The Spokane Shadow have reached this destination before, though the path was slightly different. This time they hope the road continues.
For the second straight year, the Shadow are one game away from playing for a national championship. That’s the reward for the winner of tonight’s game at 7 at Albi Stadium against the San Gabriel Valley Highlanders.
The winner of the West Division Conference moves on to the USISL Premier League finals at San Luis Obispo, Calif., next weekend.
To get to this point, the Shadow had to survive - and that’s the perfect word considering the craziness of their two-day shootout victory in the first round of the playoffs - the four-team Northwest Division tournament last weekend.
A year ago, the format was different. The Shadow played host to a four-team tournament and the winner moved on to the finals without the one-game playoff.
The Shadow came up just short, losing to the San Francisco Bay Seals 3-2, playing most of the game a man short when Dave Berto was red-carded barely 20 minutes into the game.
“Bottom line, I let the team down,” said Berto, 29, Spokane’s leading scorer. “I don’t dwell on the past. I can’t dwell on the past, especially at my age and the kind of player I am. What happened last year was a fluky situation, a debatable situation.
“Nonetheless, it happened. But that was last year, I don’t dwell on it. I’m more excited than anything to get this game on and get going.”
This time there won’t be any tired legs because of a game the night before, which also means there is no opportunity to scout the opposition.
However, because of his team’s style, Berto doesn’t really believe scouting the Shadow would help an opposing team.
“The way (the older Shadow members) play is different than the way the college guys coming up now play,” he explained. “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. We’re known for that: Go for the goal. A lot of young teams, pretty teams, knock the ball around. It looks good, but it’s not a threat. We’re a more direct team. We move the ball side-to-side much less. We like to exploit the most important thing and that’s the goal.”
Still, the younger players have had an influence on the Shadow attack.
“That’s what’s so neat about the Shadow and why we’ve been more successful,” Berto said. “We have younger guys with a different flair and older guys with a different flair.”
Berto, who played at Ferris and the University of Washington, credited Einar Thorarinsson, who coached the team its first two years, and new coach Sean Bushey, with making the two styles work together.
Ironically, that style is what Berto is expecting from the Highlanders, although he said, “It’s speculation, that’s all it is, just because of their age.
“This is going to be a different game,” he said. “They’re close to our age and experience. The pace will be a little bit slower, but it’s going to be much more tactical.”
Only Zane Higgins, the Shadow’s No. 2 scorer, is out for the game after breaking his left leg last weekend.
The game broadcast has been moved to KKPL 630 AM, beginning at 6:45.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: TO SEE THE GAME Tickets can be purchased at the gate. The cost is $8 for adults, $6 for students and senior citizens.
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