BELLINGHAM, WA— Bellingham United begins its journey to return to the WISL Final with a home match on Saturday night against Vancouver Victory. The two clubs are connected in an interesting way. Twice the Victory have made their debut in league play, twice the opponent has been the Hammers, in Bellingham. Vancouver debuted in the outdoor Evergreen Premier League on April 27, 2014 in a 2-0 loss to United. Now the clubs will play again in V2FC’s first-ever WISL match.
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BUFC’s new head coach Brendan Quilici is making the move from playing to being the Hammers’ player-coach. “The transition hasn’t been too bad,” Brendan tells WISLnews.com. “There are a few different responsibilities to worry about instead of just focusing on playing. But overall it hasn’t been too much different. We have a lot of experienced players who can help out, and make my job pretty easy.”
Bellingham hosted the Second Annual Northwest Indoor Soccer Invitational on October 31. They saw six of the seven WISL clubs play that day. “The pre-season tournament was good for us because this year we have some new players to the team,” Quilici says. “It was good to get them some game experience, as well as get them to the indoor style, since most of them are used to playing outdoor. It also was nice to play against good teams to get us ready to go for the season.”
The Hammers are working for a fast start, but on paper it’s not easy to rate a squad like Vancouver that has never played before. Quilici has suited up against the Victory outdoors. He knows they battle. “We are expecting it to be competitive and for them to field a tough squad. I’m sure they are excited to get their WISL season started and would like to start it with a win, so it should be a good game. Hopefully we can come out with a win.”
The Hammers opened last season with a tight 4-3 loss at the Tacoma Stars Reserves. The two clubs would eventually find themselves back at the same venue nearly four months later playing for the WISL Championship. Quilici likes that many of the guys who led BUFC are back. “The roster this year is very similar to last season’s championship finals team. We have a good core of guys returning, and we’ve added a few new guys that should help add some depth to our roster and make us better.”
United loves to play at the Sportsplex. They know the corners, walls and glass…and they know they will be well supported. “We have a great home field advantage up here because of the fans,” Quilic declares. “We have the Black and White Army who come with drums and chants, and we also have members of the community as well as local soccer teams who come and support us.They make It a great atmosphere to play in, and they make it really tough for opponents to come in and try and win.”