08/20/2012 8:21 AM
by Brandon Enyeart-
It was quite the inaugural season for Bellingham United F.C.; a debut that produced a playoff run, one of the league’s leading goal scorers, crowds that surpassed 1,000 on several occasions, as well as a hand full of upsets, thrillers and blowouts. It is safe to say that this brand new team nicknamed “The Hammers” have already made a statement for both Northwest soccer and for the PCSL (Pacific Coast Soccer League). On top of that, they have also injected a new energy into the sports scene of Whatcom County.
The Hammers reminded us this season of what can happen when a group of players really come together as a team and none of that would have been possible without the right man at the helm…that man happens to be Head Coach, Lance Calloway.
Shortly after the end of the season, Coach Calloway signed on for another season as Head Coach. I sat down with the Coach to talk a little about his favorite moments of 2012 and what he looks forward to in 2013.
Brandon: It’s been quite the year for Bellingham United F.C. and I know everyone is thrilled to have you back for another season as head coach. What made you decide to sign on for another year?
Coach Calloway: It was pretty simple, I just want to make sure that we have a great team continuum; being a part of this team is easy, because we have a great front office and they take care of all the background work and make it exciting for the players. This first year was an incredible experience and why not continue to go with it? I hadn’t worked with a senior team previous to this and it was a great experience. When Jeff (McIntyre) and Aaron (Matson) asked me if I wanted to come on for a second season, I said “Absolutely”.
B: Was there a certain point in the season where you thought “Wow, this is really going to be something?”
C: I thought it was going to be a heck of a ride at our first home game when 1,500 people showed up. That was probably one of the most special moments for me being involved with soccer. It was special because it was the community that I have been heavily involved in for years. I got to see a lot of players who I have known since they were in their teens and early twenties on the field playing a game that I love and that our community was really getting behind. What really reassured me was our second home game when we had 1,000+ fans again and then another 1,000+. It’s a credit to the players, because they put on a good product and they conducted themselves with class, which I thought they did better than most of the opposition that they played.
B: After the start to the season, the team would end up giving fans so many great moments. Which one made you the most proud?
C: It was the home game (second game) against PoCo City; we obviously have a rivalry with them. They’re a talented bunch, but they definitely bring along a few extra components that I don’t necessarily care for and I know a lot of our guys don’t care for either. The first game we played against them left a bad taste in all of our mouths, I mean there were eight cards issued to us; I was even sent off trying to defend some of my players. It was just a bad experience. To pull of a last second victory in the second game against them at home with a great ball played in by Greg Young and a phenomenal header by Sean Connor. That was one of the greatest highlights I’ve been a part of.
B: Who stood out to you individually throughout the season?
C: I like to always look at it as the whole team, I thought the thing that stood out is that our team was pretty deep, because inevitably we had injuries, we had several guys that were injured who were quality players and they were out for a couple weeks at a time; Joel Grossman, Chris Jepson, Oscar Jimenez…Andrew Weishaar was also out for a bit and we didn’t have Justin Diener for a few of our last games due to a foot issue. It was great to have depth at those positions, so when someone dropped you could put someone in who could play. Individually, Kellan (Brown) did have a good year; he’s a very dangerous player, I’ve already had a couple PDL clubs ask me about him. I’d hate to lose Kellan, but if it gets Kellan to the next level, I’m going to do everything to help him. Another player who had a good year was Oscar Jimenez; he was very explosive at times. I also felt two other players who were key factors to our success were Brendan Quilici and Sean Connor, also in the midfield with Oscar. Those three players did a tremendous job.
B: I also noticed how different the defense played when Chris Jepson was on the field, especially how he constantly was communicating with his teammates…
C: “Jeppy” stepped up a lot this year and I have known him for a long time. One of the things I think Chris has really benefited from is that he’s also coaching high level youth soccer and he’s realizing the importance of communicating. That was one of the biggest issues I worked on with our squad, particularly our back four. As we went through the year, our communication got better between all four of them.
B: A lot of fans had a problem with the officiating in the PCSL this season. Do you feel something needs to change next season?
C: You know I really only felt there was one bad officiating crew this season and it was the away game against PoCo City. That game in particular, the officiating was extremely lopsided. I mean when I got sent off, I was walking around the field and even the keeper for PoCo City said to me “Man….You guys are getting hosed”.
I look at officials just like players; they’re going to have good games and bad games. These were high level referees and I thought across the board, the officiating was not that bad.
B: What is your main goal for 2013?
C: Well my main goal is making sure that we continue to have quality players. As I mentioned, there have been a few players who have coaches in the PDL interested and if they can make it, I am going to encourage them to get there. While it may not be as great for our team, I think it’s great for the players. I mean I think that’s what we want to be a part of; the development factor. A lot of guys are still young, so school and life also becomes a factor. There’s going to be some change inevitably, I’m hoping that we can minimize that, but there are also opportunities because of the season we had. After the semi-final game of the Challenge Cup against PoCo City, one of their players asked me about our team, you know like “I hear you have a lot of people” “What are the chances down there, what’s there?” I’ve also talked with a few guys who are with PDL squads who aren’t completely happy with the program they’re currently with. Just this weekend I talked with a very talented, former member of the USL Sounders, he’s interested in coming up and playing with us. He’s older, but he’s got skills, he’s a phenomenal player, good leader and a good human being, so I’m already starting the communications. For me this next year is about keeping the communications going with these kinds of guys and also with guys who were injured and couldn’t play this year. I’m, trying to see if we can get them back into the mix.
B: First game of next year…..what do you say to your guys to get them back into it?
C: I know there will be a big enough core of players that will be there from this year that I can say “Guys, remember how much fun last year was? We need to do the work NOW to make that experience happen again”