TACOMA, Wash. — The Major Indoor Soccer League Western Division squad wasn't just an All-Star team.
It was an all-time team made up of six players selected to the MISL's First Decade team and two of the best, if not the best, young offensive players in the game.
Is it any surprise that the West demolished the East, 9-3, Wednesday night at the Tacoma Dome?
A crowd of 17,251 fans was treated to an explosive offensive display in the most one-sided of nine MISL All-Star Games. The West led by 4-0 after 12 minutes and 6-2 at halftime.
"I think this was the best group of players I've played with," said Socker midfielder Branko Segota, who played despite suffering a badly sprained left ankle Sunday night. "We had all the power up front and tremendous defense. We had total defense that turned into immediate offense."
Tacoma Star forward Preki scored a hat trick and was a unanimous selection as the most valuable player. Along with Segota, Preki--the league's leading scorer with 72 points--is one of the bright young stars at 24.
"With all the great players here--Segota, Steve (Zungul), Kai Haaskivi and all--it's a great honor to be named the best tonight," Preki said.
When Segota (one assist) teamed with Preki and Tacoma Star forward Zungul (two goals and an assist)--selected as the player of the decade--Preki said he was living out a dream.
"That was great," Preki said. "What would you think if we played all three on the same team? We would be hard to stop."
Said Alan Hinton, Western Division coach: "These guys are the leaders of the Major Indoor Soccer League, and tonight they played like it."
The West also had First Decade defenders Fernando Clavijo of the Sockers (one goal and two assists), Mike Stankovic of Wichita, Kim Roentved of Kansas City (one assist) and First Decade goalkeeper Zoltan Toth of the Sockers.
Toth allowed two goals and made five saves on eight shots in the first half to win and even his All-Star mark at 2-2.
Tacoma Star goalkeeper Mike Dowler allowed one goal and made 15 saves on 20 shots.
And that wasn't all for the West.
Lesser-known forward Dale Mitchell of Kansas City has two goals in his first All-Star Game.
Also, Los Angeles Lazer midfielder Chico Borja had a goal and two assists.
"One of your fears is that these guys might be on the field too long and be too selfish," Hinton said. "But I'm very, very pleased."
The Western Division bombarded Chicago Sting goalkeeper Chris Vaccaro with 11 shots and four goals in the first quarter.
Preki scored on a 45-footer from straightaway at 2:58. Borja scored from the right wing, off a corner kick from Zungul, at 6:25.
Preki connected on a 35-footer from straightaway at 7:45. Borja's centering pass to a cutting Mitchell resulted in a tap-in by Mitchell at 11:31.
The rout continued when Clavijo scored off a rebound of a shot by Erik Rassmussen to make it 5-0 at the 8-minute mark.
Then, suddenly the Minnesota connection of David Byrne and Hector Marinaro combined for two goals by Byrne within 27 seconds to cut the West lead to 5-2 midway through the second quarter.
The most dramatic goal of the night came when Mitchell scored from the right wing into the far corner of the net just as time expired in the first half. Mitchell's goal was set up by a Segota crossfield lead pass.
The night's most flamboyant goal came on a bicycle kick by Zungul that made it 7-2 at 5:50 of the third quarter. Zungul lined the ball into the net while falling down just to the right of the goal.
Cleveland Force forward Craig Allen scored with 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter to make it 7-3. Preki scored an empty net goal with 1 minute, 15 seconds to play, and Zungul completed the scoring with 26 seconds left.
"I wouldn't mind coaching this team all the time," Hinton said. "It was truly a celebration of great soccer."