After splitting a pair of games on the road, the Tacoma Stars were ready to get back home to the Puget Sound and get on with a little home cooking. Tacoma welcomed the Turlock Express to the Accesso ShoWare Center on Friday, Nov. 17, and it turned out to be the perfect recipe as the Stars vanquished the pesky Express by a score of 8-5.
Coming into the game, the Stars had a mixed history when it came to contests against Turlock. While their opponents from the Sunshine State normally reside at the bottom of the Major Arena Soccer League’s Pacific Division standings, the Express have had a knack for pulling off some surprising wins over favored MASL foes.
As a matter of fact, Turlock would give the Stars all they could handle on this night, matching the Stars’ offensive output through the first three quarters.
The teams would see some near misses in the early going, as both teams worked to find their groove. It wasn’t until nearly nine minutes had transpired in the first quarter before Tacoma would break the scoreless deadlock. Former Wilson High School standout Joey Gjertsen took a feed from Cory Keitz and hammered a shot into the back of the net to give the Stars a 1-0 advantage. It looked as though Tacoma would take their lead into the first intermission until Turlock’s Ivan Campos snuck a shot past goalkeeper Danny Waltman, and the first quarter came to a close at 1-1.
Tacoma wasted little time getting after it in the second quarter. Making his season debut, Vince McCluskey slapped a low burner from the top of the box off a pass from Chase Hanson. The Stars now led 2-1 just 1:12 into the second stanza. A few minutes later, Tacoma’s Joseph Cairel stung the back of the Turlock goal for another Stars’ goal and the lead was now 3-1 with just over 10 minutes left in the first half.
At this point, Turlock would catch a second wind and flipped the game’s momentum. Within a four-minute span, the Express would notch three goals on the scoreboard and the home crowd was stunned to see Turlock with a 4-3 lead on the ShoWare scoreboard. Turlock would carry the lead all the way into halftime.
Gjertsen would even the score at 4-4 on a solo blast less than five minutes into the third quarter. Both defenses would then buckle down for the next nine scoreless minutes until McCluskey teamed up with Hanson again for another goal. Tacoma now led 5-4 with just over a minute to play in the third quarter.
As they have a history of doing, Tacoma found themselves giving up a quick score following their own goal, and Turlock evened things up at 5-5 with 44 seconds remaining in the third stanza.
The fourth quarter would be all Tacoma, as the Stars would tally 12 shots on goal for the second half, to a single, successful blast by Turlock.
Tacoma’s Robert Palmer gave the Stars a 6-5 lead off an assist from former Franklin Pierce stud Derek Johnson a little over three minutes into the fourth period. Two minutes later, McCluskey would fight through a scrum in front of the goal and sealed the deal on Tacoma’s second hat trick of the season.
After witnessing the birth of his first child a day before, many were wondering if Alex Megson was going to be able to get one for his new daughter. With just under five minutes left in the game, Megson was positioned in the center of the Turlock box as Johnson made a run up the right side and sent a cannon shot off the wall, directly at a charging Megson. The former Stadium High School phenom played the carom perfectly and one-timed the ball into the back of the goal for a birthday present like no other.
Tacoma returns to action against the smoking-hot San Diego Sockers on Friday, Dec. 1, at the ShoWare. The Sockers have started the season a perfect 4-0 and have outscored their opponents 31-13, including an 8-3 win over the Stars in San Diego on Sunday, Nov. 12.
Meanwhile, the Tacoma Stars Reserves moved their record to 2-0 in Western Indoor Soccer League action. The Reserves paid a visit to the Snohomish Skyhawks and hung an impressive 7-3 win on the home club. The WISL Stars will play two road dates in December, before returning home to the Tacoma Soccer Center on Saturday, Jan. 6, for a rematch against the Skyhawks.