Summer soccer seasons come and go so quickly in the state of Washington that fans, players, coaches and staff really have to pay attention to enjoying the fun of semi-pro soccer while it lasts. That’s the case for the men of our PDL clubs, and is also true for Washington’s growing presence in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL). This summer two new clubs popped up in greater Seattle, Issaquah SC and Emerald City FC. A true city derby was born (something the men don’t yet have) and scores of female players had opportunities to continue honing their soccer skills. It was a real battle when the two new sides met each other, or came up against eventual Northwest Division Champions Spokane Shine.
—by David Falk—
Niki Taylor began 2012 as an assistant with Issaquah SC, but eventually went to Emerald City FC and became the head coach before the season started. goalWA.net checked in with Taylor about the first season for Emerald City FC.
“While this year and season involved a number of off-field distractions,” says Taylor of the birth of ECFC out of the founding of Issaquah SC, “the hard work that went into getting our ECFC team on the field was certainly worth it. The feedback from our players was that they enjoyed the season, both on and off the field, and that they can’t wait for next year. They felt prepared to head back to their college programs and we also have two post-college players that have signed professional contracts in Finland since the end of our season. The support and feedback from the ECFC community was also very positive. Taking all of that into account we can look back at our inaugural season as a memorable success and are excited to build for the future.”
Emerald City FC has produced two professionals out of their season. Casey Barrier is in Finland playing for PK-35 Vantaa right now, and team scoring leader Megan Chapin is on her way to join her at the same club. Taylor is happy for the duo and connects their professional opportunity with the extra playing time in the WPSL. “The more opportunity these young women have to compete at a high level, the better. It’s an opportunity that wasn’t available when I was in college and our players certainly appreciated and valued this season as important to their development. It’s equally as valuable to all the young players in the area that learn every time they watch competitive matches and that need players to look up to and goals to aspire to.”
When youth clubs venture into semi-pro territory it is almost always a given that some parents will clear their throats and ask what the kids are going to get out of the money spent to operate such teams. In the cases of Issaquah and Emerald City, both sides are funded by youth clubs. Taylor says it has worked out well.
“Members of the youth clubs responded with very enthusiastic support this season. Beyond just attendance at the games, they stepped up as host families and attended camps and clinics run by our team. The ECFC G99 team traveled with us to Spokane and played a pre-game scrimmage. The experiences were positive for both the community and our players and we’re looking forward to expanding on these opportunities in the future.”
Women’s soccer is buzzing nationally, but is really on fire in Washington state, where we fielded four semi-pro clubs including the Sounders Women, who averaged over 4,000 fans per match. While that was bubbling over down in Tukwila, the two Puget Sound WPSL clubs were facing off in two tight derby thrillers. Taylor says it was memorable.
“Our players really enjoyed the derby games because they were the most competitive games we played this summer. Both teams played well, competed hard, and they were exciting games that went back and forth. Those are the type of games that high-level players want and we’re glad this league provided that experience this summer; all the better that the two Seattle-based teams could provide that type of energetic environment for the fans.”
I was bold enough to recently plead for an encore of what we saw in the all-too-brief 2012 WPSL season. It would be great to build on that with all of the clubs back for 2013. Taylor agrees and thinks it can happen.
“I can’t speak for the other WPSL teams, but we plan to be back for the 2013 season. We see our niche as being able to provide a competitive summer experience for college players looking to stay sharp in their off-season and also as a stepping-stone for post-college players hoping to play professionally. From that respect, there’s a big enough player pool for the Seattle area to support multiple amateur teams and we’re excited to hear that Seattle will be home to a new women’s professional team in 2013.”
Women’s soccer fans can’t wait.