Sean Bushey is looking forward to the challenge - with his fingers crossed.
The Spokane Shadow finish their soccer season this weekend with a pair of non-league games against higher-level competition in California.
Bushey, the Shadow coach, views the games as a good tuneup for the USISL Premier League Northwest Division tournament at Albi Stadium next week, as long as his team avoids injuries.
“We have to look at it as a positive to go down there and play high-caliber competition,” Bushey said. “It fine-tuning for the tournament. We’ll also use it to play guys that haven’t played as much, try to keep them sharp. We need to have everyone game-sharp as we get into the playoffs. We look at it as an opportunity to play and get ready for the playoffs.”
The Shadow play the San Francisco Bay Seals on Friday and the Chico Rooks on Saturday. Both are members of the USISL 3D Pro League.
The San Francisco game has the Shadows’ attention because the Seals, members of the Premier League last year, beat Spokane 3-2 in the national tournament qualifying game.
San Francisco beat the Seattle Sounders 1-0 in a shootout last week in the Open Cup, a season-long tournament for any team in America. The Sounders are in the A-League, a step above the Pro League. The Seals drew the Kansas City Wizards of the Major Soccer League, the highest level of play in the United States, for their next game.
Bushey is coaching the games “by feel.”
“If we don’t perform well on Friday we’ll have to fix things on Saturday,” he said. “We have to stay sharp, we won’t have a let down. It won’t be hard to get up for San Francisco after last year’s playoff.”
Josh Fouts has secured the No. 1 goalkeeper position but Pete van de Ven and Brian Mullen could both see action this weekend.
“We’re very solid (at keeper),” Bushey said. “The luxury on my end can be tough on their end, but Pete and Brian can step in and do the job.”
Right down the line, Bushey has goals for the weekend, starting at forward.
“One of the main objectives is getting Jeff Rose fit,” he said. “This is a good opportunity for Jeff to get in games because he’s been injured so long. He played well (the last two games). We’re trying to get him on the field with Zane Higgins, Dave Berto and Chad Brown. Those four attackers are playing well, Zane is coming along, Berto has played well all year and we want to push Chad wide to give our attack potency.”
The Shadow have overcome a number of injuries at midfield to become solid.
“We’ve been successful because of the depth we have to get us through the long season,” Bushey said. “Right now we have a few different players we can get in there, especially with playoffs, back-to-back games with intense pressure. Ryan Edwards is starting to play better, Tim Seely has been consistent all year, Craig Waibel has played well and we can use Berto and Brown there.”
Defense is the least of Bushey’s concerns.
“Our back line has been solid all year,” he said. “Stu Saunders and Stu Rose have been solid all year. Andy Bruno has filled in well and Waibel can play back there. Wide we’re good with Joe Marks and Lane Jerdahl. That’s been the foundation all year, they’ve always performed well all year. They made one crucial mistake all year, against the (Vancouver) 86ers (in an exhibition game). We hope that continues.”
Spokane finished its Premier League Northwest schedule with a 14-2 record, clinching the best record among the 30 Premier League teams. Yakima and Cascade have clinched two playoff spots, but Puget Sound could possibly catch Bellingham for the final berth… . The Shadow play the No. 4 seed at 6 p.m. July 26, with Yakima against the No. 3 seed at 8 p.m. The winners play Sunday at 6 p.m. to advance to the next round.
The Shadow clinched a tie for the best record last weekend when the Mid-Michigan Bucks lost their third game. Spokane had the best record last year… . Going into the last weekend, only four of the 30 teams have been eliminated from playoff consideration. … Considering the low-scoring nature of soccer, it’s not hard to believe the 0-14 Southwest Florida Manatees have scored just eight goals, but it is amazing they have allowed 81. Next on the hapless meter is the Michigan Madness, 1-14 with 10 goals for and 59 against.
Spokane is 1-1 in non-league games… . San Francisco leads the pro Western Division at 12-2 and is 3-0 in non-league games… . Chico is fourth with a 9-4 record and is 2-0 in non-league contests.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
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