ISSAQUAH, Wash. — (club release) The first game of the season is difficult in most circumstances, but it could be particularly tough for both Puget Sound Gunners FC and Calgary Foothills FC when they face off May 17.
The Gunners will have only one week of training under their belts when they hit the pitch at Calgary’s Hellard Field this Sunday. The team held a scrimmage last Sunday, May 10, against the Seattle Sounders U18s, and their first practice was the following day.
Calgary, meanwhile, is in its first season as a Premier Development League club, so things could be just as convoluted for them.
Gunners FC and Foothills FC are set to kick off at 12:30 p.m. Pacific time May 17. Here are a few things to look for from Puget Sound, which had a solid outing against the Sounders U18s, head coach Alex Silva and several players said.
The Gunners were still learning names as they stepped onto the field for their first scrimmage. Other than those who are current college teammates, the players had never met before.
However, it didn’t take long for cohesion to develop. Much of the credit for that went to central defender Declan McGivern, an Englishman who plays NCAA Division II soccer at Notre Dame College in Ohio.
McGivern is a tall, imposing figure along the back line, and he helped the Gunners stay sharp against an opponent with many more minutes together. It wasn’t an easy task – the Sounders have several quality attackers, including forward Victor Mansaray, who has already seen action this season with Seattle in Major League Soccer.
“It was the first game, so it’s always going to be difficult,” said McGivern, a native of Huddersfield, England, who came to the U.S. three years after a spell with Bradford City AFC.
“I think, for the most part, we did well. There’s a few things we can improve on, as I said, but I’m not worried. I think when we get a good week of training in, coming into the first game (at Calgary), we’ll definitely be ready.”
Issaquah High School junior Ian Lambert, a goalkeeper for the Issaquah Soccer Club U18s and U17s, was a late addition to the Gunners’ roster, and played in the scrimmage. He also credited McGivern for keeping the team sharp defensively.
“Dec came up really big,” Lambert said. “He was so much faster than me in organizing. He pointed out things that I haven’t seen yet, and I just hope to learn more about directing the team from him, because he is a very interesting player.”
The 6-foot-4 Lambert has been lauded as a solid shot-stopper and leader. He hopes to play for Issaquah High as a senior – he was stuck behind Saif Kerawala, a University of Washington signee and Sounders Academy player the past few years – and is trying to improve his distribution and ball-handling skills as a PDL player.
“I just try to keep positive,” Lambert said. “I’ve been down on myself a while. I didn’t make a team that I wanted to make … but I used that to better myself in the sport. It’s probably one of the most competitive sports in the world, and so it’s really hard to keep up, but I hope to.”
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Speed in the attack
Gunners FC figures to have a potent midfield in 2015 thanks to players like Edgardo Mira, a U17 and U20 national team player in El Salvador, and Javier Reyes, his teammate at Oral Roberts University.
Because of visa issues, Silva said, those players won’t be making the trip to Calgary, so it opens up an opportunity for others to shine.
Alex White, who plays alongside Mira and Reyes at Oral Roberts, a Division I school in Oklahoma, is one of those stepping into the limelight. White, a native of Portland, Oregon, scored a goal during Sunday’s scrimmage, and said he’s all about creating chances for himself and teammates.
“I love to work hard,” White said. “I love to run at the game and challenge the outside back. My favorite thing is, I love to be fit and not get tired, and continue to run at the game, and be a threat in the attacking third. Hopefully, I’ll score some goals this summer.”
Canadian midfielder Adam Jones is using his summer with the Gunners to get back into playing shape. He attends school at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, but wasn’t eligible to play last season.
He was pleased with his outing against the Sounders U18s, which was his first competitive match since January.
“Yeah, it was good,” Jones said. “I played about 70, 75 minutes, and it took a little while to get the rust off, but I felt like the second half, especially, I did quite well.
“The midfielders were really able to link up with the defense, getting the ball from there, switching the play and finding the strikers, and getting in behind. We did that quite well.”
Here is the Gunners’ complete traveling roster for their May 17 game at Calgary Foothills FC, which kicks off at 12:30 p.m. Pacific time:
GK Cody Jewett (USA/Indiana University)
GK Ian Lambert (USA/Issaquah High School and ISC Gunners Premier)
D Kevin Cook (USA/Seattle University)
D Justin Fiddes (USA/University of Washington)
D Robert Hyams (England/Simon Fraser University, Canada)
D Colton Ronk (USA/Highline College)
D Justin Crichlow (USA/Harvard University)
D Declan McGivern (USA/Notre Dame College, Ohio)
D Daniel Smith (USA/Harvard University)
M Corban Anderson (USA/University of Washington)
M Zachary Hammond (USA/Humboldt State University)
M Adam Jones (Canada/Simon Fraser University)
M Alex White (USA/Oral Roberts University)
F Kyle Coffee (USA/University of Washington)
F Dawda Dibba (Gambia/Peninsula College)
F Renan Troccoli (Brazil/Notre Dame College, Ohio)
About the Puget Sound Gunners FC
The Gunners are in the seven-team Northwest Division of the Premier Development League. Previously, the Gunners played as the North Sound SeaWolves, before the team partnered with ISC Gunners FC and moved operations from Edmonds to Issaquah. Last year, players from the University of Washington, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, Western Washington University and more suited up for the Gunners. Learn more about the ISC Gunners FC at http://www.iscgunners.org.
About the Premier Development League
The proven developmental leader in North American soccer’s evolving tiered structure, the PDL features 65 teams within four conferences throughout the United States and Canada in 2015, including 10 teams affiliated with USL PRO or Major League Soccer clubs. The PDL has proven to be an important stepping-stone for top professionals now playing throughout the world, with 70 percent of all MLS draftees having PDL experience. The PDL season consists of 14 regular season matches for each team, seven home and seven away, and provides elite collegiate players the opportunity to taste a higher level of competition while maintaining their eligibility. In addition to league play, PDL teams compete in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as well as various exhibitions.