Strykers Fall 7-5 to Stars Despite Fabián’s Standout Play

by Gunnar Berndt

Tacoma’s Perera, Canale shine as Empire suffers painful loss

Ontario, Calif. — The Empire Strykers fell to 1-5 on their 2023-24 Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) campaign on Thursday evening, losing 7-5 to the visiting Tacoma Stars. The disappointing defeat came despite some outstanding attacking play from Mexican star Marco Fabián, who recorded a goal and two assists, putting his points total at seven from just three games. Tacoma’s Nick Perera and Alessandro Canale led their side to victory with three-point performances of their own. While Perera had three assists on the night, Canale celebrated a hat-trick.

The visitors didn’t waste any time in the opening quarter, Logan Jones setting up Jamael Cox for an early Stars lead. While Canale doubled his side’s cushion shortly thereafter, most of the credit went to Willie Spurr, who toe-poked the ball off the foot of Israel Sesay for an easy tap-in off the boards. Michael Ramos nearly made it three in the beginning stages of the second quarter, but his spectacular side-volley was kept out by an even more impressive diving save from Strykers ‘keeper Brandon Gomez.

The home side subsequently made it 1-2, Abdul Mansaray’s persistence paying off as the London native refused to give up on the ball near the goal line and ultimately managed to push it home. Alan Perez was credited with the assist on the play.

The Strykers continued to press and reaped the reward when a falling Stefan Mijatovic managed to convert Fabián’s helper off the boards by firing the ball back across the goal and into the upper ninety. The pair combined again in very similar fashion moments later, Fabián rifling a shot off the boards and Mijatovic pouncing on the rebound to make it 3-2 by way of a stunning side-volley. It wouldn’t be the final tally of the half, as the Stars’ Ramos finished from Perera for the leveler. Empire’s Mijatovic then came within inches of bagging his third, his fierce drive being denied courtesy of a point-blank deflection from Toth.

The Strykers hurt themselves with subpar defending following intermission, Tacoma’s Canale finishing a pass from Perera and adding an unassisted goal, followed by a tally from Stars midfielder Kyle Rivers. The 26-year-old Rivers took advantage of some indecisive play from Quenton Swift to make it 3-6. Empire finally showed a reaction when Adam James saw his attempted helper off the boards touched over the line by an opposition player.

The away side quickly reestablished its previous lead inside the game’s closing period, Perera setting up Spurr to make it 4-7. Tacoma subsequently had several chances to put the game out of reach, but netminder Gomez shined to give his team a fighting chance. First, the Los Angeles native came up with a superb double-save to stifle Adrian Correa and Rivers. Then, he went airborne to parry a Cox rocket over the frame.

With a sixth attacker on the field, the Strykers had a golden opportunity to get to within two, but Moustapha “Momo” Gueye saw his seemingly simple finish from the doorstep kept out by an impressive Toth reflex. The hosts did pull one back late, Fabián firing home from recent signing Harold Hanson, but it was too little too late for Head Coach Paul Wright’s men. The Strykers will need to hope for a better result when they travel to take on the Dallas Sidekicks on January 6. The Californians will be back at Toyota Arena for a January 9 clash with the Texas Outlaws. Tickets are available here.