The Wash is David Falk’s take on the world of soccer in The WA.
by David Falk
The Evergreen Premier League (EPLWA) ended its first season over a month ago. On Monday August 25 team owners and league officials will hold a conference call to share feedback about the first campaign and build a framework for putting together the 2015 season.
I could spend time talking about how the eight clubs drew almost 17,000 fans over 56 matches, about the supporters cultures springing up, even about how the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA) awarded the EPLWA Premier Elite League status lifting the circuit into America’s fourth division grouping. Those things are awesome accomplishments, but I want to focus on a more personal aspect of the birth of the league: the chance for over 200 adult male soccer players to compete.
Let’s let some of those players speak for themselves…
“I was born and raised in Yakima, and there’s nothing better than going out on the field and representing MY home town. I’ve grown up with a lot of the guys on the team. I think we have a very talented group of players, a great coach and assistant coaches, and manager. I wouldn’t want to play for any other team.” So says Yakima United FC striker Hector Valdovinos (see feature here.)
“The league itself has a cool professional feel to it at the majority of the games. It’s nice to play in front of a big crowd and just showing your skills out in front of people. My favorite part is playing with a few of my really good friends who I grew up playing soccer with. We all went separate ways for college ball and this has given us the best chance to play together again.” So says Vancouver Victory FC’s Mirza Ramic (see feature here.)
“I think the EPLWA potentially can give players who are not fortunate enough to go directly to the PDL, USL, MLS, etc. but want to pursue football at the next level (post-collegiate), a chance or stepping stone to get to seen by the clubs at higher levels while getting more playing time/experience. I am so happy to see the sport progressing as it is in the USA, especially with the start-up leagues like this one that provide different divisions of play like you see in many countries outside of ours. To be a part of it in its inaugural season is special and I feel blessed to be able to contribute to the growth of football alongside these talented players.” So says Colin Benham-Marin of Wenatchee United FC (see feature here.)
“Bellingham United is different in the sense that we have a fairly large fan base, so wearing a Bellingham United jersey gives the feeling that you are a representative and ambassador for the Bellingham community. The word “PRIDE” is inscribed on the back of our jerseys, and I think everyone on the match day squad takes that pretty literally and tries to make everyone affiliated with Bellingham United proud.” So says Sean Connor of Bellingham United FC (see feature here.)
“I really like the EPLWA, it brings very good young talent, mostly college guys who are still eligible for school but need to play at the highest level without getting paid…so this league is perfect. It’s highly competitive and there has been an excellent spirit in every game.” So says Leo Potts of WestSound FC Men (see feature here.)
“The EPLWA is a competitive league. I have seen many different levels of soccer and the play from all the teams in this league is strong. Lots of players are coming up with big goals and great defensive plays.” So says Rob Lansche of Seattle Stars FC (see feature here.)
“I think the EPLWA is making huge strides in its first season. The fan base is great, the level of play is high and it provides another opportunity for guys like me to continue to play. I’m excited to see the EPLWA continue and see soccer in Washington continue to grow.” So says Andrew Glaeser of the EPLWA Champion Spokane Shadow (see feature here.)
“BUFC treat the players fantastic and really value a relationship with the organization and the fans, and building the fan base through community activities. I hope they can continue to grow the program. My highlight as a BUFC player is after the last game where they gave awards, all the fans and kids coming down wanting autographs from the players. It really is neat what has been created and how the youth is so involved.” So says Joel Grossman of Bellingham United FC (see feature here.)
Before the EPLWA there were four PDL clubs offering adult men a chance at regional play. They included the Kitsap Pumas, who this year imported nearly all of their talent from outside of Washington. The PDL clubs had established routes of acquiring players and firm connections with colleges. Then along comes the Evergreen Premier League with roster spots and chances to play for hometown clubs.
There is plenty to celebrate about the first year of the EPLWA, but at the top of the list is the gift of playing time for guys like Hector, Mirza, Colin, Sean, Leo, Rob, Andrew and Joel. Players just want a chance to play.
There is great joy in that opportunity.
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