Sounders FC

Tacoma Stars shoot for second-season surge

The Tacoma Stars head into this Major Arena Soccer League season after making the most of a useful new advantage: a preseason.

That’s a luxury the club lacked last January when the Stars returned to indoor soccer’s highest level as a midseason replacement for the ill-fated Seattle Impact. Those teams combined for a 4-16 record, and were no more successful in the stands.

But when that inaugural season ended, the Stars turned their attention to a 2015-16 season, which kicks off at 7:35 p.m. Friday when the Sacramento Surge visits ShoWare Center in Kent.

“I hate to bring up the Impact,” Stars owner Lane Smith said, “… but people have hopefully forgot about that whole unfortunate thing and are just looking at this as the true launch of the team.”

Early signs are encouraging as a club-record crowd of around 3,500 is anticipated for the opener. And if that is far below the attendance of the glory days of the original Tacoma Stars, it’s several times what the club typically drew as the Impact and Stars last season.

Smith credits the added planning time and associations with the Tacoma Rainiers baseball team, Seattle Thunderbirds hockey team and taverns and other businesses in and around Kent.

“I always have to remind myself that many of our target demographic wasn’t born yet when the (original Tacoma) Stars had their final season,” Smith said. “… I’ll call it the father-son, mother-daughter or grandson/granddaughter situation where the parents were big fans back in the day, or they were kids back in the day. We had a season-ticket handout at Cheney Stadium, and there were a lot of couples bringing their kids there, and they want to show their kids about something that they went to in the area when they were young.”

The original Stars of the Major Indoor Soccer League played in the Tacoma Dome from 1983-1992. They drew a league-record crowd of 21,728 in the 1986-87 championship series.

The new Stars were supposed to have kicked off their season Oct. 24 at Dallas. However, the Sidekicks asked to reschedule that game until Jan. 14, giving the Stars two extra weeks to prepare for their debut.

“I don’t think it’s a detriment, but I know our guys are definitely ready to go,” Stars coach Darren Sawatzky said. “The group has come together really well. We haven’t had a ton of outside competition to compete against this month, but considering a lot of our guys are still learning the indoor game, it was probably good to get that extra time. But we’ll see. We’ll throw it against the wall on Friday and see what happens.”

The Stars roster features more than a dozen players with Northwest ties, although about half of the team is more experienced in the outdoor game than indoor. Some of the top players include goalkeeper Danny Waltman, midfielder Joey Gjertsen and strikers Derek Johnson and Mike Lee.

Sacramento already has played two games, losing on the road to Turlock, California, and Las Vegas.

MASL teams play a 20-game regular season. All games are streamed, with a link available at the MASLsoccer.com website.

ADDED TIME

Columbus Crew midfielder Kei Kamara was honored Thursday as Major League Soccer Humanitarian of the Year. Seattle Sounders defender Brad Evans finished second in the voting. … After an off day, the Sounders will return to training Friday morning before taking an afternoon flight to Texas, where they will conclude their Western Conference semifinal series against FC Dallas at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com

blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer

@donruiztnt

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