As we enter the second half of the 2016 EPL WA season, Bellingham United sits in third place with a record of 4-2-1. The four wins that United has accumulated already only halfway into the season doubles their total wins from last year, which saw the squad finish 2-11-1. “We are certainly in a better position than at the same point a year ago. We have a deeper squad in numerous positions and our returning players seem to be re-energized as it seems they have something to prove after last season. Even though our record was poor it did not reflect the quality of the players or much of their play last year,” Head Coach, Lance Calloway said. Currently behind Vancouver Victory and Spokane Shadow who are first and second, respectively, BUFC has a chance to gain some ground in the standings as they travel to Spokane this weekend to play the Shadow on Saturday, June 18th. Both teams have scored the same amount of goals so far this season (16), but Spokane has played eight games total already while BUFC has only played seven. Shadow will most likely being keying in on United forward Nick Cashmere, whose five goals for the Hammers is not only leading the team, but is tied for the league lead as well. Cashmere, who only scored two goals in all of last year’s campaign, has been on fire as of late, scoring a goal and notching an assist over the course of the two games last weekend.
While goals seem to be coming easier this season, United has still been unable to record a clean sheet in their first seven games. “While we are able to score goals we still need to be more consistent in the back and not make some simple mistakes. With the exception of the disaster in Bremerton last weekend, 2-6 loss, while we hadn’t secured a shut out we had the second fewest goals against. We are getting better in the back and have confidence it will be a challenge for squads to score on BUFC. Tyler Visten has been a great addition between the pipes and he gives the backline an added confidence,” Calloway added. As continuing to improve on their defending remains a priority, it will be critical that United doesn’t take their foot off the gas offensively either, and finding the balance between the two with such a veteran squad should be attainable.
The next two weeks BUFC will be traveling- first to Spokane, and then the following weekend to play Seattle Stars at French Field at 6pm. It will be the first time United will face former player Tyler Bjork, who is tied with Cashmere for most goals in the league. “Tyler is a great player and has been a huge part of our club the past four years. I have a tremendous respect for him as he is a dangerous player and make you pay if you don’t plan on him. It will be great to see him on the pitch. He’s a great guy both on and off the pitch,” Calloway had to say about his former player. Those fans who travel down to the match should be in for a real treat as both teams will be hungry for a victory.
Off the field, United players have been busy in the community. With three schools participating in the 2016 BUFC Reading Challenge (Shuksan Middle School, Silver Beach and Birchwood Elementary Schools) our current players were able to reach out to young students about the importance of reading and the impact it has had on their lives. For those students who completed the challenge they were given a free ticket to the match on June 12th against Vancouver Victory, where we had over forty of our readers in attendance! “The reading challenge is always an event we look forward to hosting because it promotes not only reading but allows us the opportunity to reward those kids for being good students and completing the challenge,” BUFC General Manager, Marc Ronney, said. Special thank you to all of the teachers who helped make this event possible, especially Mrs. Eggert, Mrs. Mitchell, and Mr. Zigulus. The team was also able to participate in the Blossomtime Parade, which was an amazing event in preparation for the Ski to Sea, and then make a guest appearance at the Meridian 3v3 Classic. “Both the parade and the 3v3 tournament are just great events for us to be involved in because we get to interact with the community in ways we can’t during the actual games,” Ronney added.
Overall, the season is off to a great start for BUFC both on and off the field. If the final seven games of the season are anything like the first seven, we are in for a close race for first place, where unlike last year, BUFC is right in the thick of it. Make sure you join us for our next home match Sunday, July 10th at Civic Stadium where United will host South Sound FC with kickoff at 3:00pm.