1986 – Around the World and Close to Home
The Soviet nuclear reactor at Chernobyl explodes, releasing radiation into the surrounding area and forcing the evacuation of all inhabitants within 18 miles. The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after launch, killing all seven astronauts, the Phantom of the Opera blockbuster musical opens on stage in London, and Diego Maradona stars as Argentina claims the World Cup in Mexico. Closer to home, a leaky Coliseum roof halts the Seattle Sonics-Phoenix Suns game, resulting in the first NBA rainout 7-footer Christian Welp of Washington is the Pac-10 basketball player of the year, and King County is renamed after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rather than former U.S. Vice President William King, for whom it was originally named in 1852.
Stars Go Bold
In a bold series of moves, the resident club in the City of Destiny determined it was time to go for it. Midway through their third season, the Tacoma Stars seized the moment and made some historic moves to rise above the rabble.
In a span of 10 days, the Stars jettisoned their coach, traded the top scorer and broke open the bank to acquire the biggest star in MISL history. Up to that point, Tacoma had trudged along, 27 games under .500. Bob McNab had been named head coach, then demoted, then promoted – all with little effect. Finally, follow a 2-12 stretch, president John Best began flipping switches.
Alan Hinton, with a history of guiding teams to the playoffs, including the Sounders from 1980-82, was a known quantity to several members of the team and the existing and potential fan base. During the first two seasons, the Stars had averaged just over 6,000. That number would rapidly rise with the arrival of Steve Zungul.
The Serbian striker was a five-time scoring champion, three-time MVP and, moreover, a five-time MISL champion. Together with Preki, Tacoma’s emerging starlet, Zungul, 31, was envisioned as the key to the Stars’ quest of winning titles. The Lord of All Indoors did not come cheaply.
Zungul, whose 516 career goals and 840 points far outnumber those of any MISL rival, cost $200,000. He reportedly receives a $150,000 signing bonus on top of $200,000 annual contract. The Stars are 12-17 prior to the deal, after which top scorer Dale Mitchell is traded. Zungul would proceed to win yet another scoring championship and MVP award.
During the final two months of the regular season, Tacoma plays over .500 (11-8) to earn a playoff berth. An upset of Wichita leads to a semifinal series with defending champion San Diego. Despite being eliminated by the Sockers, it’s clear the Stars have become a regional attraction, averaging 16,505 in their four home postseason dates, including 19,476 in their final outing. It was a trend that would carry-over into 1986-87, in which they started 12-2 and averaged near 10,000.
There was also a key change to for FC Seattle Storm. Jimmy Gabriel, the onetime Sounders captain and head coach who had been integral to forming the club and played for its state league forerunner, departed at the end of the season. His next stop: England and joining Harry Redknapp at Bournemouth.
One local side with a championship tradition, Seattle Pacific, would burnish that reputation. The Falcons, despite a relatively slow start, got stronger down the stretch and became the first NCAA Division II program to repeat as champion. SPU pulled over 4,100 to Memorial Stadium for the 4-1 victory over Oakland (Mi.). That was the second-largest collegiate attendance. The third and final edition of The Big Kick (NCAA Division I championship) draws 4,652 to the Tacoma Dome after two years at the Kingdome.
One consequence of youth soccer’s expansive growth is the need for more field space. East of Seattle, Lake Washington Youth Soccer Association has been leasing Sixty Acres West for two years, then sees King County Parks sell that to King County Agriculture. In Shoreline, neighbors oppose building and lighting two fields in a wooded corner of Hamlin Park.