The Wash is David Falk’s take on the world of soccer in The WA.
by David Falk
Soccer keeps growing in Washington, especially at the adult level where 2014 saw an explosion of elite amateur clubs. I’ve been thinking about the “biggest,” “most important,” “top” soccer stories in our state this year. It’s subjective, of course. Those terms mean different things to different people. For the sake of my Top 5, I am thinking in terms of effort, impact, and grass-roots uprisings. The “bigger” stories might just be ones the mainstream press missed out on. Or did they?
My top Washington soccer story of 2014 is the debut of the Evergreen Premier League, an 8-club circuit that dared to bring elite adult soccer and the seeds of supporters culture to Spokane, Yakima, Vancouver, Wenatchee, and Silverdale and continue the build in Bellingham, Seattle, and Tacoma. “Our State. Our Clubs. Our Culture,” says the league motto. You can’t get much more grass-roots than that. A season is complete, and the league averaged 300 fans per match and drew 17,000 fans over 56 matches. Press was very good in Wenatchee, Yakima, Spokane and Vancouver. It fluctuated but shows promise in other towns. Over 200 players filled rosters and traveled around the state. Supporters groups chanted local names in Vancouver, Bellingham and Wenatchee. Soccer folks from around the country sent questions to league founders; the interest continues in the off season.
“Local kid makes good” kind of stories are pure gold. I guess that makes Deandre Yedlin’s year GOLD+. The Seattle native burst on to the US National scene and then impressed with limited but dynamic play at the World Cup. His speed and daring along the sidelines dazzled fans around the world and made his home state very proud. Now it seems Yedlin is off to Tottenham in the English Premier League. The Sounders will miss him, but his upside continues upwards, and we can always say “he came from Seattle.”
Seattle’s NWSL club, Reign FC, had an amazing second season under head coach / GM Laura Harvey. They moved to downtown Seattle, won the regular season title with the best record, and advanced to the NWSL final. It’s clear to see how hard the Reign have worked and how far they have come in just two years. Sure, losing the Final was a letdown, but everything else was pure poetry and joy.
The Seattle Sounders had another fine MLS season, likely their best-ever. There is disappointment in failing to be Champions for the 6th straight year, but there is consolation in winning the US Open Cup for a fourth time in their MLS era, and finishing with the best record in MLS for the first time ever (Supporters Shield.) The Sounders are winners. We’ve not known anything else in their MLS life. Is that good enough? At some point a playoff breakthrough must come.
Playing in Kitsap County does the Pumas no favors when it comes to press, attention and player recruiting. Still they soldier on, and in 2014 the club advanced to its second national final in six seasons. The Pumas didn’t win it all like they did in 2011, but they showed that they could compete with the best using partially-paid players harvested from around the country. There’s a fighting spirit with this side. They want to move up to the USL PRO and face all of the MLS club affiliates. It’s all about money to make that move. Owner Robin Waite is putting together a group, but questions remain about how supportive the local community can be or would be to such a costly “jump up.”
goalWA.net Local Soccer News is sponsored by Pro Roofing Northwest, Kirkland, Bellevue, Seattle, Redmond, Woodinville, Federal Way, Everett, Snohomish, Issaquah, Renton, Kent, Bothell, Edmonds Washington roofing company.