The Tacoma Stars of the Professional Arena Soccer League have announced the signings of player/head coach Leighton O’Brien and defender Kevin Sakuda. Former teammates, they were both major contributors to the Seattle Sounders 2005 and 2007 USL Championship seasons.
Tacoma Stars Press Releases
O’Brien, 35, is most often known for his 10 year professional outdoor career, in which he played in the MLS, the Swedish 2nd Division, and with the USL Sounders, where he helped his hometown team to USL Championships in 2005 and 2007. He also has considerable professional indoor experience from a season with the Sacramento Knights of the WISL, two seasons with the Milwaukie Wave of the MISL, and the past three seasons with the Stars in the PASL.
Although they’ve never played together indoors, O’Brien is looking forward to playing again with Sakuda.
“It’s been great to get on the field again with Kevin,” said O’Brien. “He brings a lot of experience and confidence to our team, and he’s going to help us push towards the top of the Western Conference.”
Sakuda is well known for his time with the USL Sounders, where he played more games than any other Sounder from 2003-2008, but he also has extensive professional indoor experience from his three years with the San Diego Sockers, Tacoma’s biggest PASL Western Conference rival.
“It’s good to be back playing indoor again. I’m excited to be back on the field with some ex-teammates from the USL Sounders and I feel like we have a very good team put together,” said Sakuda, 31, who retired from outdoor soccer after captaining the Austin Aztex of the USL the past two seasons.
Sakuda is also excited to reconnect with O’Brien on the field, after they found so much success together with the USL Sounders.
“I’ve got the utmost respect for Leighton as a player. I’ve played with a lot of good players in my career and he’s one of the top two or three guys I’ve ever played with,” said Sakuda.
Todd Stauber taps O’Brien as head coach
The Stars made the jump to the PASL’s professional division last season and found great success, finishing second in the Western Conference behind eventual champion San Diego. Tacoma qualified for the PASL-Pro Playoffs in Cincinnati with the second place finish, marking a highly successful return to the professional ranks of indoor soccer for the franchise. The Stars were eliminated by Guadalajara, 9-6, in the opening round of the playoffs, but set the stage for the 2011/2012 season with their success.
Tacoma will enter the season with a new look in the front office, as former player Todd Stauber takes over as the general manager. Stauber, brings indoor playing, coaching, and managing experience, and is looking forward to the challenge.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity and the experience.” Said Stauber, 37. “We’re looking to build on what we accomplished last year, and we feel like we have the players to do that.”
Stauber played professionally indoors and won titles with both the Seattle SeaDogs (CISL) in 1997 and the Lafayette SwampCats (EISL) in 1998. He was the General Manager and Player/Head Coach of the WSA Rapids of the PASL Premier from 2007-2010 before leaving to play in the PASL-Pro with Tacoma last season.
In the off-season, Tacoma lost their head coach and leading scorer Greg Howes to the Milwaukie Wave of the Major Indoor Soccer League, marking a big turning point for the club. Howes, a Tacoma native, had been the cornerstone of the franchise and led them to the 2010 amateur championship and through their first season as a professional franchise since 1992.
Stauber has replaced Howes with Leighton O’Brien, a Stars player for the past three seasons and a soccer icon in the Pacific Northwest. O’Brien, 35, is most often known for his 10 year professional outdoor career, in which he played in the MLS, Sweden, and with the USL Seattle Sounders, where he helped his hometown team to USL Championships in 2005 and 2007. He also has considerable professional indoor experience from a season with the Sacramento Knights of the WISL, two seasons with the Milwaukie Wave of the MISL, and the past three seasons with the Stars in the PASL.
Staubers’ first move as a general manager wasn’t a move he had to think long about.
“Losing Howsey hurt us as a franchise in so many ways,” said Stauber, “Not only is he a fantastic player, but he was the heart and soul of this organization and the guy that lead us back into the professional ranks. But there’s no question in my mind that Leighton O’Brien is the right guy to take over. He’s respected as a player, as a coach, and as a person, by every guy in our locker room and I’m very confident he’s going to help get us to the next level as a club.”
Tacoma completes their face-lift with a move into their new home at the Starfire Sports Complex. As the Stars old home at the Tacoma Soccer Center became unavailable to them for the 2011/2012 season, ownership moved the team to the highly regarded Starfire Complex in Tukwila for their second season in the PASL-Pro. Starfire is also home to the Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer and is well know to be one of the top soccer complexes on the West Coast.
“I can’t say enough about the facility at Starfire,” said Stauber. “The arena is quality and it gives us exposure at the biggest and best soccer complex in Washington State.”
The Tacoma Stars soccer franchise was founded in 1982 as part of the original Major Indoor Soccer League. The team played for 10 years at the Tacoma Dome, drawing huge crowds and finding massive success in what was then the highest level of soccer in the United States. The Stars drew a record 21,000 fans to the 1986/87 MISL Championship game at the Tacoma Dome, but unfortunately the team ceased to operate after the 1992 season and the MISL folded.
In 2008 Marion Bowers brought the Stars out of dormancy and into the PASL Premier Division, a national semi-professional league. In their first two seasons the Stars won the Pacific Northwest Division and qualified for the national playoffs, and in 2010 Tacoma won the PASL Premier title after an undefeated season, leading them to turn professional for the 2011 season.
Professional Arena Soccer League
San Diego Sockers
“Our placement for the playoffs is really going to come down to us getting results on our two trips to Southern California and Mexico,” said General Manager Todd Stauber. “It’s not easy to go anywhere and win three nights in a row, especially when you’re talking about San Diego as one of those three games.”
The PASL is in its’ third season as a professional league, and has grown from eight to 12 teams in that amount of time.
Tacoma Stars PASL-Pro Schedule 2011/2012
Fri, Nov 4 7pm @ California—-Turlock, CA
Sat, Nov 5 7pm @ California—-Turlock, CA
Sat, Nov 19 7pm @ WSA Rapids (Exhibition)—-Bellingham
Sat, Dec 3 7pm Phoenix—-Starfire
Sun, Dec 4 3pm Phoenix—-Starfire
Sat, Dec 10 7pm California—-Starfire
Sun, Dec 11 3pm California—-Starfire
Fri, Dec 16 7pm @ Tijuana—-Tijuana, Mex
Sat, Dec 17 7pm @ San Diego—-San Diego, CA
Sun, Dec 18 5pm @ Anaheim—-Anaheim, CA
Sat, Jan 14 7pm San Diego—-Starfire
Sun, Jan 15 3pm San Diego—-Starfire
Sat, Feb 11 7pm Anahiem—-Starfire
Sun Feb 12 3pm Anaheim—-Starfire
Fri, Feb 24 7pm @ Tijuana—-Tijuana, Mex
Sat, Feb 25 7pm @ San Diego—-San Diego, CA
Sun, Feb 26 5pm @ Anaheim—-Anaheim, CA