Craig Waibel may be the most valuable player for the Spokane Shadow and it has nothing to do with his play on the soccer field.
Waibel, a Lewis and Clark graduate, is a communications major at the University of Washington and he is using those skills to help the Shadow recruit Husky players.
That Waibel has three goals in five games while playing a couple different positions is a bonus.
“I recruited them,” Waibel said of his three UW teammates now on the Shadow roster. “I try my hardest to bring over guys who will add to the team. It gives me good practice at my major in public relations.”
The Huskies and Shadow get a stern test Saturday night at 7 when they play the Vancouver 86ers in an exhibition game at Albi Stadium. The 86ers are an A-League team in a battle for the West Division lead with the two-time defending champion Seattle Sounders. The Shadow are the Northwest Division champions of the Premier League. Both are affiliated with the USISL but the A-League is the top level while the Premier League is third after a pro level.
College players can’t join USISL teams until school is out for the summer, which meant the Huskies couldn’t help the Shadow until midway through June. The reinforcements came just in time as the Shadow have battled injuries throughout the season.
Waible has scored as a midfielder and a defender, depending on where coach Sean Bushey needs him. At LC, Waibel was a sweeper but on his club team he played center midfield. With the Huskies he plays defense. “It’s not hard to adjust… . I still remember how to play all the positions,” Waibel said. “You have to be pretty adjustable out on the field, you can get stuck anywhere.
“I love what I’m doing over here, I get a little taste of both… . I’ve always been offensive-minded. For me as a defender it’s positive and negative - sometimes I forget my defensive responsibilities.”
When Waibel went to UW, the Huskies were emerging as a top-25 power. The first year they dipped but have regrouped and last year went into the NCAA tournament No. 1. Unfortunately, Waibel missed out because of a knee injury suffered with the Shadow last year. “It was supposedly a six-week recovery but it took two to three months to get it back to strength,” he said.
When he returns this fall as a fourth-year student he will have two years of eligibility with a team that returns all but three players.
“I’m looking forward to getting back over there,” he said. “(Coach) Dean Wurzberger is excellent. He knows so much about the game I learn something every day. I love it because every player out there is awesome. You have to work 100 percent every day - you can’t slack off.”
He had similar praise for Bushey and the Shadow, but noted, “The Shadow plays a different style. At the U we’re a lot smaller, actually real small. (Shadow and UW teammate) Lane Jerdahl (6-3, 190) and I (6-2, 175) are the two biggest guys. (The Huskies) are extremely fast… . Over here, obviously it’s a bigger team. There is so much height and it’s a lot more physical. There’s a little more free movement, not as many short passes.”
Waibel began playing soccer with his twin brother, Chad, in elementary school but when the family moved to Spokane before they were freshmen they went different ways.
“We had so much in common, we both got good grades, we both played soccer. We both wanted to establish our own identity, so he took up football and I stuck with soccer,” Craig said.
Chad also played baseball in the spring when Craig was playing soccer, with both earning All-Greater Spokane League as seniors. Waibel didn’t think he would be considering career choices after college that included playing soccer, but with the USISL, that is a consideration. “My plan after college is to play wherever I can … If that’s how it works out, I’d love to come back and play in Spokane. That’s one of those things that is just becoming a reality in America, we can play after college. Wherever it takes me, I’ll go.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
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