One of the great things about sports is its ability to bring people together.
At 7:35 Friday, a few thousand fans will gather at ShoWare Center in Kent, brought together to enjoy a Tacoma Stars match, to lend support in a game that will either end the Stars season and send them into the playoffs, to have fun, and to help a good cause.
The stakes of the game are about as clean as they get: Win and advance, lose and say goodbye. The Stars and the Ontario Fury both enter their final game of the season with 12-7 records. The winner fills the last remaining spot in the Major Arena Soccer League playoffs. The loser waits will next year.
In their earlier meeting, the Fury won, 9-6. But that was in California. The Friday match will be in Kent, where the Stars seem to be growing an increasing following: including a 3,668 last weekend -- topped only by the season-opening crowd of 3,710.
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It would be nice if those numbers were exceeded Friday. And the Stars are adding value with Fan Appreciation Night festivities, including Stars ski caps to the first 500 through the doors.
The Stars also will be playing in cool one-of-a-kind jerseys, featuring some of the icons of the Tacoma skyline: the Tacoma Dome, Union Station, the Narrows bridges, and that big white mountain on the horizon.
During the game those jerseys will be up for auction. Profits -- all profits -- will go to help with the considerable medical costs of the Russ family: 15-year-old Kamrey, who underwent a liver transplant after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer; dad Jeff, who is soccer coach at Washington Premier; and mom Tara, who made the liver donation. And while Tara Russ reports that the cancer is gone, expenses -- $600,000 for the transplant alone -- remain.
All of that seems to turn Friday into a night where fans can come together to have fun while doing good.
Here’s a preview from the club:
The Tacoma Stars (12-7) face a must-win game in the Pacific Division playoff race when they host the Ontario Fury (12-7) this Friday, Feb. 26 at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington.
With both teams sporting a record of 12-7, the winner of Friday’s match will be guaranteed the last remaining spot in the Major Arena Soccer League playoffs that begin next week.
Stars midfielder Michael Ramos kept the club’s postseason hopes alive with a last-second goal that lifted Tacoma to an 8-7 victory over the San Diego Sockers last weekend. Ramos’ efforts earned him MASL Team of the Week honorable mention for week 18.
The Fury earned a 9-6 victory in the two club’s one prior meeting this season, a Friday, Dec. 18 matchup in Ontario. Tacoma forward Dan Antoniuk led the Stars on offense with a brace in the match.
Ontario forward Mauricio Salles leads the Fury and is ranked fourth in the league with 45 points coming off 29 goals and 16 assists. Salles earned MASL Team of the Week honors for week 18 after recording his second game-winning goal of the season against Sonora. Goalkeeper Sanaldo Freitas ranks among the top five keepers in the league in minutes (second, 1139:14) and saves (third, 281).
Defender Adam West (26) and forwards Derek Johnson (23) and Dan Antoniuk (21) lead the Stars in points, and have combined for 24 points in Tacoma’s last five matches. West alone has scored seven goals in his last five contests, including two braces. Goalkeeper Danny Waltman has played all of Tacoma’s minutes in goal this season, and ranks in the top five in the league in minutes (first, 1148:25), saves (fifth, 265), wins (tied-fifth, 12), and goals against average (fifth, 5.49).
The Stars will sport specialty jerseys during the match that feature select pieces of the Tacoma skyline. These jerseys will be auctioned off during the match, with 100 percent of the profits going to support Kamrey Russ, a local fan fighting a battle with liver cancer. To learn more about Kamrey’s story, visit www.tacomastars.com.
Single game tickets, group outings, and suite offerings for the Tacoma Stars 2015-16 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 2015-16 season can be found by following the Stars on Twitter (@TacomaStarsSC) or liking the team on Facebook.