Saturday evening at the Tacoma Soccer Center, the Stars shut out the Wenatchee Fire in a 5-0 victory to clinch the WISL regular season title and clinch home field advantage in the playoffs. Tacoma had already secured the right to host the semifinal. The win means they will face the Oly Town Artesians in the semifinal on February 7th. If they win that game, they will host the championship game on February 14th or 15th.
The Tacoma Stars defense had come close to getting a shutout in the past 5 weeks, with a 9-1 win at home against the Arlington Aviators and 5-1 win last weekend in the return match up in Arlington. Saturday night against the Wenatchee Fire, Stars goalkeeper Aaron Anderson finally got his first clean sheet of the season; a pretty rare feat in indoor soccer.
It wasn't as if Wenatchee doesn't have the ability to score. In the match at Wenatchee last month, the Fire managed 6 goals against Tacoma in a losing effort, as the Stars took home a 12-6 win. The Fire had averaged 7 goals per match going into the match in Tacoma.
The clean sheet also is not indicative of a match in which Wenatchee didn't have many chances. Anderson was forced to make 17 saves, many of them being made in spectacular fashion.
The Stars defenders also deserve plenty of credit for the clean sheet, as they saved Anderson's skin on several occasions. They showed why at least two of them will be playing professionally in outdoor leagues this year.
Former San Jose Earthquake and Tacoma native Joey Gjertsen opened the scoring midway through the first quarter. Less than two minutes later, Josh Phillips doubled the lead in his final WISL match with the Stars. Gjertsen nearly added another goal in the final minute of the first quarter, but both of his attempts in the box were saved by the Wenatchee goalkeeper.
Less than 2 minutes into the second quarter, defender Adam West (a former Sounder and Husky) scored a long range goal from the left side to give Tacoma a 3-0 lead. With just over 5 minutes remaining in the first half, Kyle Danielson stretched the lead to 4-0 heading into halftime.
The only scoring in the second half came two and a half minutes into the third quarter, when Cam Vickers put Tacoma up 5-0. That gave Anderson and the defense enough breathing room to confidently close out the match, even as it became increasingly physical.
With about 7 minutes remaining in the first half, there was an ugly collision at the edge of the box between Anderson and a Wenatchee player against the boards. The exact nature of the injury was unclear, but it looked like the Wenatchee player may have hyper-extended his knee. The training staff was taking no chances, as several Tacoma players helped carry him off the field into the adjacent examining room to avoid putting any weight on the injured leg.
Anderson added several key saves in the fourth quarter to secure his first clean sheet of the season.
Tacoma resumes MASL action on Sunday at 4:00 PM at the ShoWare Center in Kent, where they will face the Las Vegas Legends. The club is running a Tacoma Soccer Center Day promotion, allowing fans to purchase discounted Field and Premium tickets for $10 with the promo code: "TSC" when purchasing tickets online.