Soccer team kicks off the season with kids clinic

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - Lane County's semi-professional soccer team hosted a Community Day on Saturday to kick off its upcoming inaugural season at the Willamalane Center.

The event started with a training session of goal shots by Lane United players and ended with a soccer clinic for kids. Throughout the event, community members had the opportunity to meet players and coaching staff.

Lane United Football Club's (LUFC) season officially starts Friday, May 16, with a game against the Seattle Sounders U-23s at the team's home venue, the Willamalane Center, 250 S. 32nd St, in Springfield.

Fans of LUFC, known as the Red Aces, were at Community Day and planning their schedules around the team's upcoming games.

Adam Smith, a Red Ace, will be at the game against the Sounders U23. He said, "We respectfully refer to them as the Flounders."

Dave Galas, LUFC managing director, said the first year startup operation has kept him busy. He said he has been doing everything except coaching, like meeting with sponsors, designing jerseys, running promotions and selling tickets.

Galas said he is impressed by the Red's soccer talent and local interest in the new program.

"The community jumped on board and showed investors that the support was there," Galas said.

Marty Ochs, Oakshire marketing consultant, helped form a partnership between LUFC and Oakshire.

"It's an opportunity to showcase Oakshire's commitment to the community," Ochs said. "It's taking a pretty big risk to patron a startup team for such a small company."

The team drew recruits internationally, nationally and locally. As a part of the semi-pro Premier Development League (PDL) players are mostly current or recently graduated high-level soccer players with a few exceptions. Players from Spain, Brazil, Germany, Canada, United States, and from the community made the team to develop their skills and maintain college eligibility.

Eugene native and University of Oregon student Daley Stevens, a LUFC midfielder, is excited about the upcoming season.

"It's a bit of a feeling out period," Stevens said. "It's the same way for all the teams."

Stevens said the first game of the season will come down to which team has a better feel and plays more as a team.

"I'd like to use this as a springboard to other soccer opportunities," Stevens said. "I'd love to try to play for other semi-pro teams."

As a part of the Premier Development League, Lane United is designed to help players develop skills and advance to other leagues like the United Soccer Leagues Professional Division (USL Pro), which is two leagues under Major League Soccer (MLS).

About this Friday's opening game, Managing Director Galas said, "I really hope that we can sell out. The fact that we have a beer garden is going to help."

Lane United Football Club 2014 schedule:

May 16- LUFC vs. Seattle Sounders U-23s (home)
May 18- LUFC vs. Washington Crossfire (home)
May 31- LUFC vs. Puget Sound Gunners (home)
June 7- LUFC @ Kitsap Pumas
June 15- LUFC vs. Kitsap Pumas (home)
June 18- LUFC @ Washington Crossfire
June 20- LUFC @ Seattle Sounders U-23s
June 22- LUFC vs. Victoria Highlanders (home)
June 27- LUFC @ Puget Sound Gunners
July 1- LUFC @ Portland Timbers U-23s
July 4- LUFC @ Vancouver Whitecaps U-23s
July 5- LUFC @ Victoria Highlanders
July 8- LUFC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps U-23s (home)
July 11- LUFC vs. Portland Timbers U-23s (home)
July 15- LUFC vs. Vancouver Victory (home)