TACOMA, Wash. — The Tacoma Stars had been on a roll of late, at least at home. The Sockers had lost two games in a row.
But the Sockers have dominated the Stars all season. When the two forces met Friday in the Tacoma Dome, the season-long momentum generated by the Sockers against Tacoma was more than enough to halt the Stars' 10-game home winning streak.
The Sockers used three third-quarter goals to wrest away control of a close contest en route to a 7-3 victory in front of 5,625.
It was the defending Major Soccer League champions' second consecutive victory over Tacoma. The Sockers improved to 25-11; Tacoma dropped to 16-20 and into sixth place.
Friday, it was the two Pauls, Wright (three goals, one assist) and Dougherty (two goals), who carried the offensive load.
"Paul Wright was really on his game tonight," Sockers Coach Ron Newman said. "He has been rather quiet of late. If he plays like that, we're a very good team. He has a different dimension."
Only 51 seconds elapsed before Dougherty banged the Sockers first goal past Tacoma goalkeeper Mike Dowler. Dougherty has tallied at least one point in 12 consecutive games.
The Sockers started the ball off a corner kick from the right. Thompson Usiyan got the assist as Dougherty took the pass and blasted the ball into the upper right-hand corner of the Stars net.
The remainder of the first period was dominated by Tacoma, though the Stars managed only to earn the tying goal--with 4:35 left in the first.
Even then, it took Shawn Medved two taps before Sockers goalkeeper Victor Nogueira opened the door during a Tacoma power play.
The Socker bench was whistled for the two-minute penalty with 6:07 left in the quarter for having too many players on the field. Even without injured veteran Ben Collins to aid on defense, it looked as though the Sockers' penalty killers would get the job done.
But with seconds remaining on Tacoma's advantage, Dale Mitchell slipped a pass into Medved, standing in front of Nogueira. Medved's initial scoring attempt got batted back by Nogueira, but Medved trickled a weak second shot between Nogueira and the left post.
The Stars got plenty of opportunities throughout the first half. Tacoma outshot the Sockers 12-6 in the first quarter, but only 14-13 over the first 30 minutes.
On at least four occasions, Nogueira was required to make acrobatic saves, twice shooting a leg in front of a shot, leaping to tip away another Tacoma shot and once, already on the Tacoma Dome turf, leaning backward to grab the loose ball.
"We didn't play as well as we have been at home," Tacoma Coach Keith Weller said. "When we did get free, Victor was always there to stop us at crucial times."
Most of the Sockers best scoring chances came on breakaways, though their only other first-half score was created out of a set offensive situation.
Midway through the first period, Nogueira fired a field-length pass to a streaking Jacques Ladouceur, whose right-to-left attempt shaved the Tacoma crossbar as it curled past the goal mouth.