by Pete Richmire

TACOMA, WA. – The Tacoma Stars have announced that three-year Major Arena Soccer League veteran and 2015 MASL Coach of the Year Darren Sawatzky has accepted a job with FC Tucson, the new USL League One franchise. Sawatzky will help the Tacoma Stars through the transition to a new coach with information about new leadership coming soon.

After leading the WISL Tacoma Stars to an undefeated season and league Championship, Sawatzky accepted the Head Coach and General Manager position when the team entered the MASL. The Stars are solely owned by local businessman Lane Smith.

Smith, along with partners Cliff McElroy and Mike Jennings, own the Sounders U-23, a USL League Two team and the Women’s Premier Soccer League’s Sounders Women. Sawatzky has served as the General Manager for both of those teams as well as the Head Coach of the Sounders U-23. 

The Sounders U-23 claimed Western Conference Championships in 2012 and 2015 and helped over 70 players move on to professional contracts. The Sounders Women wrapped up last season as the WPSL National Champions.

Sawatzky won the 2015 MASL Coach of the Year after the new Tacoma Stars franchise secured a playoff position in his first year at the helm. In all, he led the Stars to two playoff appearances in three seasons and a playoff win in 2018 over perennial power and 14-time champion San Diego Sockers. In each of the three seasons the Stars have played in the MASL, both the Ontario Fury and the Stars have battled for a playoff position in the Pacific Division.

Sawatzky and Smith addressed the team before practice on Monday with the news. Though not completely unexpected for a coach with Sawatzky’s skill and resume, the news caught players by surprise. 

Asked after the team meeting for his thoughts, Stars goal keeper Danny Waltman said “I’m in shock, honestly. That’s something I never thought I’d hear but not surprised at all that he’s got the opportunity. He’s a great coach and looking back I knew it was a matter of time before he got an opportunity. Congratulations to him and he’s created a great family here that can handle this. It’s hard to imagine how we’re going to go forward, but we’re going to.”

Stars leading scorer Perera also noted Sawatzky’s role in building the organization and atmosphere with the Stars.

 "I'm very excited for Darren and the opportunity he has been presented. He has been a special coach for this organization, and for me personally. He's a true professional and I wish him all the best in this new endeavor," - Perera

The Tacoma Stars play the Fury this Saturday, December 15th with both teams boasting a 2-0 record. The winner will be in sole possession of first place and remain undefeated.  Sawatzky will coach the game as the team works to transition and build on the tremendous start to the MASL season for Tacoma.

The game will be Sawatzky’s final home game as head coach of the Stars. He touched on his role with his teams in the region. 

“My time with the teams here has been an incredible growth experience and I believe we built some incredible opportunities for players while winning championships along the way. Both Lane and Cliff have opened the door to so many players here in Washington at the amateur level, and Lane resurrected the professional indoor team here. I am very fortunate and thankful to have coached and worked with so many great players on these teams and I am a fan and supporter from this day forward. If you haven’t seen the Tacoma Stars play this winter, you are missing some incredible soccer here in the Northwest,” -  Sawatzky

Smith summed up the effect Sawatzky has had on not just the Stars, but soccer in the region and those who he has coached and have been around him. “The combined Stars, Sounders U-23 and Sounders Women’s programs have always been about development and promotion. Darren has moved players to the MLS, NWSL, and even EPL. He has helped advance players to coaches and coaches to athletic directors.  When the (FC Tucson) opportunity presented itself to Darren we both talked through it and I’m very proud that his hard work and accomplishments are being rewarded. Darren and his family have really become an extension of all our family’s and we wish them the best. Looking back, I remember talking to Darren about re-launching the Tacoma Stars in the new MASL. He jumped in from day one and I could not have done it without him.  Darren will leave a legacy of pure class, but for those that know Darren well, he never really “leaves” anything …. He will continue on to help our transition plan,” Smith said. 

The Stars play the Ontario Fury on Saturday, December 15th at 7:05pm at the Accesso ShoWare Center. Guarantee your seat to all the action by calling 1-844-STARS-84 or go to

Saturday is Spirit 105.3 FM Faith and Family Night. All merchandise will be 20% off and fans will have a chance to win the players’ game worn jerseys in the Jersey Auction.

There’s still time to purchase 2018-2019 Season Tickets or a Legacy Membership with the Tacoma Stars.
Guarantee your seat to all the action by calling 1-844-STARS-84, or emailing, or go to

Single game tickets to all the Tacoma Stars home games are on sale now.
Head to to purchase your tickets.


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