The Tacoma Stars came alive in the fourth quarter on Sunday, scoring five goals to defeat Turlock Express, 10-6. After bursting out of the gates with two goals, courtesy of Joseph Cairel and Troy Peterson, they struggled to put the game away early and surrendered the lead until a screamer by Adam West put the Stars up at halftime, 3-2.
Often times, when a team is having a poor season and is removed from playoff contention, they have a tendency to phone in the remainder of the season. Someone forgot to tell Turlock. The Express played solid defense throughout the third quarter and burned the Stars several times on the counter. Teddy KGB from Rounders would say that they had alligator blood (in a terrible fake Russian accent, of course). Only a few heroics (a la two goals on the counter) from Mike Ramos kept the game level heading into the fourth quarter, 5-5.
This time, however, there was no Matt Damon to help the Express. The Stars took advantage of a power play goal from Joey Gjertsen, Derek Johnson tallied another to pull away, then back-to-back goals by Nick Perera iced the game. After Turlock pulled their goalkeeper for a sixth attacker, Mike Ramos put the nail in the coffin to give the Stars a crucial win in the playoff race.
Stars Goals: Mike Ramos (3), Nick Perera (2), Joseph Cairel, Troy Peterson, Joey Gjertsen, Derek Johnson, Adam West.
Stars Assists: Nick Perera, Derek Johnson, Mike Ramos
Lamar Neagle debuts
New Tacoma Stars signing Lamar Neagle got his first taste of MASL soccer, contributing to the attack and several strong defensive plays in the attacking end. While struggling at first to slide into the right position to get shots off, he demonstrated his quality on the ball and work rate which made him a Sounders fan favorite over the years.
“There’s going to be a transition period from outdoor to indoor, learning the basics and the movements. It was a little frustrating at first, but this is a good, talented group of guys, and they were helping me quite a bit throughout the game,” Neagle stated after the game.
When asked about the biggest difference between outdoor and indoor, Lamar had this to say:
“The fitness is different, as well as the ball movement due to the surface and the walls. You have to be tuned in at all times, as there isn’t any real down time. It’s a very mental and psychological game.”
Head coach Nick Perera had this to say, “First and foremost, he brings a lot of professionalism to the team. He’s very good on the ball and (he) found ways to contribute, even with it being his first indoor match. We’re happy to have him and he’s only going to get better.”
Man of the Match: Mike Ramos
Hat trick and assist aside, Ramos seemed to know when a spark of energy was needed. The Stars play a methodical build-up style, but a properly-timed counter and breakaway can catch a defense napping, which Mike took advantage of several times. Momentum is a tricky thing; In addition, he was quick to track back on defense and force Turlock into rushing their attack.
Milestone moment: Mike Arguello
Filling in for the injured Danny Waltman, goalkeeper Mike Arguello recorded his first MASL win. Arguello has been the regular goalkeeper for the Tacoma Stars Reserves in the Washington Indoor Soccer League, who won their division with a record of 12-0.
Originally expecting to compete for the division title this season, the Stars have been hindered by several key injuries (Danny Waltman, Philip Lund, James Riley, Milan Ivanovich) and departures (Head coach Darren Sawatsky and Jamael “Juice” Cox to FC Tuscon of USL One, Matt Clare to Florida Tropics SC of MASL). However, the Stars remain in second place of the Pacific Division and a playoff position with five games to go.
Numbers to Know
With five games to go, the Tacoma can clinch a playoff berth with any combination of four Stars wins or Ontario losses. A win over Ontario on Friday at home will knock that down to two.
The Tacoma Stars have averaged just over 2,500 fans per game, sixth in the MASL. Two home games remain: March 15 against Ontario (where fans have another chance to cheer or boo for Jermaine Jones, who came out of retirement to sign for Ontario) and March 31 against the San Diego Sockers (where they can do the same for Landon Donovan).
Friday’s game against the Ontario Fury is “five-dollar beer” night and the second to last home game of the regular season. Tickets can be purchased here.