After nine long years, soccer fans can rejoice: the Spokane Shadow are back in the game.
Saturday night at Spokane Falls Community College, men’s semi-pro soccer will return to Spokane for the first time in almost a decade when the Shadow host Bellingham in an Evergreen Premier League match.
“Spokane has a men’s team that you can once again come out to watch and cheer for,” said Abbas Faridnia, the Shadow’s technical director.
So why now?
That, as they say, is a developing story – as in developing a new generation of players to move to the college and pro ranks. That’s what the Shadow did best during during a successful 10-year run that ended in 2006 when the rug was almost literally pulled out from under them.
Concerns over turf safety at Joe Albi Stadium forced the team out of business; and without a top-flight U-19 developmental team, the quality of players coming out of Spokane “has waned a bit,” said Gerald Barnhart, the Shadow’s general manager who along with Faridnia was instrumental last year in bringing back the team.
“It’s extremely important for the youth players of Spokane to have the opportunity to watch, cheer and learn from a higher, senior level of soccer,” Faridnia said.
In other words, the main idea is to give back to the soccer community, and who better to coach the team than former Shadow standout Chad Brown, who joined the original Shadow, scored the club’s first goal and went on to play five seasons as a midfielder with the Seattle Sounders?
“This is a place that’s given me quite a bit,” said the 38-year-old Brown, a former assistant coach at Fresno State, Nevada-Las Vegas and West Virginia.
“My passion for the game arose from Spokane and the players I was able to play with,” said Brown, who also played locally with the Skyhawks, Falcons and River City Steelers.
Likewise, Brown’s roster is full of local flavor, including area college-bound high school standouts and current college players, including five from Gonzaga. They include Keane Ellis, Aaron Jeffery and Andrew Newman, plus local products Dustin Ferger (East Valley) and Graison Le (Coeur d’Alene).
“I think it’s going to be a good experience for them, and obviously benefits us in that they get to play in the summer in a good league,” said Gonzaga coach Einar Thorarinsson.
“The five guys, they are all hungry to play,” Thorarinsson said.
They join established stars Elliott Fauske, a Major Indoor player with the Rochester Lancers; and former Seattle Sounder Kevin Forrest.
“It should be a fun experience and I look forward to playing for the team, especially when they are playing in the Puget Sound area in front of my friends and family,” Forrest said.
The player pool for the game-day roster will be fluid early in the season, Barnhart said. “But I know the coaches have been pleased with the depth of the pool so far,” Barnhart said.
Brown, who’ll be assisted by Niki Varlamos, said he’s not focused on the won-lost record, but on “the process of getting better every day.”
“The results will come,” Brown said, “but right now we will focus on making you a better player every single day.”
Those players will perform at an SFCC stadium that was renovated in 2012-13. The Shadow considered several venues, Barnhart said, “but in the end it is probably fitting that we are playing at SFCC considering it was the original home of the team for its first two seasons of existence.”
The season includes seven home games, with Yakima coming to town on May 10. The season will end July 20.
Tickets will cost $6 for adults and $4 for youths 15 and under. Season tickets cost $35 for adults and $20 for youths.