BREMERTON, WA—There is only one first time and for the Olympic Force Saturday April 4 will be the first time they see outdoor soccer action against opponents as they prepare to launch in the Evergreen Premier League. The Force are one of the clubs participating in the Kitsap Pumas Challenge, an all-day affair at Gordon Field in Bremerton that also features the Kitsap Pumas, Peninsula College Pirates and a team representing the local Navy.
“Saturday gives me a great opportunity to get guys minutes and have a look at a few lads in different positions, try some formations out,” says Force head coach Kevin Skinner. “That’s all I’m really thinking about in terms of the tournament. I’m not going to over-think the scores of each game as I plan to tinker a bit with the team and get things worked out so I know the direction and starting line up I’m looking for as we get closer to the season. Obviously it would be nice to win the games and we will certainly be going out to do that but it isnt a win at all cost event and I plan to use it more as a platform to build on.”
The Force held their open tryouts a month ago, but just held their first outdoor practice earlier this week. The month “off” was not really that at all. The club was playing indoors in the PASL and made a trip to Dallas to compete in a national tournament. Now the focus for Skinner and his players is getting healthy and getting ready for the challenges of the Evergreen Premier League.
“Things are going well behind the scenes,” Skinner reveals. “It’s been a bit slow lately just because focus has been on the indoor team and their success and recent trip to nationals in Texas. Now that that’s all done things will begin to slip into gear. We had a first practice last week, just a bit of an ice breaker session get to know each other. Tuesday night we had our first full session. It went really well. We had a good numbers and the lads responded well to what we were trying to work on. There is a good buzz in the air right now and everyone is feeling very confident about the season.”
Last season the WestSound FC Men went 3-10-1 with 10 standings points. They were at the bottom of the final table. Defense wasn’t really the issue. It was scoring goals. That club managed just 15 markers in 14 matches played. Of course this is a new club in terms of name, but also will feature new faces in those new Force kits as well.
Skinner knows he has to mix things up this year for better results. Last year he was a WestSound player. Now he’s the guy in charge. “We have decided to take a reserve team this season and have already secured several games for them throughout the season. This will allow us to have players to draw from through the year and also to keep young promising players around to continue to build for the future, and give more local players opportunities to showcase their talent and play soccer at a high level. We took a roster of around 20 and left a few spots open for any returning guys that might become available and we have 12 on our reserve roster. Right now we have a few injuries coming off the back of the indoor season that we are just letting heal so we have had round 20 at both practices.”
Saturday will be the first chance for Force players to begin the journey towards defining their style of play, and forming their outdoor soccer culture. Skinner says the club will see opponents all the way up to their EPLWA opener which comes at home May 2 against Vancouver Victory FC. “One thing we did not do well enough with the WestSound team last year was prepare with pre-season games. We are still finalizing a couple of games but we have this mini-tournament this coming weekend, and the Rumble in the Rainforest in Port Angeles right before the season opener. Plus we will play at least 2 games in between the two events. We will announce those friendlies once we finalize the games.”