After battling through 4 tough games against 2 of the top 3 teams in the MASL Pacific Division, the Tacoma Stars were finally able to find their first win in the top indoor soccer league in North America, as they cruised to a 12-2 win over the Turlock Express at ShoWare Center on Sunday afternoon in the final MASL home game of the season.
After both sides exchanged some good scoring opportunities in the early minutes of the first quarter, Tacoma began to control most of the possession and consequently saw better goal scoring opportunities until Derek Johnson opened scoring with his 6th goal of the season from the left side on a pass from Mark Lee at the top of the circle on a free kick. More chances would follow, but none of them were put away by either side for the remainder of the first quarter.
By the time Turlock found an equalizer about 2 1/2 minutes into the second quarter, Tacoma had held a lead for just under 12 minutes. The team's season high lead in MASL play going into the match was 4 minutes in the early moments of the home game against Las Vegas a few weeks ago. Unlike Tacoma's last home game, they wouldn't have to wait long to find another goal. Tacoma responded with Sounders Academy alum Troy Peterson's goal just 2 minutes later. Peterson added an assist on Lee's first goal of the match, with under 3 minutes left in the first half, giving Tacoma a 3-1 halftime lead.
The Stars pulled away from Turlock in the third quarter, scoring 5 goals to extend their lead to 8-1 at the end of the third quarter. Evan Denmark, Chris Raymond, and Derek Johnson each scored a goal each in the third period, and Mark Lee added 2 more goals to complete his hat trick. He wasn't finished scoring though.
Vince McCluskey, Danny Minniti, and Mark Lee each scored in the fourth quarter before Turlock was finally able to find a second goal on a power play in the final 90 seconds of the game. 30 seconds later, Lee added his fifth goal to put the exclamation point on a dominant win for the Stars.
Although Lee's 5 goal, 1 assist performance will get most of the attention, Derek Johnson continued his strong level of production that he has maintained throughout the season, finishing the game with 2 goals and 2 assists.
Less than 24 hours after Jamael Cox recorded 2 assists in the win over Oly Town in the WISL semifinal, older brother Raphael added 2 assists of his own against Turlock.
Not only was Sunday's win Tacoma's best offensive outburst at the pro level this season, it was also the team's best defensive performance. Goalkeeper Chris Kintz finished with 25 saves.
Another good sign for the Stars was the announced attendance of 1,123, which represents nearly a 10% increase over the attendance for the previous home game 2 weeks ago. Even Sonics Guy was there.
Tacoma returns to action on Saturday night at 7:30, when it will host Bellingham United in the WISL Championship game. Tickets will go on sale on the Tacoma Stars website on Monday morning at 10:00 AM. The Stars will then close out the MASL season in Missouri with matches at St. Louis and the undefeated Missouri Comets on February 21st and 22nd respectively.