TACOMA, WA— The Tacoma Stars edged Bellingham United FC 4-3 in both sides’ Western Indoor Soccer League (WISL) debut on Saturday night at the Tacoma Soccer Center. The Stars scored twice in the fourth quarter to earn the victory before 425 noisy, chanting, celebrating fans. The match was preceded by Stars legend Joe Waters lending a leg to the “first kick” as the Center roared with approval. The Stars were coached by Technical Advisor Greg Howes. Head Coach Darren Sawatzky is in France finishing an elite coaching certification.
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The first league goal for what are being called “Stars 3.0” came off the foot of Chris Raymond, who tucked home a loose save early in the second quarter to put the Stars up 1-0. It was a match with plenty of action but goals were hard to come by. The Hammers got even before halftime on a goal from Oscar Jimenez.
The Hammers grabbed the lead with nine minutes gone in the third quarter on a goal from Austin Curtis. Tacoma would score the next three goals of the match.
The Stars’ Cam Vickers didn’t take much time to make it 2-2 as he answered the Curtis goal a minute and a half later. It was also Vickers who provided one of the post-match talking points. A sixth team foul was called on Bellingham in a tough tackle from the Hammers’ Daniel Anderson. Vickers sprung up quickly but then grabbed the fouler in a headlock as both tumbled to the ground. Play stopped, the players were separated and after a long delay both Vickers and Anderson were red-carded and ejected from the match. The 6th foul for the Hammers and the resulting melee meant Tacoma spent some time with a rare four-on-three power play.
Tensions were high as the match entered the final quarter tied up 2-2. Bellingham’s traveling Bellinghammers SC supporters were drumming and chanting and the Tacoma Stars Satellites were singing of Tacoma with help from 253 Defiance. The Center erupted when Raphael Cox scored 2 minutes in to put the Stars up 3-2.
Nate Ford found himself on a breakaway along the left boards a couple of minutes later and he played it cool before slotting the ball under Bellingham goalkeeper Keegan Rogers and into the opposite corner to put Tacoma up 4-2. The supporters side of the pitch went crazy, chanting Ford’s name as Stars fans celebrated some breathing room.
Bellingham was not done, though. A series of power plays finally netted the third Hammers goal by Chris Jepson. It appeared a Tacoma defender tried to clear the ball in front of Stars goalkeeper Aaron Anderson. The failed clearance hit Jepson and ricocheted into the Tacoma goal.
It was a tense and nervous Tacoma bench that watched the Stars cling to victory. Right until the very end the Hammers pressured, but the horn sounded with the Stars ahead, 4-3.
Tacoma is now 1-0-0 on the young WISL season while Bellingham United is 0-0-1. The Stars travel to Olympia on November 22 to provide the foe for the debut of Oly Town Artesians. Bellingham travels over the mountains on the 22nd to face the Wenatchee Fire.
Tacoma goals: Chris Raymond, Cam Vickers, Raphael Cox, Nate Ford
Bellingham goals: Oscar Jimenez, Austin Curtis, Chris Jepson
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