TACOMA, WA—The Tacoma Stars scored a 9-1 victory over the Arlington Aviators on Saturday night December 20 before 386 fans at the Tacoma Soccer Center in Western Indoor Soccer League action. It was another big night for forward Derek (‘El Tigre’) Johnson, who scored four goals to follow up his Player of the Week five spot last time out in Wenatchee.
The Aviators knew the challenge before them, and they kept the match within reason through halftime. It was 4-0 Stars at the break with Arlington goalkeeper Erik Cruz making some super saves to keep his club alive. Winfred Smith broke down the left side early in the third quarter and slotted home a stellar goal. Suddenly it was 4-1 and the Stars were asked to raise their game. “Up the tempo!” Yelled Tacoma head coach Darren Sawatzky from the Stars box. Tacoma came through with their coach’s wishes by reeling off the final five goals of the night.
Earlier, the Stars began slowly. The first quarter action was not pleasing to Sawatzky, who verbally challenged his players to set their own standard against an Arlington side with fewer numbers and a desire to stay back and pack the box. Derek Johnson put the Stars up 1-0 with a blast from the left side. A few minutes later Vincent McCluskey touched one home from directly in front of the Aviators goal. It was 2-0 after one period.
In the second quarter Raphael Cox found a loose ball bouncing back to him just to the left of the penalty arc. He buried the chance to make it 3-0. Derek Johnson kept on scoring a bit later when he found a similar loose ball, this time to the right of the Arlington goal, and he smashed it past Cruz to make it 4-0.
The Stars pulled starting goalkeeper Aaron Anderson at halftime, inserting Dominic Cusato for the rest of the contest. It was Cusato’s first extended time in WISL play. Though ten goals were scored on the night, the goalkeeping was stellar on both sides. Cruz kept the Stars below double digits with nearly 30 saves, and Cusato kept the Aviators at one despite several second half chances.
“Erik’s performance was amazing tonight, some of the saves he made were unbelievable. He definitely kept it close for us, and I wish we could have given him some more support offensively,” said James Doherty in the Aviators report. Doherty was filling in as Head Coach for Dagi Kesim.
After the vistors had made it 4-1 in the third quarter Derek Johnson made sure the Stars would win the match as he scored two more times. Derek’s third goal was a measure in effort and determination. Again he intercepted a loose Arlington pass at the top of the penalty box. This time he worked right and the ball bounced up, catching between his lower legs. Johnson hopped, brought the ball along, then made a deft touch to himself before firing back across the goal and into the net. Derek’s fourth goal wasn’t as climactic. It came on a dribbler tapped in from the left post near the wall. Jamael Cox brough fresh air and fast legs to the Stars when he joined the fray. He followed Johnson’s antics with a blast that sailed long-range into the visitors goal. It was 7-1 Stars after three quarters.
Chris Raymond was lurking in front of Cruz in the fourth quarter, so when Adam West unleashed a long shot Raymond was able to redirect it into the net for an 8-1 Stars advantage. McCluskey (his second of the night) scored the final goal in the 9-1 win.
The Stars are now 4-0-0 (12 points) in WISL play, keeping their first place status. Overall the Stars remain undefeated at 6-0-0. Tacoma takes a break for the holidays before hosting Yakima United in a friendly on Saturday night January 3rd at 7:30 PM at the Tacoma Soccr Center. Tickets for all Stars home matches are available online at TacomaStars.com.