For Spokane Shadow coach Chad Brown, it was all about the process.
“I felt like the players worked hard, had fun and got better for me all season,” said Brown, who last fall was named to coach the Shadow in their first season back after a nine-year absence.
In the process, the Shadow won a league title; they capped a storybook season by capturing the Evergreen Premier League title on the final day of the season Saturday with a 3-0 win over Wenatchee United.
From beginning to end, it never was easy. The Shadow dropped their first two games of the season – both at home – then never lost again en route to the league championship.
“It was a little rough at the start with a shaky beginning, but I think we got all of our guys in and they were able to settle down so there was some consistency there,” Brown said.
“It allowed me to be consistent with training and it allowed the guys to have some consistency which is always, in my opinion, huge in trying to win games and focus on getting better.”
Indeed, the Shadow went 10-0-2 the rest of the way, giving up a league-low 11 goals on the year and posting a league-high seven shutouts. Still, they chased league leaders South Sound until the final weekend, and needed the win over Wenatchee to seal the win.
“We prided ourselves on the defensive side after the first two games, and again we were finally able to get some consistency from the guys,” said Brown, who melded the talents of a disparate group that included college players and recent high school graduates.
“For me, it’s hats off to the guys – we had a pool of 30-40 players – throughout the course of it and we were able to compete every day,” Brown said.
“That was our focus, on our group getting better – you don’t have these guys for a long time, so for me it was exciting to create an environment where they could compete and get better,” said Brown, who this fall will help coach the Gonzaga University women’s team and the Spokane Falls Community College men’s side.
The Shadow also topped the charts on offense, scoring 36 goals – 11 of them from former University High School star Mike Ramos.
The championship is Spokane’s ninth; the franchise won several regular season and playoff championships at the divisional and conference levels during its initial 10-year run from 1996-2005 in the USL Premier Development League.
Off the field, the Shadow finished near the top of the league in attendance. Final figures are still being tabulated, but the Shadow drew about 500 fans per home match, according to general manager Gerald Barnhart.
“We had some limited marketing potential, as it was our first year,” Barnhart said. “But as we move forward, this will create a little more excitement.”