by Pete Richmire

KENT, WA. –  If there was ever a game early in a season that felt like the cliché “must-win” game, this was it for the Tacoma Stars (3-3-0). After leading most of the game and winding up tied in the fourth quarter, Tacoma pulled away for a very big 10-7 win over the visiting Utica City FC (6-2-0) at the accesso ShoWare Center in front of over 2,300 fans on South Sound United League Recognition Night.

Tacoma wasted no time in using their challenge flag with head coach Adam Becker looking for a hand ball with 13:54 left in the opening quarter. A lengthy review by the officials ended with a blue card against UCFC and led to the Stars first goal of the night. Nick Perera slid a pass to his left and Jamael Cox sent a shot just under the crossbar past UCFC keeper Julian Rodriguez for the 1-0 lead.

Less than a minute later, Utica had a power play of their own with Tacoma’s Logan Jones drawing a blue card. Unfortunately for UCFC, that led to the Stars’ second goal of the night. Adrian Correa connected with Kyle Rivers for a short-handed goal which stood up under a challenge from Utica coach Hewerton Moreira and Tacoma led 2-0 with 12:37 left in the first.

With their power play expired, UCFC did strike next with Tim Goldman connecting with Nilton de Andrade who went top shelf over Stars keeper Chris Toth to cut Tacoma’s lead to 2-1 with 9:23 still to go in the first quarter. 

Tacoma stretched the lead back to two after Perera dribbled to his left and spun with a pass to his right to Alex Caceres who buried the ball to the back of the net for a 3-1 lead with 8:20 remaining in quarter number one.

Steven Fernandez ripped a shot from an incredible angle for UCFC’s second goal of the night, and again the Tacoma lead was cut to one in the first quarter, now 3-2 with 5:32 on the clock.

The scariest moment of the game also came in the opening frame when Cox was streaking in from the right side and Rodriguez came off his line to cut off Cox’s angle. Cox fired a shot that struck Rodriguez directly in the face and required paramedics to attend to him. Incredibly, he would return later in the game.

Like the first quarter, the second also started with a special teams goal for the Stars, this one of the short-handed variety. Perera drove down the center of the box, spun UCFC defender Nelson Santana, and beat Rodriguez, who returned to the game at the start of the quarter, for the unassisted goal and a 4-2 Tacoma lead with 8:34 to go until halftime. Tacoma, a team that came into the game still looking for their special teams footing, ended with a pair of power play and short-handed goals against a team that came into the game as the number one squad in the Eastern Conference. 

After the Stars took a 2-0 lead early, the teams traded goals eight times and it was Utica’s goal next about a minute and a half after Perera’s goal when Emmanuel Belliard found Logan Roberts following a quick restart off a Tacoma foul to make it a 4-3 contest.

With 6:51 to go in the first half, another shot to the head drove Rodriguez out of goal for UCFC and Brian Wilkin returned for an already short goalkeeping corps with Andrew Coughlin unavailable due to illness. 

Perera, who finished the game with seven points on a hat trick and four assists, notched his third helper on Cox’s second goal of the night and the Stars took a 5-3 lead to the locker room at the break.

This game was a special teams showcase with both goals in the third quarter also coming with a man advantage, or disadvantage as was the case this time when Franck Tayou, honored before the game for his 500-point milestone scored a break-away short-handed goal for UCFC, and once again Tacoma’s lead was one. The Stars were up 5-4 with 9:02 to go in the third.

Cox and Perera teamed up for four of Tacoma’s 10 goals in the game and it was their third pairing that gave Tacoma their next two-goal lead with a power play marker to complete the hat trick for Cox with 51 seconds left until the fourth quarter. Tacoma led 6-4 and it was the last time the teams traded goals with the next two coming from UCFC.

Fernandez’s second of the night and a goal from Geo Alves, with an assist to Fernandez, tied the game at 6-6 with 9:28 to go in regulation. That would be as close as Utica would come to victory in this game.

The Stars scored the next four goals, with the first two coming off the foot of Perera with assists to Cox and Cory Keitz. Mike Ramos and Correa added a pair of goals to give the Stars a 10-6 lead with 2:35 left in the game.

UCFC picked up a sixth-attacker goal from de Andrade in the final minute but that was the final goal of the game and the Stars took the win by a 10-7 score.

The Stars' next game is Saturday, January 13 against the San Diego Sockers. Kick-off is 7:05 pm and for tickets head to today! 


1st – TAC J.Cox (Perera) 1:07 pp; TAC Rivers (Correa) 2:20 sh; UTC de Andrade (Goldman) 5:37; TAC Caceres (Perera) 6:40; UTC Fernandez (Alava) 9:28. Penalties – UTC Hundelt (bc- handling) 1:05.

2nd – TAC Perera (unassisted) 6:26 sh; UTC Roberts (Belliard) 7:55; TAC J.Cox (Perera) 10:14. Penalties – TAC Canale (bc- contact above the shoulder/elbow) 5:16. 

3rd – UTC Tayou (Diniz) 5:58 sh; TAC J.Cox (Perera) 14:19 pp. Penalties – TAC Hanson (bc- tripping) 2:47; UTC Alves (bc- tripping) 4:08; UTC de Andrade (bc- pushing) 12:24.

4th – UTC Fernandez (Diniz) 2:40; UTC Alves (Fernandez) 5:32; TAC Perera (J.Cox) 7:13; TAC Perera (Keitz) 9:55; TAC Ramos (Caceres) 11:32; TAC Correa (unassisted) 12:25; UTC de Andrade (unassisted) six attackers 14:28. Penalties – None.


Power Play – Stars 2/3, Utica 0/3

Shots – Stars 30, Utica 14

Fouls – Stars 16, Utica 17

Attendance – 2,372

 Select suites are still available for some games. Enjoy a Stars game with your family and friends in your own private suite! For more information call 1-844-STARS-84 today.

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