The Wash is David Falk’s take on the world of soccer in The WA.
by David Falk
This isn’t an easy column to write. I have kept silent publicly about the various missteps of the Italian-owned OSA Soccer Group’s running of two “local” soccer teams. Today that silence is broken as this group releases a statement about the future of its NPSL and WPSL clubs. A series of bad choices and lack of understanding of the Puget Sound soccer community and market has virtually assured that these two clubs will kick off 2016 with no fan bases whatsoever.
Let’s begin by granting that there are challenges in language translation along with running a website from Italy that is meant for an English-speaking audience. That still does not excuse the amount of factual errors put out by what is now called “OSA Football Club.” The latest? In the release that says they are once again a “Seattle team,” they also say “OSA Football Club’s men’s team will continue to play in the ever expanding National Premier Soccer League making OSA FC the second highest tier Club in Washington State, after the Sounders FC, whose adult men’s team plays in a league with out age limitations…” Not true on the first count. The USL Sounders 2 are the second-highest tier club in Washington. The age limitation line has me scratching my head.
This year the mistakes compounded. While operations stayed in Seattle, they officially renamed their clubs FCT 253. This name choice happened at least in part because the Sounders U23 own the rights to the name “Tacoma FC.” Further mistakes by OSA included using the Tacoma Stars logo in their promotions (without permission), announcing the “return of pro soccer in Tacoma” via their NPSL side. Luckily their misfires never hit any targets. OSA was merely using Tacoma. Now they have already left. Only the scarves remain as proof.
Tacoma was never really taken to heart by the OSA group. Initially they said: “We are honored to be in the league and just as honored to be playing in Tacoma where we know soccer has a strong base and some great fans. We are especially excited about playing in the US Open Cup which is a very special tournament in Washington State.” It was just so much lip service. Soon enough OSA found out that venues are a difficult thing to come by in Tacoma. They ended up playing just one regular season home match there in 2015. They played in Seattle or Tukwila the rest of the time. As for the US Open cup, their statement is also just so much puffery.
The 2015 NPSL season saw OSA FC switch brands mid-stream. They were FCT 253, then at the end they were OSA FCT, and now they are just OSA FC, for both men and women. Along the way very few local fans have even cared about these clubs, or the various moves. Because I cover local soccer and at one time enjoyed the play of the AC Seattle women, I have watched this story. Behind the scenes a few in the Tacoma soccer community wondered how this group was operating, and if they were really dedicated to “Tacoma,” the city. Guess not.
It didn’t have to be this way. Back when they called themselves “AC Seattle” and fielded just a Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) club, there was a brief time of magic when the players were connecting with the West Seattle soccer community, playing matches at Delridge and also at Chief Sealth High School’s football stadium. They were getting press in the West Seattle Blog. Somehow no one in the OSA group seemed to see this potential. They moved home matches to Tukwila (Starfire) and lost that audience. Last season the women were FC Tacoma, though they didn’t play there.
There’s nothing wrong with the idea of starting an Italy-to-Seattle pipeline of players that includes cultural exchange opportunities. On that level OSA can be congratulated. However, the actual branding and running of clubs as “local,” for us as fans — that has hit sour note after sour note from this group.
The National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) is working towards establishing itself in the Northwest. If OSA FC is their lone flagship in Washington, then things look bleak. In a few short seasons this group has moved to numerous venues, flirted with and then dumped Tacoma, and has now taken a name completely devoid of place.