Sounders Insider

Tacoma Stars open new season Friday

Derek Johnson of the Tacoma Stars shown in action last season at ShoWare Center in Kent.
Derek Johnson of the Tacoma Stars shown in action last season at ShoWare Center in Kent. Tacoma Stars

The Tacoma Stars of the Major Arena Soccer League open their second season at 7:35 p.m. Friday, meeting the Sacramento Surge at ShoWare Center in Kent.

Here’s some of what owner Lane Smith and coach Darren Sawatzky had to say in advance of the match:

SMITH

On having an offseason to prepare: It’s completely different in that obviously we had time to plan. … All things you can do with time. I hate to bring up the Impact … but people have hopefully forgot about that whole unfortunate thing and are just looking at this as the true launch of the team.

On the expected crowd of around 3,500: “My belief is once they see the product they’ll be back. I always have to remind myself that many of or target demographic wasn’t born yet when the Stars had their final season. … 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. ... We’re also hoping for Sounders fans. This is a long wait for Sunday. We hope that Sounders fans who are biting their nails till Sunday will on Friday night watch some indoor soccer. … We’re hoping that Sounders fans will say, ‘Hey, this is something else to do before Sunday.’"

On playing in Kent: The other thing that we always get is ‘Why can’t you play in Tacoma.’ … There are some holdouts who say, ‘I’m not going to go to the game until it’s in Tacoma.’ Well, I try to flip that equation around. If we want to team to be playing in Tacoma someday we have to support it in Kent to be able to say, ‘Hey, let’s bring this thing back. Let’s spend some money on the Tacoma Dome, or let’s build a venue.’"

SAWATZKY

On the opener being delayed: You always want to be playing. We had planned to play on (Oct.) 24th. … I don’t think it’s a detriment, but I know our guys are definitely ready to go. ... The guys have been working really, really hard. 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.

On about half the roster being more experienced in the outdoor game: There’s really only one way to learn indoor – which is really apples to oranges to outdoor – and that’s to play games. ... I think we’re probably about as naive a team as you’re going to see. But I think that will change rapidly. Most of the teams playing indoor right now are veteran indoor soccer players: the San Diegos the Baltimores and the Milwaukees (and most rivals in the Pacific Division). ... Good soccer players are good thinking players. It just takes some time to play. Some of these guys don’t have a ton of experience playing indoor, but it’s not like they don’t understand soccer itself. As the games are much different, they’re also the same. … A good thinking player will adapt quickly.

On this year as opposed to last season: We’ll be much more organized and fit. There’s still a lot of learning to do. One of the things that I said to Lane from the beginning is this has to be a long-term process. He’s committed for the long haul. We put together a three-year plan. The first year is there’s a whole lot of learning involved, but nobody goes into pro sports to lose games. We plan to compete from Day One.

Below is a preview from the club:

The Tacoma Stars (0-0) host the Sacramento Surge (0-2) tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 6 at 7:35 p.m. at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington. The matchup marks the beginning of the Stars first full season in the Major Arena Soccer League.

The Stars are led by Head Coach and General Manager Darren Sawatzky and Owner Lane Smith. The duo lead the Stars into their first full professional season since 1992. Smith, who purchased the rights to the Stars name and logo in 2014, led the resurgence of the club that strives to become the winter destination for soccer in the Northwest.

Tacoma’s roster features over a dozen players that hail from the Pacific Northwest, including goalkeeper Danny Waltman, midfielder Joey Gjertsen, and strikers Derek Johnson and Mark Lee. Complementing the local talent is a host of national standouts with years of indoor soccer experience.

Sacramento is captained by Head Coach Mark Bickham, a former Stars player in 1992-93 and assistant coach in 1995-96. Bickham has previously coached at Highline Premier and was key in the development of the Starfire Sports Complex, where he serves as a member of the Starfire Sports Board of Directors.

The Surge come into the matchup with an 0-2 record, already having recorded losses on the road to Turlock and Las Vegas. Sacramento midfielder Anibal Echeverria leads the team with three points, while goalkeeper Chris Welch has recorded a league-leading 53 saves during his 120 minutes in goal.

The 20-game MASL season includes 10 Stars home games, all played at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington. The Stars will play host to the Sacramento Surge, Soles de Sonora, Dallas Sidekicks, San Diego Sockers, Cedar Rapids Rampage, Turlock Express, St. Louis Ambush, and Ontario Fury this winter.

Season ticket packages, group outings, and suite offerings for the Tacoma Stars 2015 season are available now. To purchase, call 1-844-STARS-TIME or visit the Stars online at www.tacomastars.com. The most up-to-date news and notes about the Stars leading up to the start of the 2015 season can be found by following the Stars on Twitter (@TacomaStarsSC) or liking the team on Facebook.

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