With elite club soccer, there is always a balancing act with the schedule when clubs from two states are put in the same conference.
For the ECNL Northwestern U15 Conference, that delicate equilibrium starts next week when Washington clubs, Crossfire Premier and Washington Premier, start a run of 16 games in four months to catch-up with the Northern California clubs that have already played at least seven games.
“The biggest disadvantage is we haven’t played ECNL teams week in and week out,” Washington Premier U15 head coach Seth Spidahl told TopDrawerSoccer.com. The coach went on to say that his team played up an age in a local league during the fall to prepare for the ECNL competition.
As a new team to the league, Washington Premier was placed in Flight B for its inaugural season in the ECNL.
“We are brand new to this competition,” Spidahl said. “The goal we are looking for is promotion. We want to be in a spot where we are playing for promotion at the end of the year.”
Last Month, Spidahl’s group went down to San Antonio for the ECNL National Showcase Event, which is the major component for National Standings determined for promotion. Spidahl’s team was undefeated at the event with a win and two draws, and currently sits midtable in Flight B.
Local rival, Crossfire Premier, was also at the event and had a good showing with two wins and a draw among the Flight A teams.
“It was the first event for my girls and I was pleased with how they did,” Crossfire Premier U15 head coach Justi Baumgardt told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “It was a good event, and we had a handful of players who stepped up and contributed.”
The coach said her team went into the Showcase “not knowing what to expect” and hoped her group could stay in the top 16 spots in Flight A by the end of the event. Crossfire Premier finished the event with a spot in the top four.
Both Washington clubs are looking forward to the rest of the season, especially getting a big test against the California clubs.
“It is a tough conference,” Baumgardt said. “The California teams are always tough.”
“I am excited to see how we match up against the big name clubs from California,” Spidahl said.
Although the two Washington clubs were in action last month with the ECNL event, the Northern California clubs remained on hiatus due to high school soccer.
Despite the three-month break, Mustangs SC ECNL U15 head coach Mike Descombaz was not expecting much rust for his players given the majority of his team played for one high school in the area, which captured the CIF title last week.
“We start training this week, and then our first game is March 17,” Descombaz said. “It is a quick turnaround.”
The Mustangs did already play seven games prior to breaking for high school.
“It is pretty unique,” Descombaz said about the schedule in the conference. “Highlights how important this three-month stretch is for qualifying for the National Championship in Chicago.”
The coach did not say there was any team goal in terms of postseason finish, but rather he wanted to see the team’s style of play evolve over the coming months.
“We are trying to play a certain way,” Descombaz said. “We want to play attractive soccer and play well consistently.”
Descombaz also said he had a group of talented players that work hard and manufacture goals without any star player shining above the rest.
Players to watch:
Jessica Udovich, Washington Premier, defense. Udovich is a talented center back and an important piece for Washington Premier. She has been invited to the ODP Regional camps in the past.
Karlene White, Crossfire Premier, forward. White is the leading scorer for the Crossfire Premier, and key contributor to the success of the team. She had a very good showing at the National Showcase Event in San Antonio last month with a couple goals and a few assists.