The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
by David Falk
Nobody knows the Tacoma Stars like Joey Waters.
The MISL Tacoma Stars, that is.
Waters was recently named head coach for Tacoma of the Professional Arena Soccer League. The current version of the Stars is playing in a very different indoor soccer world than the one Waters was a part of in the 1980′s and early 1990′s. Last weekend Waters and the Stars held their open tryouts at the Pacific Sports Center in Tacoma. The differences are apparent even before the season starts.
“I am a big believer of watching players play. I believe they show you everything in that environment,” Waters says of how he conducted the tryouts. “In the end we are working with players that want to be playing at a higher level in the game.”
“The indoor game is such a different game than outdoor,” Waters believes. “The legendary Coach Ron Newman said that it usually takes a 100 Games to adjust to the indoor game and that is including training five days a week. There are subtle nuances that make it so different and I hope that my experiences playing with and against some great players will help our players and team overall.”
Waters was part of a special decade in American soccer when the focus went “inside” after the death of the North American Soccer League (NASL) and before the birth of Major League Soccer (MLS). Those were the days of the Cleveland Force, New York Arrows, Dallas Sidekicks, Witchita Wings, San Diego Sockers and Tacoma Stars. Some of those names kick on in new forms today.
The Tacoma Stars of the MISL trained at the Tacoma Soccer Center. They played their matches at the Tacoma Dome. In their better days they could draw 15-20,000 per home match. Near the end in 1992 the club was getting just a fraction of that. Various leagues have not been able to recapture those days around the country.
Now Waters is back board-side, in Tacoma, where he also coaches for Bellarmine Prep High School (both Men and Women) and is the Director of Coaching and coach with Harbor FC. Adding the Stars to his menu is perhaps like tasting a fondly remembered dish from the past.
On their Facebook page this week the Stars prompted fans to remember the “old days,” and they got plenty of responses.
It’s the “new days” that Waters jumped back into.
“I think the way to go is to regionalize like they are doing with a national playoff,” Waters says of the PASL and its division structure and schedule. “It makes the most sense financially.” Joey knows what eventually sunk the MISL-era Stars. “The travel costs were certainly a huge factor in our day for the Stars.”
While indoor soccer rolls on, Waters doubts it will regain the heights of earlier years. “I think it is going to be very difficult to reach the level of the 80′s MISL, that was such a unique time. The NASL had just folded and many of those players moved to the indoor game. You had players that had played in World Cup Semifinals such as Kaz Deyna, World Cup finals like Johan Neeskans and international players Like Georgio, Gordon Hill, Peter Ward, Brian Quinn, Kevin Crow, Dale Mitchell, Gerry Gray, myself, Preki and that is just a few.”
“Every team had two lines that were fantastic. Then you had the coaches: Ron Newman, Alan Hinton, Dave Clements, Gordon Jago, Timo Lekowski, John Kowalski, Freddie Goodwin, Bob McNab, Kenny Cooper, Pat McBride and many more, all great soccer minds bringing their knowledge and expertise to the indoor game. No wonder it was a golden time.”
The hoopla and large crowds…the “spectator sport” version of indoor soccer is hit and miss these days. Some clubs have arenas, others like the Stars will play out of indoor centers. Either way, Waters is back, and the Stars continue to represent Tacoma, giving a new generation of players a chance to bring back the past for anyone who still remembers the days of “Foot Thunder” under the big wooden roof.
The Tacoma Stars kick off their 2012-13 season November 17 in Tacoma.