Steelheads look to Bellingham United to measure progress on and off the pitch

Logen Flem controls the ball for the Steelheads against Bellingham in a pre-season downpour back in April.

orange-whitebkSNOHOMISH COUNTY, WA— The Snohomish County FC Steelheads are looking north as they continue to form their soccer club. Bellingham United have not only provided opposition on the pitch over the last two years but also inspiration about how to get an elite adult club going.

The Hammers have been around since 2011 and have created a close connection with their community and a winning tradition both indoors in the Western Indoor Soccer League (WISL) where they are 3-time defending champions and outdoors in the Evergreen Premier League (EPLWA) where they finished second in 2017 and made the playoffs in 2018. The club has a unique relationship with Whatcom Sports and Recreation. It gives them year-round presence in the community and also a physical “office” and place to display news, awards and player information. Not to mention match schedules and club gear.

Head Coach Dagi Kesim addresses his troops back in 2017 as the Fish played their first match against the Hammers. The BUFC Reserves topped SnoCo FC that day, 5-2.

Matching Up

The Steelheads have played the Hammers three times since SnoCo FC was born back in 2017. “We have been fortunate to schedule the Hammers both years so far,” says Steelheads General Manager David Falk. “Our players look forward to the challenge of playing them.” The Hammers Reserves hosted the Fish in 2017 and took a 5-2 win. This year the clubs met in Bremerton in a pre-season Jamboree and played a 0-0 30 minute mini-match in a downpour. A couple of weeks later the Steelheads traveled north and played a full 90-minute match at Phillips 66 Soccer Park. That one was quite a battle and also ended in a 0-0 draw.

Progress on the Pitch

The Fish can measure some definite progress in terms of organization on the pitch. The Hammers fielded the best of what they had at the time this year (pre-season). Later BUFC would get college players in and eventually make a big run towards the EPLWA playoffs. But the club the Steelheads faced twice was decent and the Fish were able to hang with them. A couple of close calls and missed opportunities could have even lifted SnoCo to a win or two.

Andrew Escalante and Carlos Rodriguez battle against the Hammers at Phillips 66 Park in April in what was eventually a 0-0 draw.

Doing What works

The Steelheads organization continues to evolve and welcome new people. The club has a Founders Club going, which is similar to something BUFC did when they began. The Fish have also reached out and established a relationship with the Snohomish County Sports Commission.

Understanding that soccer people need to stick together, the Steelheads have connected with the men’s college soccer programs in the county. Up in Whatcom the Hammers have the D2 Men of Western Washington University to draw from, along with the successful program the Orcas run in the NWAC for Whatcom Community College. Snohomish County FC is working with Everett CC Trojans and Edmonds CC Tritons to find players and boost men’s elite soccer  in the area. Snohomish County is the most-populated county in America (800,000) without a 4-year college. The Steelheads don’t have a ‘local’ upper college soccer program to draw from.

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Steelheads at Hammers, 2017.

Building a Rivalry

Bellingham United have been very willing to play the Steelheads since SnoCo FC came into existence. It  has been a great help for the Fish to be able to play the Hammers and connect with them on and off the pitch. “When we play the Hammers we get to see how they operate, set up their game days, and how their players carry themselves,” Falk says. “It is a valuable thing for a newer club like ours. Over time the matches could grow to mean even more.”

There is a long way to go before the Orange is as established as the Black and White of BUFC, but since the clubs are about 50 miles apart it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that a fun and perhaps one day even fierce rivalry might develop. One that would be good for both sides.

Steelheads at Hammers, 2018.

In 2019 the Steelheads will take their next step as they join regional play in the Western Washington Premier League. Matches are expected to begin in early May. Before then the Fish will play pre-season friendlies as they prepare. The club also hopes to host the Hammers for the first time next year down in Snohomish County. Hosting BUFC would be another step in the building of SnoCo FC.

Vlad Kutsyy (left) and Rio Alcorta played key roles in keeping the Hammers scoreless back in April.

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