by David Falk
It’s one thing to bring back an iconic name and logo by re-establishing a soccer club. It’s quite another to do so in a new league by winning the title and leading that league in attendance. That’s exactly what happened in 2014 for the Spokane Shadow. The Shadow are back, are champions, and had fans greet their return in positive numbers.
The Evergreen Premier League was founded in 2013 and began play in 2014 with eight clubs. As clubs were announced to the public, behind the scenes the league was working to select owners and operators that could manage statewide travel and recruiting elite amateur male talent. There was private excitement when the Spokane Soccer Club Shadow applied to join. It could be a great thing if done right. It could add to the interest in the EPLWA to see a name return that had played in the PDL from 1996-2005, a name still held dear by locals in Spokane.
On August 19, 2013 the Shadow were officially announced as the 7th team accepted into the Evergreen Premier League Washington. “We are thrilled to have Spokane in the EPLWA,” I said in the release. “The fact that it is the return of the Shadow after almost a decade makes it all the more special. We will partner with the club to honor the past and build a solid future.”
Sixteen-plus months later we can look in the rear-view mirror and see that the Shadow won the EPLWA title on the last day of the season with 32 standing points. They clinched it in the last of 56 scheduled EPLWA season matches. Head Coach Chad Brown and General Manager Gerald Barnhart, both with ties to the earlier Shadow, had deftly guided the club on and off the pitch, turning an 0-2 start into a championship. The Shadow earned the crown by going unbeaten away from home with a 7-0-1 road record.
“We prided ourselves on the defensive side after the first two games, and again we were finally able to get some consistency from the guys,” Brown told the Spokesman-Review back in July. “For me, it’s hats off to the guys – we had a pool of 30-40 players – throughout the course of it and we were able to compete every day,” Brown said.
Not only that, but the Shadow also led the EPLWA in attendance, averaging 571 fans per match at Spokane Falls Community College Stadium. Fans enjoyed the return with pre-match tailgating, halftime on-pitch candy chases, and post-match pitch invasions for player autographs. Inroads were also made with local media both online, on TV and in the Spokesman-Review.
“We had some limited marketing potential, as it was our first year,” GM Barnhart told the Spokesman-Review after the season . “But as we move forward, this will create a little more excitement.”
There’s more. The Shadow played a large part in getting the soccer career of Mike Ramos back on track. Former Seattle U player Ramos led the Shadow with eleven goals, scored the EPLWA’s first-ever hat trick, was named the team’s offensive MVP, was featured locally and nationally, was signed by Spokane’s Whitworth University, was named an All-American and was invited to the Seattle Sounders’ Las Vegas MLS try-outs.
For a league that is just getting started, the EPLWA accomplished a lot in 2014. Planning has already begun for the 2015 season. All eight clubs will be back, and the Shadow will relish a chance to repeat as Evergreen champions. Their first season back gives them plenty to build on.