The defending Evergreen Premier League champions head into the second half of the 2015 season in a similar situation as last year, rebounding from a slow start and in the thick of a chase for the league title. At 4-1-2, the Shadow are one of three teams with just one defeat on the season and are within reach of climbing to the top of the table once again.
The season started off with a bang on the road with the First Team rallying in the first half in Wenatchee for a 3-2 lead at the break that was extended to an eye-opening 8-2 scoreline at the final whistle courtesy of a dominant second half. Adam Talley and Sam Engle each scored twice in the victory with Talley earning the league’s Offensive Player of the Week honor.
The Shadow returned home for the next two matches and, similar to last year, had a little trouble finding wins in the first two matches at Spokane Falls CC. They played to a 1-1 draw against the Seattle Stars and were blanked, 2-0, by Vancouver as part of the Victory’s 7-0-0 start to the season.
Since then, the Shadow have been unbeaten. They played host to longtime rival Yakima and were 2-0 winners on goals from Brady Ulen and Zach Hamer, though the performance of the night came from goalkeeper Jeff Srock, who made a number of great saves to post the team’s first shutout of the year and earn EPLWA Defensive Player of the Week honors.
The defense and goalkeeper Tony Watters kept the shutout streak going the following weekend on the road, giving the Shadow a three-game shutout streak. Spokane is the only team in the league that has been able to accomplish the feat, doing so in both seasons.
In a showdown with last year’s championship race foe South Sound, the two sides battled to a scoreless draw in the extremely hot mid-day heat. The following day, the Shadow dominated in the league’s first-ever morning contest, downing the league newcomers Olympic Force 3-0 on goals from Karl Muelheims, Chance Bukoski and Anthony Mota.
For second-year striker Muelheims, it was his first goal for the Shadow. Having finally broken through, he kept the run going with the opening two goals in the team’s return home for the seventh game of the season in the second meeting with South Sound. Unlike the previous weekend’s stalemate, the two sides exchanged seven goals on the night with the Shock getting one later in the half and pulling even in the first minute after the break. The visitors would even things up twice more before Talley provided what held as the winner from the spot after earning the penalty. Muelheims would receive the league’s Offensive Player of the Week honor.
REMAINING HOME GAMES (full schedule / results +)
June 20 v Bellingham - 7:00 pm - Spokane Falls CC Stadium
July 11 v Wenatchee - 7:00 pm - Spokane Falls CC Stadium
July 25 v Olympic - 7:00 pm - Spokane Falls CC Stadium
The league’s scoring average is up. Last year the league established itself as entertaining with a scoring average just shy of four goals per game. This year, that average has grown to 4.61. In the first few weeks the visiting teams had the better record in the league, but since Vancouver and South Sound began playing at home, things have balanced back out with the home teams enjoying a 17-13-3 edge.
Unbeaten Beginnings – The Vancouver Victory and South Sound Shock got off to great starts. Vancouver, under management of a new coach, were perfect through their first seven games before finally being stopped by the Capitals, 1-0, in Wenatchee. South Sound, meanwhile, was 5-0-1 with their lone blemish a 2-2 draw in Yakima. In the span of a week the Shadow added a draw and a loss to their ledger for their current 5-1-2 record.
Central Washington Uprising – The duo in the middle of the start are proving to be a thorn to the league’s top sides this season. Wenatchee, currently sitting third, handed Vancouver their lone loss and with five wins have already matched last year’s win total for the team. Yakima United handed South Sound one of its two draws. The duo also feature the league’s top two scorers at the moment with Wenatchee’s Eleazar Galvan leading EPLWA with 10 goals and Yakima’s Jesse Esquivel second at seven.
Rest of the Pack – Olympic Force started their debut campaign off with three losses, but have picked up three wins in the last six games to move within a point of the Seattle Stars, who started off well at 2-1-1 only to drop three consecutive before getting their third win, plummeting down the table as everyone else picked up results. Meanwhile, the most shocking development of the year is the downfall of Bellingham, which went from a midseason contender a year ago to a side this season that has yet to earn a point through eight games.