Forget the Aroma of Tacoma, the Sportsplex hosts the Championship game: WISL Final Preview
Everyone has their traditions and superstitions that could potentially be the fabric of what makes a good team great. As long as you wear that lucky jersey, don that lucky scarf, make sure that your player-signed ball is safe in your arms and the water bottle that the star striker threw at you after the big game is safe in your pocket, certainly all that means that your team is going to win, right? Maybe only as long as you hop up and down three times, spin around counterclockwise and spit oh-so graciously over your shoulder will you see victory. A bit much? No, because tomorrow the northwest indoor soccer community sees a face-off between two of the biggest teams in the WISL and fans and players alike are preparing to gather with their hopes and worries for the season’s final.
Bellingham United’s indoor team plays the Tacoma Stars Reserves at home tomorrow at the Bellingham sportsplex, an arena that will be filled to the brim given the stakes of the game. With an electric atmosphere attributed in large part to very loud, dedicated, and competitive fans, it can be safe to say that both teams will have to work to keep their focus on the game and to concentrate on the task at hand.
The Tacoma Stars Reserves have seen this match up before in a final, and as excitement runs high Team Captain Micah Wenzel speaks up about his teams performance this season.
“We are a strong defensive team that gives away fewer goals than any other team in the league,” he tells me without hesitation when considering his team’s greatest advantage. Micah also notes that late player add-ons such as Eddie Na, Mark Lee, and Jeff Bader have been pivotal in their offensive game for the second half of the season.
The competition for playing time for the Tacoma Stars Reserves has been unreal this season. “There’s been a bit of fluctuation for roster spots week to week still but the guys who you don’t see play on the weekend are just as important to our success this year as the guys who have been playing every game. We’ve had a training group of over 30 guys throughout the year who have pushed the level and I can’t say enough about that.” Micah also speaks to the games against Bellingham this season, noting that they have beaten the Hammers once already, which seems to be spurring on the team’s confidence for Saturday to see a win within their grasp. Tacoma’s game will surely rely on playing a lock-tight defense and capitalizing on scoring chances when they come along.
Bellingham will rely on a different strategy. Top goal-scorer and golden boot winner for the league Nick Cashmere gave me his thoughts on how United can get a win. Although Bellingham came out swinging since the beginning of the season, Cashmere notes challenges surrounding their roster, including a lack of returning veterans and an introduction of new players delaying the formation of a fully cohesive unit, but while they work out kinks they still remain the top team in the league with an extremely successful season.
Nick outlines his team’s aims for the game. “We tend to give a lot of fouls in those games [versus Tacoma] and go a man down which is when they score. If we don’t foul and don’t go a man down, they’ll have a hard time scoring goals. Last game they had three goals like that. Our goal is to play 5v5 soccer, which I think plays to our advantage.” He notes that Tacoma’s style of play is extremely organized, and it’s going to take a fully fielded Bellingham squad to break through their defensive line. Certainly both sides hope for a clean game that opens neither side up to a disadvantage.
Both sides certainly agree, that a high stakes game at a high level of competition will result in some extremely exciting soccer. So, whether you are a player or a fan, a coach or a casual observer, make sure you avoid walking under that ladder, keep an eye out for bad omens, and carry every imaginable tradition with you for good luck.