Workaholic Dowler Does Job for Stars : He Makes Sockers' Job Tougher by Keeping His Team in Game

Mike Dowler, the Tacoma Stars' goalkeeper, is one of those come-rain-or-shine kind of guys.

If he played baseball, people talking about him would say something like, "Just write his name on the lineup card opening day and leave it there."

While the Stars were going through a turbulent season this year, changing coaches and falling from first (last year) to fourth (this year) in the Western Division standings, Dowler just showed up each night in stepped into the Tacoma goal.

Zoltan Toth, the Socker goalie who led the Major Indoor Soccer League in goals-against average this season, once didn't want to play in a game when the team that was to be in front of him came up short-handed because of injuries.

Dowler would play even if no team was in front of him. Kind of the way he did in the first quarter of the first game of this MISL quarterfinal playoff series at the Sports Arena Thursday night.

The Sockers scored four times in that span, mostly because the Tacoma defense left Dowler helpless. Another goal early in the second quarter made it 5-0, but Dowler wasn't about to call in a night--or a series.

He yielded just one more goal Thursday and only three Saturday night in Game 2. One went in off of one of his defenders.

Despite playing behind a defense that ranked next to last in the league during the regular season, the steady Dowler has helped Tacoma pull even at a game apiece in this series.

All he did Saturday night was make 13 saves, including two big ones in overtime, as Tacoma won, 4-3, and took away the Sockers' home-field advantage.

As Tacoma Coach Jim McAlister said, "All he did was just show up."

He usually does. This season, the Tacoma Stars soccer team played 56 regular-season games. All Mike Dowler played in was 51, a league record.

He also played 1,544 minutes (another record) and won a league-high 26 games.

Two of the games he missed were the final two, as McAlister wanted to rest him for eight days before the playoffs began.

"I had trouble getting into the first quarter of the first game (Thursday night)," Dowler said. "Maybe I shouldn't take that kind of time off again."

McAlister said: "It was my fault giving him the time off. He's better without it. As long as I've been at Tacoma, Mike has never, ever come in and asked for a day off. He just wouldn't do that."

Last season, Dowler was forced to the sidelines because of a tear in his right knee. He played in only six games and could have missed many more than he did.

"That was a career-threatening injury," McAlister said. "But not to Mike Dowler.

"He's such a competitor, you just knew he'd be back. He doesn't let anything that's happened in the past affect him. That's why he's come back strong this season, and that's why he came back with a good game after struggling in the first one."

The only ones struggling Saturday night were the Sockers. Time and again, Dowler kept San Diego at bay, and in overtime he kept his team in the series.

Brian Quinn had a chance 10 feet in front of the goal just one minute into the extra quarter, but Dowler sprawled and stopped it. Just moments earlier, he had gotten a leg on Wadd Hirmez's blast from the left side.

Afterwards, he said of the saves, "I was just doing my job."

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