When the Spokane Shadow step on the soccer field tonight for their opening game of their first full season in the United States Interregional Soccer League, they will have a lot to be excited about.
The excitement centers around a number of things. For starters, there’s Spokane sports mogul owner Bobby Brett, who added the Shadow to a list that already includes the Chiefs hockey club and the Indians baseball team.
Also, many of the same players from last year’s 4-8 team, which played a shortened season because of its first-year status, are back.
The team has brought in some new players with good resumes such as Dalmo Santos. The midfielder played for the San Diego Shockers Indoor Team.
But the biggest addition could be midfielder Kieran Barton.
Barton, 25, brings leadership and valuable experience gained as a member of the Sounders A-League championship team last year, the highest level of soccer in the United States until this year.
“His leadership is going to be through his demonstration,” Shadow general manager Jeff Heimbigner said. “If you’re playing with him, then you’d better be focused.”
And Barton’s always been a winner.
At Mount Si High School, Barton led his team to its first-ever playoff appearance. In his senior year at Whitworth College, he played a key role in leading the Pirates to the second round of the NAIA playoffs, the first time any Whitworth men’s soccer team had been past the first round.
“I have a strong work ethic and I hate to lose,” Barton said. “Losing drives me crazy.”
And then came two more years of success with the Sounders in which the team not only collected a championship but won its division both years.
It was Barton’s dream to play for the Sounders. His father played as a midfielder for them from 1979 to 1982, making Barton a Sounders fan from an early age.
“It was just as exciting for my dad as it was for me when I made (the Sounders),” Barton said. “As far as I can remember, that’s all I wanted to do.”
So why would Barton leave such a successful situation in Seattle?
“I was gone from home and family for seven months playing in Seattle,” said Barton, who has been married to his wife Jamey for three years.
Returning home also reunites Barton with his college coach Einar Thorarrinson, who begins his second season with the Shadow.
“It’s nice to be back; I like playing for him,” Barton said. “He’s not a very vocal coach, but you know he expects a lot from you.”
Obviously, Barton is excited to be back in Spokane and feels this version of the Shadow will be successful for two reasons. First, throughout practice thus far, he believes the team is coming together nicely and the atmosphere of winning is back.
Second, Barton loves the idea of Brett owning the team.
“He’s not a big soccer guy, but he knows entertainment,” Barton said. “Just look at the success of the Chiefs and Indians.
“I’ve never actually seen him because he lets the people that know soccer take care of the soccer end of things. It’s nice because you know where you stand.”
The Shadow’s future seems to be bright, but the question will be whether or not they can turn the excitement into winning.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: TONIGHT Spokane meets Seattle at 7 at SFCC.