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 Empire Strykers

Perez, Fabián Shine in Strykers' 5-10 Defeat to Stars

March 24, 2024 - Major Arena Soccer League (MASL)
Empire Strykers News Release

Kent, Wash. - Despite impressive opening-quarter attacking displays by Alan Perez and Marco Fabián, the Empire Strykers lost 5-10 away to the Tacoma Stars on Saturday evening, dropping to 3-19-1 on their Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) campaign. Former Mexican international Fabián bagged a hat-trick within the first 15 minutes, all three tallies coming assisted by fellow midfielder Perez, who added a goal of his own. The duo's output was bested by a comprehensive attacking performance from the Stars, Nick Perera and Michael Ramos each contributing three points to the cause.

Ex-Empire ace Chris Toth had a strong shift between the sticks for Tacoma, recording a .750 save percentage as his side claimed its seventh straight victory courtesy of a dominant second period, in which it outscored the opposition 4-1.

After a slow start to the game, the visitors from California nearly had the opener when Garrett Blume pressured the defense and saw his block of an attempted clearance bounce off the right post. Instead of a Strykers lead, it would be the hosts jumping on top. Indoor legend Perera celebrated his return from injury with a short-handed netter, as he sprinted onto a perfect throw by 'keeper Toth and calmly slotted home. The Strykers subsequently used the man advantage to draw level, Fabián bagging his first on Perez's first assist.

Back to even strength, Tacoma made it 2-1 after 'keeper Brian Orozco had produced a point-blank block against Sebastian Navarro, midfielder Nani Mendoza confidently converting the rebound. After Empire equalized for the second time, Perez picking out Fabián on a gorgeous counterattack, Stars defender Cory Keitz found Alessandro Canale and the veteran scored on a deflected long-range effort for a 3-2 scoreline. Fabián completed his hat-trick before the end of the quarter, converting from close range as Perez's attempt from the top of the arc turned into a helper off the boards.

The second period saw four straight goals from Tacoma, beginning with an excellent individual run by Ramos, who carried the ball forward from inside his own half and finished the play off himself to make it 4-3. Keitz then tallied from Jamael Cox for his side's fifth, followed by a Perera assist and a Mendoza netter on a power play, the pair combining for a 6-3 Stars advantage. Ramos subsequently collected his second of the contest, exploding past his marker from the left and rifling a bullet under the crossbar to extend his team's cushion to four. Matt Braem had the helper on the play.

After Perez cut the visitors' deficit to 4-7, Empire squandered a golden chance to pull another one back on a breakaway in the final seconds of the opening half. Sprinting down the right with no defenders in sight, Randy Martinez opted to square the ball to supporting attacker Perez at the far post. While Perez inexplicably missed wide left on the seemingly simple tap-in, Martinez had arguably been too unselfish, as his pass meant that a Perez goal might have failed to beat the clock.

The Strykers were punished for the letdown just after intermission, Canale releasing Cox down the right and the 31-year-old's centering pass finding Willie Spurr for an easy netter. Spurr's teammate Navarro had similarly little trouble making it 9-4, as the ball was put on a platter by Ramos, who had picked the pocket of Blume. Empire attacking engine Fabián was subsequently sent to the sin bin for a total of ten minutes, having been shown two yellow cards in quick succession for persistent dissent.

Finally back on the field, Fabián continued his chase for the MASL Golden Boot in the closing quarter. The two-time FIFA World Cup veteran unleashed a dangerous drive from the left that forced Tacoma backup netminder Luis Birrueta to leave his feet and tip the ball wide right. The match saw two more tallies before the final whistle, with each team bagging one. After Stars forward Perera set up Canale on a power play, the Strykers' Quentin Swift rounded out the final score at 5-10 courtesy of a deflected shot from well outside the area, Mo Alewine collecting the helper.

Eliminated from playoff contention, the Empire Strykers look to conclude their 2023-24 season on a positive note when they welcome the Tacoma Stars to Ontario's Toyota Arena on Sunday, March 31. With the meeting between the two Western Conference foes marking Empire's Fan Appreciation Game, tickets to all seats are only $5 each.

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