TACOMA, Wash.- The Tacoma Stars know to a man the challenge which awaits them on Saturday night at the Pacific Sports Center. The local PASL side will host the San Diego Sockers, who are not just on a winning streak, but are setting records for professional sports franchises as well.
Most-recently the Sockers beat Mexico 14:4 to extend their winning streak to 41 matches. Yes, that is forty-one. Included in that streak are seven Sockers wins over the Stars. Tacoma has yet to beat San Diego since the Stars entered the professional PASL back in 2010-11. The matches between the two in San Diego have been closer than those in Tacoma, where the Sockers have outscored the Stars 42:15 over four matches in the last two seasons.
It can’t hurt to remember a mere 25 years ago that the Tacoma Stars of the MISL became the first club to ever beat the Sockers in a playoff series. Joey Waters of those Stars is now Tacoma’s head coach.
This year Tacoma is 1-1 after splitting home matches with the Turlock Express. Can a club that gave up 15 goals at home in their last match to the Express hope to contain the Sockers? We checked in with a few of the Stars to gage their mindsets before Saturday’s mountain.
Chase Tangney: “It’s going to be a battle. It’s my first season with the Stars but from what I hear the Sockers are always a tough opponent. On paper they appear to be a strong defensive team, not allowing many goals against, but also offensively they have a lot of goals for. With that being said we are going to have to make sure we are well organized defensively and smart with the ball offensively. Win our individual battles and put the ball in the back of their net. A win for us this weekend will send a huge message to the rest of the league. We’re a totally different team than last year.”
Steve Mohn: “It’s always nice to see how you match up against the best team in the league early in the season. It gives you a good idea of where you are at and what you are doing well, as well as what needs to be worked on. As for their streak, it is very impressive. You really don’t see a team win 41 games in a row in any sport. I think to beat them it is going to take our very best from everyone. You can’t make many mistakes against San Diego because they usually capitalize on them. I think the key for us to winning this game is to take advantage of our opportunities when they present themselves and put in a collectively great defensive performance. We had two good performances against them last year. So hopefully we can keep that trend going and come out with a victory this time around.”
Micah Wenzel: “Someone has to knock these guys off eventually… Why not us? Obviously these SD guys are a very talented group but we’ve come close to beating them at least once each of the last two seasons. Last year we went down to SD and played 6th attacker with Leighton OBrien in goal for the majority of the game and they didn’t know how to handle it. We ended up losing in the last few minutes of the 4th quarter. This time around I don’t see us trying anything like that; we know what they bring and we know what we have to do to limit their scoring… Following the second runner, winning our one-v-one’s, being completely committed defensively from the target player back to our goal keeper. These guys are very solid at the back also so we know we’re not going to rack up a million goals so keeping their scoring low will be our first objective. We want to keep the ball in possession as much as possible as well because we know every time they have the ball they pose a threat of scoring, the more we keep the ball from them the less they will score.”
“As for stopping their 41 game win steak, that goes hand in hand with my previous response. Being committed defensively, blocking shots, following runners and making the most of our time on the ball is going to be essential to making a game of this encounter. There are a few figures we know that SD will bring that pose problems for any team; Aaron Susi is the captain and has a massive left foot. He’s good on set pieces and on the power play usually running it and sometimes shifting to the low left where he likes to crank low angle shots. Kraig Chiles is the leagues leading scorer for the past two years and just came off an 8 goal game last weekend so keeping him and Susi in check at the target position is going to be a tall order for our defenders but a battle we must win if we want a chance at breaking the streak. Finally we have to finish the chances we do get. Chances are hard to come by against SD and their keeper Riley Swift is second to none so we have to tuck away all of our chances or atleast challenge Swift and look for rebounds and knock downs.”
Jeff Bader: “Like every year, this is a big test for us to see how we match up against the top team in the league. I feel that we have always competed well with the Sockers, they bring a higher level of competition to the game. We have yet to play a solid four quarters and close it out for a win. What’s it going to take to beat them- we need to stay disciplined . Transition both offensively, and more important defensively, is key against SD as they are the best at capitalizing on mistakes. And we have to finish our opportunities as well. Every year we have close battles with the Sockers and and I looking forward to this weekend’s match up!”
Ian Weinberg: “It’s always exciting to measure yourself against the best team and players around. They have built an incredible streak, so I think that puts a little more pressure on them to go out make sure they keep it rolling. No one is expecting us to end it, so I think we can play relaxed, do our best, and see what happens.
They are a team that makes very few mistakes and capitalizes on yours. They put away their opportunities and are dangerous on the transition. For us to end the streak we will need a near perfect game. Limit our mistakes, force them into a few, play very smart, and have lady luck on our side.”
Raphael Cox: “We have a huge game this weekend. San Diego is a indoor soccer power house. Everyone in the league measures their success on how well they play against the Sockers.
Our best chance at beating San Diego is going to be at home. If we are going to beat them, we will need to be focused for the whole game. Limit the mental break downs as much as possible. And do our best to listen to (head coach) Joey Waters.”