PULLMAN, WA— The Washington State University Cougars Men’s Soccer Team is a club team that competes in the West Coast Soccer Association. While others over the years have argued the case for the Cougars to add varsity men’s soccer, the club team is busy playing it while wearing the school colors.
The first weekend in April the Cougars traveled over the mountains to take on the Oly Town Artesians and the Washington Premier South Sound FC Shock in two Evergreen Premier League preseason friendlies.
The trip was actually a year in the making. “We had attempted to schedule friendlies against South Sound FC as well as Spokane shadow last spring, but were not successful due to our schedules not matching up,” says WSU Men’s Club President Andrew Anderson. “This year we held conversations much earlier and were able to connect to South Sound FC as well as Oly Town Artesians FC. Both club were very flexible and were able to work with us in order for us to play back to back days while over on the west side.”
The Cougars came over on their own or with portions of the team. “Our guys either drove themselves or traveled with the team in vehicles that we had rented. We departed Pullman, WA on Friday and the majority of the players either stayed with teammates or at the hotel that was booked for our team.”
Anderson recaps the matches. “On Saturday we kicked off the weekend by playing Oly Town Artesian’s in Olympia. Without much information about their program, our guys entered the match with a few nerves. Those nerves however were settled when Jack Klipfel scored the opening goal to give us the lead. Jack Klipfel would get another goal before half-time, while Oly Town would get one back before half as well. The Cougs lead at half 2-1 and confidence grew throughout the team heading into the second half. Several chances were not taken advantage of on both sides early on. It would be in the 70th minute when Oly Town would get the equalizer. The game would end 2-2. We walked away from the game a bit disappointed as we felt like we had the better opportunities to walk away with a win.”
The next day the Cougars moved from Olympia to Puyallup to face one of the EPLWA’s annual contenders, Washington Premier South Sound FC. “Sunday we traveled a short distance to Washington Premier fields in Puyallup, WA,” Anderson recalls. “Several of our players have been either practice players with South Sound FC or full-time players our team was well aware of the qualities of their program. On Sunday we were only able to suite up 15 players as two of our starters had previous commitments that they needed to go back early to Pullman for. This along with having played a full 90 minutes the day before was a bit hard on our players.”
Staying close in this one was not an option for WSU, who fell back by four goals before halftime. “WPSSFC capitalized on their opportunities early on and we never really got a hold of the game. At half-time WPSSFC led 4-0 and our guys were fairly deflated,” says Andrew. “Our coach David Simone did an outstanding job of lifting the guys spirits at half-time to have them work for the next 45 minutes and not to worry about the result as much as continuing to grow as a program. Our players would do that and walk away from the game with keeping the score to what it was at half-time, 4-0.”
The Cougars players have a strong commitment to the sport of soccer. Club teams get some help from their colleges, but they also rely on student interest to thrive.
Anderson and the club are working on an expanded vision. “Our program is run by, funded by and structured by the players and our goal we are working towards currently is to structure the program so they are less functional and more tactical,” he says. “We would like our board (President, VP, Marketing etc.) to layout ideas and vision of the program, then using resources on campus such as our Sports Management Program at WSU to find individuals to set up ways to support the vision of the board. Currently we have an Operations Manager (Alyssa Gonzales) who has done an outstanding job for us.”
If the Cougars can compete around the Northwest and in the WCSA, could Pullman one day host its own men’s club in the Evergreen Premier League? Not so fast, suggests Anderson.
“As far as Pullman ever having its own EPLWA club, I personally believe that this would be a stretch. With WSU ending in early May, there would have to be enough incentive for students to stick around for the summer to compete. If we were not able to create a big enough incentive, then our only player pool would be non-existent making it impossible for us to compete at that level during the summer.”