Visiting Ontario Bags Massive Shootout Win Over Stars

by Gunnar Berndt

‘Keeper Toth shines in 4-4 draw, shootout as Fury keeps playoff hopes alive

By Gunnar Berndt

Kent, Wash. – The Ontario Fury finally broke its streak of bad endings in tight road games on Friday night, earning a crucially important shootout victory over hosts Tacoma Stars that sees the Inland Empire club massively boost its odds of reaching the Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) postseason. Both goalkeepers, the Stars’ Danny Waltman and the Fury’s Chris Toth, had standout performances on the day, with Toth making several key stops throughout the fiercely contested 70 minutes before ending the shootout early by stopping both of Tacoma’s first two attempts.

Ex-U.S. and FIFA World Cup star Jermaine Jones collected his first goal and point in his very first appearance with Ontario.

Given the positive result, the Fury now holds the head-to-head tie-breaker against the Stars at 3-2, meaning they would reach the playoffs by recording one more win than their Pacific Division rivals over the course of each team’s final four games. A loss at accesso ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington, would have meant needing four straight wins down the stretch while having to hope for four consecutive Tacoma defeats.

After an uneventful opening period characterized by tight marking and stellar defensive positioning, Ontario grabbed the lead in the second quarter when Victor Quiroz didn’t give up on his own wild shot off the boards and fired home the rebound. Quiroz and company had several quality looks during a subsequent power play, but Stars netminder Waltman, freshly back from injury, showed why he is counted among the best. With a series of excellent blocks, the 37-year-old set the stage for the equalizer at the other end, Michael Ramos finishing off an assist by Chase Hanson.

With the momentum of the contest shifting, Ontario’s Toth proved once more that he is also a member of the elite of MASL ‘keepers. First the former San Diego Sockers ace came up with a point-blank one-handed reflex to tip a Vince McCluskey effort off the crossbar. Then his outstanding foot save denied opposition midfielder Joey Gjertsen. However, Toth would be helpless on the home side’s go-ahead tally before the end of the half, indoor legend Nick Perera making it 2-1 on an assist by recent Tacoma signing and former Seattle Sounders FC man Lamar Neagle.

After the break, the Fury’s Anibal Echeverria was in the right place at the right time, as he equalized on a well-placed shot following an Ivan Simental blast off the bar. The duo’s teammate Maicon de Abreu subsequently came close to adding his name to the scores sheet, but his attempt bounced straight down off the corner of the goalpost and seemed to fall just short of the line. Tacoma’s Jonathan Greenfield was equally unlucky not to tally when he was released into space by a beautiful through-touch from indoor legend Nick Perera, only to see his effort rattle the upright as well.

Next, it would be Ontario on the attack again, ex-U.S. international Jones thinking he had netted on a side-volley from close range, the ball somehow being kept out by airborne Stars ‘keeper Waltman. As is so often the case in soccer, the visitors were subsequently punished for the missed opportunity, as Dan Antoniuk picked out Derek Johnson for a 3-2 Tacoma advantage.

In the final period of regulation time, Fury midfielder Jones was robbed by Waltman for a second time, this time seeing the veteran goalkeeper come up with an impressive reaction save to prevent the equalizer. However, Ontario’s DeBray Hollimon would not be denied shortly thereafter, his unstoppable right-footed rocket from the left side of the field finding its way across the frame and into the upper ninety to level the match at 3-3.

As if inspired by Hollimon’s success, Jermaine Jones bagged his first Fury tally and point on a similarly powerful shot from a similar position, having skillfully touched the ball past an opposition defender in a way eerily reminiscent of the 37-year-old’s goal against Portugal in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. With Jones and his mates now ahead 4-3, the trailing hosts then opted for a sixth attacker to try and get to even terms. Following an effort off the crossbar by Ontario’s Maicon de Abreu at the other end, Tacoma succeeded with a minute left to play in the contest, Ramos completing his brace on an assist by Greenfield.

With forward Thiago Goncalves being denied in a one-on-one with Stars shot-stopper Waltman in overtime, it appeared much like the familiar story of bad luck and heartbreak after a late lead for the Fury. However, the Southern Californians’ fortunes turned around when ‘keeper Toth first produced another quality foot save to keep out a dangerous low drive by Tacoma’s Ramos and then breathed a sigh off relief when teammate Israel Sesay sent an attempted clearance off the foot of Troy Peterson for a heart-stopping bounce off the underside of the right post.

With that dramatic moment coming with just over 30 seconds left to play, the visitors were able to escape tied at 4-4, allowing Toth to contribute more heroics in the shootout. The 29-year-old’s saves against Gjersten and Perera were enough for the victory before Tacoma’s third taker ever saw his turn, as goals by the Fury’s Juan Carlos Gonzalez and Anibal Echeverria in rounds one and three, respectively, put the game out of reach.

Trailing the Stars by a mere win in the race for the all-important second place in the Pacific Division postseason race, the Ontario Fury will look to put more pressure on player-coach Nick Perera’s squad by making it back-to-back wins in its massive March 24 home match against the El Paso Coyotes. Tickets to all Fury games at Citizens Business Bank Arena may be purchased by by clicking here or by calling 909-457-0252.