Wenatchee FC just completed their first season in the Evergreen Premier League in 2014. The club was founded to serve the Apple Capital Valley, giving fans a club to support and scores of players a place to play. The importance of WFC is clear. In the very center of Washington geographically, the greater Wenatchee area is also host to talented soccer players whose careers can now keep going after high school and college. In “Apple Valley Grown” we will visit with a few guys who are benefitting from the birth of the Capitals of WFC.
Some kids kick the ball around as soon as they can walk. Others take their time, falling into playing and then falling in love with soccer. “I didn’t begin to play soccer until I was around 12. Growing up I was always aware of the game, but didn’t competitively play until I was about 12,” says Wenatchee FC and Wenatchee Valley CC midfielder Joel Villa.
Even after he did start playing, it wasn’t in a typical way. “An uncle of mine decided to construct a team since we had several cousins around the same age. It wasn’t till I was 14 where we began playing for the leagues here in Washington. I played varsity for 3 years for Eastmont High School in East Wenatchee. My sophomore year we were one game away from going to state. It wasn’t until my junior year that we were league and regional champs. Then we made it to the state quarter finals and lost to Mercer Island, who had great players like Jordan Morris. We ended up getting 3rd place in state.”
Then tragedy struck. A car accident he was in took the life of his cousin, Christian Rodriguez. Soccer was not first on Joel’s mind for quite some time. “After being in a car accident in 2012 and the passing of my cousin, my senior year of soccer wasn’t what I really looked forward to,” Joel says. “Although we made a good run into playoffs and finished second in league.”
Sometimes moving on is helped if you keep on moving, and Joel has returned to soccer as place he can shine and find happiness. Wenatchee FC was established in 2013 and began playing this summer in the Evergreen Premier League. “I heard about Wenatchee FC from coach Javier (Reyna.) He contacted me about this opportunity and I said well why not.
Joel loved the opportunity. “The first season in the EPLWA went okay. I didn’t see much playing time due to injuries, but the games I did participate in, I played some kind of key role. A great moment was scoring against Yakima and assisting Adrian Espinoza in his goal against them.”
Since the Capitals play all over the state, Joel represents the Valley on their travels. He sees more and has played more against top players. “Playing for Wenatchee FC has allowed me to explore more of the soccer world here in Washington and has allowed me to want to strive for better things. Being able to play against D1 players and knowing that I can compete against them is a great boost in confidence.”
Back home in Wenatchee Joel and the Knights of WVCC are having a great year. “Our season for college is going great. Our goal besides winning the NWAC like everyone else, is to put Wenatchee Valley Knights back on the map as one of the most competitive team out there. I have the opportunity that not many other people get to witness, I am playing with brother Jose Casillas, and my two cousins Juan Rodriguez and Yonatan Rodriguez. We are 9-2-2 now with a spot in playoffs. At this point anything can happen and we must work our hardest to be there better team. A couple highlights include beating Spokane at home. I assisted our forward for a great tap-in goal and we got the lead early. Another great highlight was destroying Columbia Basin 8-1 at home after we tied them 2-2 at their house.”
Joel began soccer when he was nearly a teenager, but some players have natural talents like his, just waiting to be discovered when the ball is kicked. Now that he is a veteran of sorts in the sport, he’s ready to start expecting more of the game, and more of himself.
“I want to accomplish many things in my soccer career. I want to be able to play at the higher collegiate level and pursue a higher education with that. I hope one day I can play in a big league and be successful in the game of soccer.”
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