In just the third game of his junior soccer season, an opposing defender slid into Gig Harbor High’s Chase Alire and broke his fifth metatarsal — the long bone on the outside of the foot that connects to the little toe.
“I took my cleat off and there was a bone sticking out of my foot,” Alire said. “It just ruined my whole mojo.”
So Alire was forced to watch his team from the sideline last year for the entire season. And what he watched stung, because he knew he could help the Tides last year.
In the 2016 spring season, Gig Harbor scored the least amount of goals ever, in about 15 years of Todd Northstrom’s coaching career. To put it in perspective, Alire ended the season as the third-highest goal scorer on the team, despite playing less than three games all season.
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He was hugely missed last year. Even if he’s not scoring goals, he’s drawing attention. It opens up space for other people.
Gig Harbor coach Todd Northstrom
“He was hugely missed last year,” Northstrom said. “Even if he’s not scoring goals, he’s drawing attention. It opens up space for other people.”
And watching from the sidelines was far from easy for Alire.
“It was tremendously hard,” Alire said. “My uncle passed away last year too so I just felt like everything was going against me. It was just terrible. I hated seeing it and not being able to make a difference. I’ve never broken anything that kept me from playing soccer, so it just killed me.”
But now Alire is back, and the team is starting to hit its stride finding the back of the net. Gig Harbor has scored 18 goals in its last five games, including three goals against a tough Central Kitsap squad, which is currently in second place in the Class 3A South Sound Conference, just ahead of Gig Harbor. And Alire being back on the field is a big reason why.
It was tremendously hard. My uncle passed away last year too so I just felt like everything was going against me. It was just terrible. I hated seeing it and not being able to make a difference. I’ve never broken anything that kept me from playing soccer, so it just killed me.
Chase Alire, Gig Harbor senior forward
His presence up top has allowed teammate Chase Tovey to move back into his more natural central attacking midfield position, and senior speedster Shawn Kimble to flourish on the flanks.
The combination of the Tovey and Alire is starting to come together up top, too.
“It’s been on these last couple games,” Tovey said. “We’ve been staying in position, playing off each other like Todd wants us to. It’s just paying off.”
Northstrom likes what he’s seeing right now.
“They’re both playing smarter,” Northstrom said. “They’re fun to watch when they’re on. … It’s like these light bulbs are going on.”
And having Alire back has been a boost for the team in terms of morale, as well.
“Just at practice, he’s so positive,” Northstrom said. “All the kids like him. Him and Chase Tovey, and Jack (Sluys) have been great captains for us this year.”
The goals are starting to come for Alire now. He netted a crucial one against the Cougars last week, and said he feels like he’s finding a rhythm. Mostly, he’s just happy to be back on the field again.
“It’s so much fun,” Alire said. “I love all these guys, all the seniors and all the underclassmen have been amazing. I think we have something special coming along.”