KENT, WA— Seattle Stars FC are entering their 4th season in the Evergreen Premier League in 2017. They have never finished higher than 6th in the 8-club circuit but this year things are looking up for them. They have just finished a successful preseason that included winning the Rumble in the Rainforest last week in Port Angeles. The club is getting new kits to go with a new crest. Most importantly, there are new players who could well surprise opponents. Two who have already made the Stars more dangerous are attacking midfielder Brandon Gonzalez and attacking left back Zac Newton.
Brandon and Zac’s talents were on display last week in Port Angeles. Gonzalez scored twice, including the winding-through-traffic winner. Newton was busy running up and down the sidelines, stopping opponents and reversing play to attack for Seattle.
Gonzalez and Newton will join up with the leading scorer in the history of the EPLWA, Tyler Bjork, who scored 14 goals last season, two-thirds of Seattle’s 21 total goals in 2016.
Auburn Riverside Standout
Brandon Gonzalez sounds like a natural #10. “If I had to describe myself as a player it would be a technical, versatile attacking mid…creative. I look to go forward and create chances. I love being on the ball and providing chances for my team.”
“I would say I had a good performance overall, what’s most important is that the team got two wins,” Gonzalez says of his Port Angeles Rumble performance. “On the winning goal I remember dribbling straight at their back line. I found a teammate and made a run past their line of defense and tucked it past the goalkeeper. It was a great team goal.”
Gonzalez played soccer at Auburn Riverside High School where he was also named Athlete of the Year for 2015-16. Last fall he moved on to the NWAC and Highline’s Thunderbirds. Now he’s taking no rest by jumping into the EPLWA. “This season I’m really looking forward to playing in this league with such competitive teams, it’ll be interesting to see how we do as a team as we compete for the title. Hopefully I will continue to help my team and personally I hope to get some more exposure.”
Gonzalez has been trained at high-level clubs: Crossfire Premier, Sounders Academy and Washington Premier. He’s got a sparkling resume’ which includes All State Team honors with Auburn Riverside his senior season. He’s the all-time leading goal scorer for the Ravens.
Seattle Stars Head Coach Omar Lara is thrilled to be working with Gonzalez this season. “Brandon has a solid background. We’ve been in contact with him throughout the past few years, inviting him to participate with Seattle Stars trainings and ultimately leading up to trying out this year for the team.”
“Brandon is a strong midfielder and has instantly meshed and strengthened our team. He is a young player with an unlimited amount of talent and passion. He has individual strengths that he brings to the team which will make us even stronger. I have no doubt that he will be an influential leader for Seattle Stars.”
Aussie on Board
As if Seattle Stars opponents did have enough to contend with in stopping Gonzalez and Bjork, they will also have to watch the flanks for a blond streak from Australia named Zac Newton who loves to defend and lives to counter-attack. He played two years at Peninsula College winning back to back NWAC titles in 2012 and 2013. After his two years there he received a scholarship to play at Fairleigh Dickinson University (D1) in Teaneck, New Jersey and played in the NEC. After a semester he transferred to Niagara University (D1) in Western New York, again on a scholarship and played in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC).
“I came (to America) for the opportunity to play soccer and continue my education,” Zac begins. “The system in America is very unique, it allows students to have their college paid for through athletic scholarships. That’s what brought me out initially. I was only planning on staying for two years in Washington with Peninsula College, then I was offered a scholarship to play on the east coast and I couldn’t pass up the chance to further my soccer and education by playing Division 1 and earning my Bachelors so I stayed. Now that I’m done with my college career, I’ve moved back to Washington to be closer to my girlfriend and to pursue a career in the sports industry. I love the Pacific Northwest.”
Newton describes himself a defender with the flip side. “I’d have to say I’m a hard tackling, attacking minded outside back. I love playing there because it gives me the opportunity to assist when we attack and to help create chances by putting in crosses. But I’m also good defensively and in the air so for me outside back is a good mix of both. I’d also say I’m very athletic, I like to run a lot and I’m very talkative which I feel is a necessary attribute needed to make sure everyone is doing their job because communication does help a lot.”
How did this Aussie end up in the Evergreen Premier League? “I reached out to a few teams around my area and nearby in the EPLWA and NPSL and after training with the Stars and figuring out my work routine playing for the Seattle Stars suited me best.”
Newton knows he’s got work to do, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. “(Next for me is) Mainly just playing again and getting back into shape and returning to the level I was capable of playing at. I took some time off after my senior year to focus on school and work and now that I’ve gotten into a steady routine I’m excited to start playing. I love soccer, so just playing again for me is what I’m excited for most. I feel like we have a good team this year too, so I’m excited to how far we can go and what the guys and myself are capable of.”
Zac does have an eye for offense, but he has a defensive sensibility as well. “In terms of style of play, I like to play simple. I think a pass and move style of play is better than taking too many chances and trying to be fancy. I also am always thinking about safety first when it comes to joining in with the attack. If the ball is on the right side of the field I’ll try to stay home in case we lose the ball or get countered and am always trying to think ahead about what might happen and to be safe defensively.”
Newton is right where he wants to be. In America. In a relationship. Working. But still active in soccer.
“There are a number of things that motivate me: My mother was a soccer player and she has always pushed me to be a better person and athlete. My girlfriend is a huge motivator for me and is always encouraging me to do my best—as does my family. Lastly, my coaches and then my team mates. When we step onto the pitch it’s just us. Playing with them motivates me to try to play my best every day as I don’t want to let them down.”
The Seattle Stars open their 2017 Evergreen Premier League season this Sunday April 30 with a 6 PM kick off against Bremerton’s Olympic Force at French Field in Kent.