The last game in the MASL regular season is a big one for both the Tacoma Stars and the Ontario Fury. After Ontario's win over Turlock on Wednesday night, there is now a 3 way tie for 2nd place in the Pacific Division between Tacoma, Ontario, and the San Diego Sockers with each team having one game left to play.
Because San Diego won the season series against both Tacoma and Ontario, the Sockers own the tiebreaker over both teams. Since both Tacoma and Ontario can't win their last game, San Diego has clinched the Pacific Division's second playoff spot, with Soles de Sonora already having clinched the division's top seed.
The winner of Friday's match between Tacoma and Ontario will have to wait for the match on Sunday between San Diego and Dallas to learn whether they'll host San Diego in the first leg on Wednesday night or in the second leg on Sunday, March 6th. The higher seed will host the second leg.
Ontario won at home 9-6 in the only previous meeting between the teams. Tacoma will be more rested going into the game, as this will be Ontario's third game in 6 days.
Players to Watch:
Dan Antoniuk: 17 goals, 4 assists, 18 appearances
Antoniuk has had a career year with the Stars in 2015/16. His strongest recent indoor season was last year with San Diego, when he finished with 8 goals and 4 assists in 18 games played. The veteran striker has also played outdoor soccer over the years for teams in the USL and NASL, including the Tampa Bay Rowdies team that won the 2012 NASL title, thanks in part to his equalizing goal that forced a penalty shootout, which the Rowdies won. That Rowdies team also included Stars teammates Raphael Cox and Jamael Cox.
Adam West: 15 goals, 11 assists, 19 appearances
If you followed the Sounders prior to the team joining MLS, Adam West is a name you'll recognize for reasons that don't involve Batman or Family Guy. The Gig Harbor native joined the Sounders after a successful tryout earned him a contract for the 2007 season. West made 29 appearances for the Sounders in their final 2 seasons in USL, helping them win the league title in his rookie season in 2007. Since then, he's played his outdoor soccer for a variety of USL, NASL, and PDL teams.
Last winter, he was a key part of the re-launch of the Tacoma Stars and was arguably the best player on the team for most of the season before leaving to sign with Louisville City in the USL. It wasn't surprising that he was one of the players from last season that Darren Sawatzky wanted to bring back, and it has paid off for the team this season. In addition to anchoring one of the top defenses in the league, West is one of the top scoring defenders in the MASL. He's currently tied for 4th among defenders in goals scored and 5th in total points.
Danny Waltman: 5.49 GAA, 71.6% save percentage, 19 appearances
Like Adam West, Waltman is a Gig Harbor native who played for UW before starting his pro career with the Sounders. Waltman was Preston Burpo's backup goalkeeper in the 2004 USL A-League season. He was loaned out to indoor side Chicago Storm in the offseason and has spent most of his career since then primarily playing indoor soccer. He hasn't missed an indoor season since then.
Waltman has had indoor soccer and the Tacoma Stars in his blood since before his pro career even began. His father was the GM of the old MISL Tacoma Stars and he had a clause in his contract with the Missouri Comets that he would be free to sign for the Stars if they ever played in the top indoor league again. So this past June, Waltman was announced as the first signing for the 2015/16 season. From that moment on, he became the face of the club, making media and community appearances on behalf of the Stars.
In terms of his impact on the pitch, Waltman remains one of the top goalkeepers in indoor soccer. He is currently 5th in the league in GAA and leads all goalkeepers in minutes played. This is partially due to the fact that while most teams will bring on a 6th attacker (an outfield player wearing a goalkeeper jersey) while needing a goal in the final minutes of the game, Waltman is good enough with the ball at his feet that Tacoma doesn't bring on a 6th attacker. Instead, Waltman moves higher up the pitch to help support the attack. He's even been known to get into the attacking third in these situations. That flexibility is extremely valuable to the Stars.
Kickoff: Friday 2/26 7:35 PM
Stream: Go Live Sports Cast