KENT, WA - On Sunday, December 18th the Tacoma Stars (6-3) faced off with long time rivals, the San Diego Sockers (6-3). With divisional supremacy on the line both teams fought hard, leaving everything on the pitch.
The match kicked off with the Sockers scoring first. However, the Stars answered back quickly with a beautiful goal from midfielder Raphael Cox with thanks an assist from forward Dan Antoniuk.
Thanks to clever work on and off the ball the Stars took their lead to 3-1 thanks to scores from Derek “El Tigre” Johnson and Cox’s second goal of the contest. San Diego would bring the score to 3-2 before the first intermission.
The second quarter opened with an unrelenting performance by Sockers midfielder Matt Clare as he shot three dazzling goals past Stars goalkeeper Danny Waltman in the span of five minutes.
However, in the craziness that is MASL soccer there is no lead that is safe. An assisted strike from Troy Peterson was followed by a goal from Stars forward Alex Megson bringing the score to 5-5.
The goal by Megson was his first goal at home of the season. When asked after the game about scoring his first at the ShoWare Center he stated, “It feels really good. I’m glad I was able to put one in at home in front of our amazing fans!”
Halftime saw both teams make tactical adjustments, but Darren Sawatzky seemed to counter exactly what the Sockers had planned.
The third quarter was a defensive showcase. The Sockers managed to sneak one past Waltman, but El Tigre showcased his offensive prowess scoring his second of the game off a Megson assist. The most intense moment of the quarter arose in the form of a blue card for Stars defender Evan McNeley as he gave the Sockers a man advantage. Stellar defense would kill the penalty, keeping the score level at 6-6 as the teams went into the final quarter.
San Diego’s Max Touloute put forth an impressive performance finding the back of the net after assisting on the first four Socker goals of the night.
Stars Captain Joey Gjertsen would not let the Touloute goal settle the game, scoring off of the second assist from Megsen. With less than five minutes remaining the score was level at 7-7.
With just over two minutes to go in regulation, San Diego was issued a blue card for boarding offering Tacoma the game on a silver platter. It would be an offer they couldn’t refuse as Megsen scored his second unassisted goal of the night catapulting Tacoma into the lead with only two minutes remaining.
As with all great rivalry games, this one would not end quietly: San Diego pulled their goalie for an extra attacker. A barrage of shots were taken by the away side but Waltman and the Stars held strong.
San Diego pressed hard as the Stars would find a counter attack opportunity for the empty netter, and boy did they find one. With seconds remaining, Cox broke free along the wing taking a shot from the midfield line that landed just left of the net as the final buzzer sounded.
As the dust settled Tacoma had achieved victory against their arch-rivals, one that most fans would consider a very deserving holiday gift.
As the post-game celebrations commenced, former San Diego Sockers Dan Antoniuk and Evan McNeley were in noticeably good spirits. McNeley, a new addition to the stars this season had much to say after the match, “It was amazing to beat this quality of opposition. We knew entering the match it was going to be tough, and we would need to want it more. And we did.”
That sentiment was echoed by Antoniuk as he added, “It was lots of fun.”
After scoring his first two goals of the season Raphael Cox shared, “I love scoring and it is always sweeter scoring at home. We had to battle hard, this game meant a lot for the standings.”
Head Coach Darren Sawatzky was thrilled, “It was a good win, and we deserved it. I am happy for all of our goal scorers, the guys chipped in and it was great to see them score.”
With the Stars last game in 2016 now finished, the players and coaches are off to spend the holidays with friends and family before their next game at the ShoWare Center. They will face an Atletico Baja (8-5 on the year) side that won a 9-4 decision between the two squads on December 4th.
“We missed a great chance to win down there.” stated Antoniuk, “Some hops went their way, and those most likely ended up costing us the win.”
Tacoma will look to influence the game by scoring early and often. The strong Tacoma defense will look to keep a feisty Atletico side off of the score sheet.
It was announced on Tuesday that Stars forward Alex Megsen earned a spot on the MASL Team of the Week. This is the first TotW nod for Megson this season, and he will join teammates Cory Kietz and Danny Waltman as previous TotW members. Notably, Megson finished as the Runner-Up for MASL Player of the Week as well.