It has been an active off-season for the Tacoma Stars, as the team has added some serious firepower to the club, while retaining the majority or their top players. While there’s always the chance they’ll tweak the roster here or there, all of their work will be on display as the Stars open their third complete Major Arena Soccer League season on Friday, Oct. 27, at the Accesso ShoWare Center in Kent against the Milwaukee Wave.
The Stars had a bit of a Cinderella run in their first season, advancing to the playoffs in the talented MASL Pacific Division. However, the boys from Grit City fell into a late-season swoon last season, while the Ontario Fury caught fire at the same time, leap-frogging the Stars for the final post-season spot out of the division.
With the off-season moves that they have made, it’s clear that the Stars aren’t aiming to just get back to the playoffs this season. They are starting to look like the sort of team that could consistently compete with the top clubs in the MASL, and make a run at the championship and bring the hallowed Ron Newman Cup back to the Puget Sound.
While many of the returning names are enough to get excited about, it’s the four additions that has local indoor soccer fans buzzing with anticipation.
For years, the Missouri (now Kansas City) Comets have been one of the stronger teams in the entire league. When the Stars joined the MASL, they turned heads by snatching star goalkeeper Danny Waltman, bringing him back to the town of his birth. Waltman, a former Bellarmine Prep Lion, would reward the club, and their fans, by winning the MASL Goalkeeper of the Year award in his first season with the Stars.
Grabbing one of the best from the Comets worked out so well for the Stars, that they turned around and signed away three of Kansas City’s top players in the off-season. The addition of forward Ramone Palmer, and defensemen Robert Palmer (no, not the singer) and Alain Matingou. The trio hail from Jamaica and their impact on the Stars’ roster will be felt immediately.
Last season, Ramone Palmer scored 13 goals, while dishing out 18 assists. His offensive leadership should pay dividends for a group that was sometimes red hot, but too-often inconsistent. Following their late-season skid last season, it was clear that Tacoma was going to need to bolster their defensive unit with some proven veterans. They may have exceeded expectations with the signing of Matingou and Robert Palmer.
You’re going to want to get out and see these guys.
With three new veterans in the fold, the Stars got a little creative, adding former Seattle Sounder Philip Lund. The striker from Denmark is new to the indoor game, but Tacoma head coach Darren Sawatzky foresees some awesome things happening off the end of Lund’s powerful left foot.
The last time Tacoma brought in a left-footed newcomer, his name was Preki, and he became an instant superstar in the old MISL. Could left-footed lightning strike twice for Tacoma? We’re going to find out quickly, as the Stars begin their 22-game MASL schedule.
Tacoma also returns the team’s top-scorer in Alex Megson (a former Stadium Tiger), who scored 12 goals and added 16 assists in his first season back in the Puget Sound. Veteran Dan Antoniuk returns following his 13 goal, 13 assist season. He is joined by former Franklin Pierce Cardinal and Pacific Lutheran Lute Derek Johnson, who led the team with 15 goals last season, to go along with five assists.
The club is also represented by two additional Stadium High School alums in Raphael and Jamel Cox, as well as Wilson High School Hall of Famer Joey Gjertsen. The three boys from the City of Destiny accounted for 38 points combined last season.
Rounding out the current roster are Chase Hanson, Cory Keitz, Duncan McCormick, Joseph “the Jet” Cairel, Trevor Jensen, Troy Peterson, Evan McNeley and Waltman.
First kick on opening night is set for 7:35 p.m. and will be delivered by none other than Seattle Sounders’ legend Steve Zakuani.
For tickets and additional information, visit tacomastars.com. Tacoma’s second home game of the season is set for Friday, Nov. 17, against the Turlock Express. The long-time nemesis of the Tacoma Stars – the San Diego Sockers – will visit the Puget Sound on Friday, Dec. 1.