A LOOK BACK ON THE STARS 2019-20 SEASON
TACOMA, WA. – As the original Ron Newman Cup Finals date passes and the post season awards have been announced, it is time to look back at a unique MASL season. The Stars were set to begin the campaign with reigning MASL MVP Nick Perera at the helm for his first full season as head coach, with Stars Reserves leader Adam Becker manning the bench as Tacoma’s co-head coach.
The Stars welcomed back many familiar faces for fans and with a stronger working partnership with the Stars Reserves, several local players made their MASL debuts. They would be needed as well with the league expanding the schedule by a couple of games while reducing the number of weeks to play.
The Stars added MASL veterans Alex Caceres, Alessandro Canale, and Douglas Lima to the roster while bringing back local favorite Evan McNeley from Ontario nine weeks into the season. Caceres finished the year with three MASL Team of the Week Awards and third on the roster in scoring with 23 points (10G-13A).
Making their MASL were Stars Reserves veterans Ismael Deluna, Adrian Correa, Logan Jones, and Eddie Na. The rookies combined for 28 games played with Na chipping in a pair of goals.
The team lead in scoring belonged to Perera for the second consecutive season as he finished with 42 points (22G-20). Mike Ramos finished just a point back while leading the roster in goals scored with 28 to go with 13 assists. Canale (14 points), McNeley (11 points), and Cory Keitz (11 points) rounded out the Stars players with 10+ point seasons.
Ramos, named to the Week 12 MASL Team of the Week, also was also honored with a post-season nomination. He was awarded a spot on the All-MASL 3rd Team.
The addition of McNeley also bolstered Tacoma’s back line who along with Keitz and Vince McCluskey was backed once again by star goalkeeper Danny Waltman. Backing up Waltman in his first full season with the team was local player, and Stars Reserves starter Mike Arguello.
When the season was suspended, and ultimately cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Stars were in fifth place in the newly aligned Western Conference with an 8-12 record, 2 ½ games behind the Soles de Sonora for the final playoff spot in the eight team conference. Tacoma never faced Sonora during the regular season and had two games in hand with four left to play, three of which would have taken place at the accesso ShoWare Center.
Perera believes that would have been enough time to secure the final Western Conference playoff spot. “Obviously, the season was incomplete, and I'm convinced we were slated for the postseason with three of our remaining four matches at home, but we will never know” he said.
The Stars began the season with a 2-1 mark after three games with Western Conference opponents, picking up wins in Turlock and at home against Ontario. The next six matches placed Tacoma on the road from December 20 until January 5. It was not a kind road trip for the Stars as they finished with a 1-5 record with the sole victory taking place in Mesquite Texas facing the expansion Outlaws.
The five game homestand which followed included a pair of the most exciting matches of the year beginning with a January 24 match up with the Western Conference leading and undefeated Monterrey Flash. Tacoma fell behind 5-2 late in the first half but rallied with five straight goals from five different players to take a 7-5 lead on the way to a 7-6 victory.
One week later Eastern Conference foe Harrisburg Heat made their first appearance at the accesso ShoWare Center. Tacoma trailed 6-1 but scored six of the next eight goals to cut the Heat’s lead to 8-7 with 14:22 left to play. Three straight Harrisburg goals stretched their advantage to 11-7 with 4:40 remaining. Tacoma added their sixth attacker and beat the Heat for three goals to make it an 11-10 deficit with 0:45 on the clock. Harrisburg withstood the Stars pressure to escape with the win, but the 10 Stars goals were the most given up by the Heat all season.
The two matches against Monterrey and Harrisburg as well as some untimely losses stuck with Perera. He noted “this season was one of highs and lows: at our best, we beat the top seeds from each Division, and at our worst, we struggled or dropped matches to low ranking seeds. I still say that on our day, we can beat any team in the league, but on any given day we can probably also lose to just about anyone. Highs and lows.”
The Stars finished the remaining six games going 2-4 with a pair of games each against the San Diego Sockers and Florida Tropics left to play.
While play on the field may have been inconsistent, one thing that was not was mentioned by Perera. “One unwavering constant, however, is the support from our fans, and the sense of family that runs through the organization. Every member of the Stars organization is committed to being the best Star they can be: on the field, off the field, in the offices, at the merchandise desk, in the stands, booking travel...It's just who we are, and that's the aspect I'm most proud of.”
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