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A night with the stars

Northwest Guardian

Published: 12:31PM January 7th, 2016
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Army, Navy square off on the pitch before MASL game

While there is a history of soccer in the city of Tacoma that dates back to 1983 and the Major Indoor Soccer League, the current adaptation of the Tacoma Stars is only in its first year in the Major Arena Soccer League.

The Stars wasted no time connecting with local military by inviting several service members from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and other installations to Military Appreciation Night Sunday at ShoWare Center in Kent, Wash. Familiar jerseys with orange and white stars were replaced with blue jerseys with red and white diamonds in the Pacific Division match with the San Diego Sockers.

“We all have the utmost respect for what (the military does) for us to be able to play indoor soccer,” said Darren Sawatzky, head coach and general manager for the Tacoma Stars. “With JBLM so close to us, it’s natural for us to have a connection. Hopefully (Military Appreciation Night) spawns a greater relationship.”

Before the game against the Sockers and all of the ceremonies attached to it, service members from JBLM and Naval Base Kitsap played in the Tacoma Stars’ inaugural Army vs. Navy Indoor Soccer Showdown inside the ShoWare Center. And it wasn’t pretty as the Navy cruised to a 19-1 blasting of the Army.

The game started off with Navy scoring less than a minute in on a breakaway goal by Humberto Mendez. Navy’s Joseph Arthur scored two goals in each of the first half’s second and third minutes, followed by Mendez getting a goal in the fifth minute to give an early 4-0 lead.

Juan San Juan scored the Army’s lone goal in the first half from about 20 yards out and just above the Navy goalkeeper’s hands.

But Navy continued its dominance in the game to jump ahead to an 8-1 lead after the 15-minute period. It was all Navy as Army had just one shot attempt on goal, and Navy scored an additional 11 goals in the second 15-minute half.

With little time to prepare for the game, player and coach Spencer Ware II admitted that the team learned how different the game is played indoors on a turf carpet instead of natural grass or grass turf commonly seen on JBLM — and the ball can be played off of the wall around the field.

“It’s a lot faster than (playing) outdoors and you have to communicate often,” Ware said after the game.

Both teams hope to continue building on what could be an annual intraservice rivalry match.

In the moments before the game, members of the 46th Aviation Support Battalion, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, color guard presented the U.S. colors as Julia Johnson ,of Spokane, sang the national anthem. Players came out with members of the local chapters of Brothers in Arms — a nonprofit national organization that supports charities for service members, veterans and civilians.

The group, composed of various JBLM veterans, gave the USO Northwest 400 Stars game tickets to disperse through the local military, while also purchasing another 100 tickets for more members of the military.

“What we do is give back to people who are still serving and have served,” said Chris Sargent, a retired sergeant first class from Camp Murray who now acts as the local Washington state chapter president. “They need to know that they have someone watching their backs, even when they are down range.”

In addition to the Brothers in Arms and the soccer teams from the Army-Navy game, other groups honored during halftime included JBLM’s 62nd Airlift Wing, 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and the 627th Logistics Readiness Squadron. Uniforms worn by the Stars against San Diego were sold in a silent auction during the game with proceeds going to the Outreach and Resource Services for Women’s Veterans.

The Stars were not able to recover from a slow start offensively. San Diego scored goals on six of 10 shots on goal in the first half as the Sockers won the MASL Pacific Division match by a score of 8-1 in front of 2,214 soccer fans. Each of the first half goals were scored by separate players while an own goal into Tacoma’s net gave it a 7-1 lead, capped off by a free kick goal by Chiky Luna.

Dean Siemon: dsiemon@nwguardian.com @deansiemon