Thursday, August 22, 2013

Spokane Shadow expanding vertically with addition of senior teams in 2014

Soccer entertainment in Spokane has not been a bumpy road, but rather a mountain range of peaks and valleys. In 2014, however, the Spokane Shadow are returning to the senior level of the sport hoping the mountains are in the rear-view mirror.

The soccer world in the Northwest has evolved since the Spokane Shadow PDL team went dark after the 2005 season. The Sounders went from being a leading lower division side to a marquee MLS franchise and have been joined by successful Cascadia counterparts in Portland and Vancouver, creating a thriving soccer culture in the region. Now, Spokane fans will once again be able to come together at the pitch and cheer on their own team - likely two - courtesy of the announcement that the Shadow are relaunching a men's team and are planning to also feature a women's side beginning in 2014.

-- Spokane Shadow Announcement Below -- 

Current Shadow logo with early PDL uniforms 
"I think it is a great opportunity for soccer to once again shine in Spokane," said former Shadow PDL player Kenny Krestian, who is now the men's soccer head coach at the Community Colleges of Spokane. "It is such a great chance for college and young players to continue to play and develop during the summer."

That has always been what the senior Shadow have represented since starting from its humble beginnings in 1996. A year later, though, Brett Sports & Entertainment (owners of the Chiefs and Indians) came into the picture and took things to another level off the field and by 1999 the Spokane Shadow were at the peak of success as members of the USL Premier Development League with over 3,000 fans in attendance for the league championship at Joe Albi Stadium.

Shortly thereafter the club became one of the first 'minor or major league' soccer teams to make the foray into developing a fully-integrated pyramid of development, launching a youth side. Building a development system was something in 2000 that very few teams embarked on with the likes of DC United and the Chicago Fire leading the way. Ten years later, it became a league-wide initiative for Major League Soccer.

While things took off for the youth side for the Shadow, trouble began to brew a few years down the line for the PDL team that, despite making some facelifts at Joe Albi, were faced with a quickly deteriorating turf field. Installed during a renovation of Albi that allowed the Shadow to move from Spokane Falls to city's major outdoor sports venue in 1997, the turf was originally a spongey surface that was softer and had more give than the hard astroturf surface used for decades. At the time, it was state of the art, but the timing was unfortunate as just a few years later the new grass-like artificial surfaces began to emerge and completely changed the industry. With the turf at the end of its life, no agreements could be made to have the it replaced and ultimately it led to the PDL side calling it quits. As for the turf, it would also eventually be exchanged for a new surface several years too late.

Looking to replace the Shadow, USL welcomed the independently owned Spokane Spiders the following year, but the franchise was plagued by inconsistency over its four-year run from 2007-10, having four coaches in four years and playing in four different venues. The first two coaches were Dan Philp, who now coaches for the Shadow and guided the WPSL Shine, and the second being Abbas Faridnia, who is now the Shadow Technical Director.

Though 2010 would prove to be the Spiders' final year as a member of USL, management made one decision that marked a first for Spokane with the introduction of a senior women's team, the Black Widows, in the WPSL. The team only lasted the one season in that form, morphing into the Spokane Shine the following year with coach Jason Quintero continuing to lead the team and eventually guiding the side to the regular season division title in 2012.

At that point, however, troubled waters began for the lightly-supported women's team as management chose not to participate in the playoffs. Finances continued to be tight and a much-younger squad under a new coach after Quintero departed in preseason for another post led a disastrous 2013 campaign that saw the team not only go winless, but play several games without a full starting lineup and finish at -9 points courtesy of a forfeited two-game road trip that led to the team's expulsion from the league and subsequent forfeiture of the home finale.

Behind the scenes, however, discussion was already brewing among decision makers at the Shadow as things went dark for the Shine. Looking to continue providing opportunities for senior level players in the community, replacing the expelled Shine in a expense-friendly division of the WPSL would be a good entry point for the club and the application process began rather quickly.

Meanwhile, a new regional league dedicated to Washington men's soccer was forged with the intent to provide a platform for clubs seeking a low-cost option. Development of the league moved rather quickly, and seeing it as an easy outlet for a men's team, the Shadow went from expressing interest to having a team in a matter of weeks.

"One of the members, Peter Ostrovsky, called it a 'no-brainer,'" EPL-WA League Coordinator David Falk said of the decision from the Club Entrance Committee. "There was support from inside and outside the committee, and from around the state to include the Shadow."

So now, in a soccer culture and technological environment that did not exist previously, the Shadow embark on a second journey into senior level soccer looking to entertain and inspire the Spokane community and hoping to capture the similar magic that made the team a community favorite in the early years.


Spokane Shadow join new Evergreen Premier League; also target WPSL addition for 2014

Launching of men’s team takes club back to its roots 

The Spokane Soccer Club Shadow are taking things back to the beginning, announcing that the youth club is launching a men’s team to begin play in the regional Evergreen Premier League, a new statewide league that will make its debut in the spring of 2014, and is expecting to also launch a new women’s team to also begin play in the National Women’s Premier Soccer League.

The EPL Washington addition is the first of several announcements the club is set to make and marks the return to senior level competition for the first time since the original Spokane Shadow men’s team, the originators of the youth club, ceased operations in 2005 following an unsuccessful resolution to turf issues at Joe Albi Stadium.

“We are really excited to be taking this first step in providing expanded playing and entertainment opportunities for the Spokane soccer and sports community,” said Spokane SC Shadow Technical Director Abbas Faridnia. “The region has sorely missed the presence of an senior level men’s team for the continued development of players in the area, and we look forward to continuing to provide talented young women a chance to further their careers.”

The Shadow played its first official season in 1996 as a member of what is now known as the USL Premier Development League, the nation’s preeminent amateur soccer league that is the fourth tier of the American soccer pyramid. The team was a resounding success on and off the field, winning division championships in the regular season or playoffs in its first five years while also finishing a regular league leader in attendance with numbers in excess of 1,000 each year.

The highlight of the team’s initial 10-year run came in 1999 when the club was selected by the Tampa-based minor league soccer headquarters host to the league’s Final Four, finishing as runners-up.

“We have a lot of great things in the works to hopefully make the Shadow senior sides reminiscent of the previous PDL team off the field, making summer evenings and beyond with the Shadow an enjoyable and interactive experience for our supporters.”

Many outstanding players were developed or came through the Shadow over the course of its PDL existence, chief among them being Major League Soccer veterans Craig Waibel and Brian Ching, a one-time MLS Golden Boot winner and former US international. The pair won a combined total of 11 MLS Cup, Regular Season Supporter’s Shield and US Open Cup championships.

“Spokane has a men’s team they can once again come out and cheer for; a men’s team that can showcase the Spokane soccer community,” said Faridnia.

“We are also in the development stages of working towards a senior women's team to provide the same opportunities for the women of the Spokane soccer community.”

Over the past few years the Spokane Shine provided collegiate and youth players from around the greater Spokane area an opportunity to play at a higher level in the WPSL, winning a division championship in 2012 under the leadership, in part, of Scottish youth international Lisa Robertson, who has gone on to reach the UEFA Champions League Round of 32 this summer with her new side Glasgow City.

Further details on the new Evergreen Premier League Shadow team, including staff, stadium and ticket information, will be announced in the coming months along with the progress of the Shadow’s bid to join the WPSL.

Other clubs recently announced for the debut of the league are: Bellingham United FC, Seattle Stars FC, South Sound FC, Wenatchee United, Westsound FC Men and FC Three Rivers (Tri-Cities).

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