tacoma goalkeeper Danny Waltman. In the blink of an eye, the ball was in the left corner of the goal and it was hard to believe for the Tacoma side in the 8-4 loss.
There is quite a bit of good news for the Stars and their fans though. Tacoma now owns a 4-3 record with a full 17 games left on their Major Arena Soccer League schedule. The San Diego Sockers now lead the MASL Pacific Division with a 6-1 mark, followed by the Ontario Fury with a record of 6-3. Tacoma will have something to say about the standings almost immediately, as two out of their next three home matches involve the Sockers and the Fury.
Tacoma will host the MASL Western Conference champions from Monterrey (3-1) on Friday, Jan. 11, at the Accesso ShoWare Center in Kent. First kick is set for 7:35 p.m. The following night, things don’t get any easier as Ontario pays a visit to the Puget Sound. Both contests are sure to be played out with a playoff atmosphere, as the teams involved are doing whatever they can to either stay at the top of their division standings, or at least stay within striking distance.
On Friday, Jan. 18, the San Diego Sockers will pay a visit to the Stars. It’s safe to say that San Diego will be looking for a little payback, following their recent home upset by the Stars. Tacoma snapped the Sockers’ 16-game home winning streak, and there’s no way that they’ve forgotten about it already. Be prepared for possibly the match of the year so far with this one. Tacoma will be fighting like mad to stay in the MASL Pacific Division race, while the Sockers will be looking to begin pulling away from the rest of the pack.
Indoor soccer fans are in for a real treat on Saturday, Jan. 12, at the ShoWare Center. Not only will the Fury and Stars do battle at 7:05 p.m., but there will be a Western Indoor Soccer League showdown kicking off at 3:45 p.m. under the lights in Kent. The Tacoma Stars Reserves will take on the newly-formed Tacoma Narrows FC in a match-up that already has a rivalry feel. The players all know each other, and they want nothing more than to hang a big loss on their brothers from Grit City.
The Stars Reserves are currently undefeated with a 6-0-0 record. They have scored 56 goals, while giving up just 14 against. Playing on smaller fields in the WISL, the goals tend to come hot and fast. The fact that the Reserves have given up just 14 so far this season is quite remarkable.
After winning the inaugural WISL championship, the Stars Reserves have witnessed Bellingham United hoist the big trophy for three seasons now. Their foes from the north are now 5-1-0, with their only loss coming in a 3-2 battle in Tacoma against the Reserves. It looks as though these two clubs are on another collision course to meet up for the WISL championship.
For tickets and more information, visit www.tacomastars.com.