The 1997 edition of the Spokane Shadow has some big shoes to fill, so they’re going to do it with a lot of shoes. For their third season, the second at the premier level, the Shadow have 27 players, including 12 returners from last year’s 18-4 team.
Headlining the team is Zane Higgins, who led the team in scoring last year and made the midseason All-Star team.
“I think (the strength of the team) is its competitiveness,” first-year coach Sean Bushey said. “They seem to have the ability to find ways to gut out a victory. I think that comes from the experience of the older players.”
A team can have 23 players, plus three U-19 developmental players. The Shadow have 24 players because veterans Chad Brown, Harlan Slind and Jim Mortinson are injured.
The Shadow won the USISL Premier League North Division championship last year and advanced to the championship game of the Western Region, falling just short of making the national championship tournament.
This year, the Shadow play the Okanogan Challenge in a pair of preseason games the next two Saturdays. The first is at Kelowna, British Columbia, and the two play at Albi Stadium the following week.
“We want to be prepared for the home opener. People are coming and we want to give them a show,” Bushey said. “We’re still not fit. Our target date is the league opener.”
The Shadow begin their 20-game league schedule the first weekend in May, playing the Cascade Surge in Salem, Ore., May 2 and the Puget Sound Bigfoot in Bellingham on May 3.
“It’s hard to imagine after last year’s team but this year’s team is deeper,” veteran midfielder Kieran Barton said. “I would say for the guys coming back there’s a little extra drive. As (the season) gets close, you can really tell which guys got close last year.”
The league home opener is May 11 against the Tucson Amigos.
“Experience is a definite asset for us but the players will be pushed by the new players coming in,” Bushey said. “The returnees aren’t slotted in to start. I’m confident they’ll be challenged.”
Five Gonzaga University players are part of the current roster, but they can’t play until school ends in mid-May.
Two returning University of Washington players, who played last year but are not on the roster, are expected back in mid-June when school is out.
“We have 12 returners but we have a lot of new players,” Bushey said. “They have ability, but do they have the ability to go to the new level.”
The only position without a veteran is keeper, where Coeur d’Alene native Chad Beadall, who plays at Clark College in Vancouver, Wash., is the starter. He’ll be joined by Josh Fouts of Gonzaga.
Spokane’s developmental players are high school juniors Jason Campbell of Sandpoint, Zach Kingsley of Shadle Park and Abbas Faridnia of Ferris.
Last year, the Shadow carried only one developmental player, Gonzaga Prep’s Joe Ascolese. Ascolese, now in his freshman year at the University of California Santa Barbara, will join the Shadow when school gets out in early June.
The Shadow went 17-3 in the regular season last year, the best among all 80 USISL teams.
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