The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
Just about twenty years ago the Tacoma Stars played their final season in the Tacoma Dome. Eight years ago the name was reclaimed amidst the ever-changing world of arena soccer. This year the Stars are facing plenty of changes themselves, says General Manager Todd Stauber.
by David Falk
Let’s set the landscape a bit here. The world of American “Indoor Soccer” is not as simple as it used to be. The days of big crowds across the country in the MISL, in spectator arenas, are mostly over. Today the scene is one of yearly adjustment, constant change, shifting allies, multiple leagues, local indoor centers.
The Tacoma Stars are part of the Professional Arena Soccer League (PASL-Pro). During the off season the MISL moved under the United Soccer Leagues banner. Within the PASL there is a second league called “Premier.” This is the league that most of the clubs in Washington state will play in. The Stars have bigger plans.
Todd Stauber played for the Stars last year, but this year he looks to make an impact from the bench and the front office. The coming week will determine where exactly Stauber fits in.
“What I do know is that I am the General Manager and a coach at this point. We are hoping to tie up our top choice for head coach on Monday, but it won’t happen until the PASL puts out the final schedule, which we understand is coming on Monday (October 3)” says Stauber. “If we secure our top choice for head coach, I will assist him. If we don’t tie him up, I will be the Head Coach.”
“We have an assistant coach in Greg Brisbon, formerly the Associate Head Coach at Western Washington University and a current coach at Crossfire Premier. Greg played in Tallahassee back in the old EISL that I also played in when I was in Lafayette. He is a big addition for us, as he has a specialty in fitness training and knows the indoor game very well.”
While the Stars organize their staff they are moving forward with getting players onboard. Open tryouts were held on September 29th. “Open tryouts went well, although we didn’t see much that we didn’t expect to be there,” Stauber relates. “We’re going to hold one more tryout next Thursday (October 6) and select our roster at that point. We will then begin training the following week. I’m going to hold off on giving you names of guys, as we’ll start signing players in the next few weeks and I’ll be sure to let you know as that happens. I can tell you that things look very good, and after the first session on Thursday we feel that we are on the right track as far as our personnel is concerned.”
There’s more to getting ready for the new campaign for Tacoma, of course. The club has made the move to Tukwila and Starfire Sports Complex as they await completion of a new soccer center back home.
“I feel like Starfire is a very good location for us, because we’re pulling players from the Seattle area, but it also gives us a good opportunity to play off the buzz that is consistently going on there,” Stauber believes. “In my opinion it’s the soccer hub of Washington, with a lot of people traveling through the complex, and it gives us a good opportunity for exposure in that environment.”
It’s a different pitch than the club has played on the last seven-plus years. “The field at Starfire is smaller than the soccer center, but I think it’s quite clear that it’s much newer and nicer. The boards are more consistent and the goals are bigger, and overall I think it will suit our style of play very well.”
“You don’t replace the best player to ever play indoor soccer. There’s a reason he’s able to go back to Milwaukee after being gone for so many years and secure a very good contract….he’s still that good,” Stauber says of Tacoma native Greg Howes. “I remember coming into the locker room a few times last year after a game, knowing Greg hadn’t played his best, but still seeing that he had 5 or six points. He’s been the leader of the Tacoma Stars for 4 years, the heart and soul of the organization. I personally feel lucky that I had the opportunity to play with him and play for him. We will have to be a much more balanced team and our points will have to come from a lot of different places. But one thing that came with Greg is that he made everyone around him better, and as a result everyone that played with him over the last few years has grown as a player and become better. The overall level of the team is much higher than it was even last year and we will have to rely on that balance to make us successful.”
If things go as currently planned then all of the Stars’ league matches will be against out of state foes. This means flying to Phoenix instead of bussing to Snohomish. It means a trip to Anaheim instead of across the bridge to Bremerton. Stauber puts on his new GM hat and says: “Luckily we have a good plan formulated to finance the team, and we are in the process of executing that plan to ensure that we are running the club as a professional team with a top class environment. It’s a challenge to finance a team at this level, but the PASL-Pro is growing with the addition of Anaheim and Phoenix, which improves the scope of sponsorships that we can attract. We have good people that are interested in investing in the team as well, and we’re very encouraged with how things look for us in this respect.”
So, will Todd be coaxed out of the office and back onto the pitch this year?
“As for me playing, the plan at this point is for me not to play this year, but I’m going to leave the option open. I’m actually fitter than I was last season, but I’d like to focus on being the GM and coaching.”
The Stars have many challenges ahead in 2011-12, but Stauber knows that they also have a year of experience at this level.
“As a club, the Stars took so much away from last year. We learned that while we were pretty good and able to play with a lot of the teams in the league, the likes of San Diego and Cincinnati definitely set the bar in the PASL-Pro. It was a great season and a great experience for all of the guys however, and everyone improved as a player. We know the level that we need to be playing at in order to compete with San Diego in the Western Conference, and it looks as though Anaheim will be right at this level also.”