Monthly Archives: September 2016
By Keeler McJunkin
Former Lane United FC standout Khiry Shelton is making his presence felt during his second year as a pro with NYCFC of the MLS after being selected second overall in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft.
Shelton played in 17 games while recording seven starts during his rookie year, but the forward already has 11 starts to his name and has played in 19 games this season while scoring three goals and assisting on nine others.
Last Friday Shelton had three assists after getting the start in a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Fire that moved NYCFC into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference and helped them clinch their first-ever MLS playoff spot.
Shelton has one goal and five assists in his last four games with the club and his nine assists rank second on the team, only one behind maestro Andrea Pirlo.
“The season has been great so far,” Shelton said. “I’m learning a lot from the coaching staff and other players around me. You always have nerves and the spotlight in the first season, it’s all new to you. I’m becoming smarter and learning little things to help me get more time on the ball.”
A big change for Shelton has been playing with legends of the sport like David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard. He hasn’t allowed himself to get star-struck around them, but has been soaking in the experience of taking the field with them.
“Growing up you watch these guys on tv and want to be in their position,” Shelton said. “To be able to play with them is amazing. There are times I sit back and it really hits me, but at the same time it’s business, they’re my teammates and we have a job to get done.”
Even though he’s playing on the big stage in New York City inside an iconic place like Yankee Stadium, Shelton hasn’t lost track of how he got there and who helped him along the way. He said his time with Lane United helped him get to where he is today.
“John Galas and our assistant coach Conner (Cappelletti), just the whole organization in general were able to help me get my name out there even more,” Shelton said. “We were training almost every day and the group of guys John brought in helped me showcase my talent. I was able to get my confidence up and be around really good players.”
Shelton said Lane United head coach John Galas had a big impact on him both on and off the field by not only teaching the athletic side of playing the sport, but also the mental aspect of what you need to be doing as a player to be successful.
“He’s a player coach,” Shelton said. “He gets what he wants out of his players whether he has to be hard on them or kind of comfort them. He’s able to do both. He’s like a father figure, if you ever need anything he’d easily be the first person you can call.”
Not only has Shelton been seeing more time on the field with NYCFC, he’s a current member of the USA Under-23 national team and was called up to the senior United States squad for friendlies against Iceland and Canada earlier this year.
Playing for the national team has been quite a different soccer experience for Shelton than he’s seen with any club team in the past.
“I got to play with a lot of the players who have been with the national team for awhile and I got to train with them a lot,” Shelton said. “That was an amazing experience. When you’re with the national team instead of your club cheering for you, you have people from all over the United States cheering for you. That was pretty awesome.”
Earlier this season venerable midfielder and now current NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira said he thinks Shelton can be one of the best players in the MLS before his career is done. While those are big words coming from Vieira, Shelton knows he has the talent to get where he wants to be as a player.
“The things he (Vieira) has done as a player and the things he accomplishes are amazing,” Shelton said. “I know what I can do, but it’s all about me willing to put in the work. I need to stay focused and not think about what I can be, just be me right now. He’s a great coach and he’s been hard on me, but at the same time I know it’s because he wants the best out of me.”
As the MLS playoffs are getting closer, Shelton and his NYCFC teammates are looking to continue their strong play as of late and really make a push to go deep into the postseason.
“We’re a team that knows we can score at any point in time with the talent and determination we have as a team,” Shelton said. “We’ve been doing well and we want to continue to do well.”
By Keeler McJunkin
Lane United FC goalkeeper Ben Willis is using the experience he gained in goal over the summer with the Reds to get his college season with Gonzaga off to a strong start.
The Bulldogs (5-2-1) began the season with a five-match unbeaten streak, including two wins over nationally ranked teams with a 4-2 victory over then No. 16 Seattle University at home and a 3-1 win over then No. 20 American on the road in Washington, D.C.
After the unbeaten start and two wins over ranked teams, Gonzaga came in at No. 20 in the NSCAA poll last week, the first time they’ve been ranked since the 2007 season.
Willis, who has started all eight games in goal for the Bulldogs this season is off to a strong start himself. The junior has given up just nine goals and ranks third in the conference with 26 saves and a 1.09 goals against average.
After sitting behind former LUFC goalkeeper Chris Lowrimore during his first two seasons in Spokane, Willis is taking advantage of his time on the field in his third year with the Bulldogs.
“Getting the game experience with LUFC this year that I didn’t have after being behind Chris for two years was big,” Willis said. “I went into this summer with the mindset I needed to work my butt off to become the starter at Gonzaga. If I wasn’t working hard all summer with Lane and I didn’t have the coaches I had there, I don’t think I’d be starting with Gonzaga now.”
Willis not only took game experience with him after his first season with Lane United, but also spoke highly of the atmosphere and coaching he received while in Eugene.
“Coach Galas is so relaxed in what he does with all of the players,” Willis said. “You can tell when he’s serious, but also tell when he’s laid back. I think that created a good atmosphere throughout the team to show that we have to work hard, but at the same time we’re still there to have fun and enjoy what we’re doing.”
Part of seeing more time on the field as a starting keeper is taking on a leadership role and directing teammates from goal, something Willis worked on over the summer with LUFC and also as the college season has gotten underway.
“I’ve been told by a lot of coaches that I see everything and need to be able to lead from the back,” Willis said. “That’s the biggest thing I have worked on and also focusing on the little things. Make the simple saves I should and also have the mindset to make the saves my team needs me to save.”
Willis and the Bulldogs don’t want to let up after the unbeaten streak to start the season, he and his teammates aren’t happy with just a strong start. They want to get better as the year goes on.
With a tough conference season getting underway soon, they’ll have to be ready every night they take the field.
“We have a motto that’s ‘Keep Climbing’”, Willis said. “We’re not happy with No. 20, we want to keep going and keep the undefeated streak alive. The atmosphere here is great right now with five wins and a tie to start the season, but we’re not satisfied yet. We want more.”