It was always going to be a big night, record setting as it turned out. Before the game even started there was intrigue. Lewis Watson was ruled out of the match due to a foot injury. This meant that Nate Salveson would get the start, and he made the most of it in the first half. A record crowd for the Olympic Force of 470 was on hand for Fan Appreciation Night as the Force played host to the Tacoma Stars Reserves. Harbor Soccer Club, Bremerton Soccer Club and South Kitsap Soccer Club were all in attendance in recognition of the support shared with the Force and the Olympic Sports Center.
Everyone that came to the game enjoyed a fantastic rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by Reign recording artist and Force Special Guest Rocky Sandoval who sang the national anthem after delivering the game ball to the officials.
When the game kicked off it was clear that it was going to be a long hard fought battle between the cross bridge rivals. Four would seem to be the number of the night...Salisbury opened the scoring in the 12th minute to put the Force up early. Four minutes later Tacoma would equalize and four minutes after that Alex Hernandez would get his only goal of the night. While it was his only goal, it was enough to give him 18 on the season which ultimately helped him hang on to the 4th consecutive Olympic Force Golden Boot title. The previous 3 were all won by Gustavo Bermudez.
After the Stars scored their goal in the first quarter, the Force defense with Salveson tending the nets would go over 30 minutes without giving up another goal. Joe Sammartino added one to the Force lead to give them a 3-1 lead at halftime.
In the third quarter the Stars would get back into the game with 3 goals to take the lead helped in no small part to the 4 cards issued to the Force over the course of the quarter. With 44 seconds remaining in the 3rd, Awudu made a great effort to tackle the ball away from a defender and slotted the shot in the far corner to bring the Force back to level terms as they went into the 4th quarter.
TSR scored at the 11:33 mark to take the lead by one with Ralston bringing the Force level once again 4 minutes into the quarter. From there on it was all Tacoma as they would rattle off 3 goals in 4 minutes to take the lead for good. The final 5 minutes of the game were exciting but uneventful on the scoring line. With a goal and 2 assists, James Salisbury was named the Cervesa Modelo Man of the Match and was presented by Burdick Heating.
Following the game, Olympic Force Women’s team member of the past and present were introduced to the crowd for fan appreciation night. General Manager Micah McMonagle then welcomed special guest Rocky Sandoval back onto the field. Rocky sang a beautiful rendition of Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” to Force Women’s centerback and Rising Force Director K-Lee Haynes. When Rocky was finished singing McMonagle proposed to Haynes and as you can see from the pictures, she said yes. The field then flooded with kids trying to get autographs from their favorite players.
The game itself may not have ended on a positive note for the Force, but the whole evening itself was magical. From the energy produced by the fans to the music of Rocky Sandoval to the engagement of two of the Force family, it was a night that a lot of people will remember for a long time to come.
Goals: 1- Salisbury, A Hernandez, Sammartino, Awudu, Ralston.
Assists: 2- Salisbury. 1- Potts.
The Force will play Tacoma again on Saturday, Feb. 10th at 7pm at the Tacoma Soccer Center for the Semi Finals of the Western Indoor Soccer League.