Category Archives: Essays and Icons


Civic Stadium: a community triumph of the past, present and future

March 3, 2015
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The vision for the Civic Stadium property, which is finally set to be purchased and renovated by the nonprofit Eugene Civic Alliance. In the foreground, a proposed fieldhouse for Kidsports and on the field, a Lane United FC match. Rendering courtesy of Eugene Civic Alliance and Cameron McCarthy.

Late last week, a momentous decision was reached — a “minor miracle,” in the words of a Eugene city councilman — regarding the history of Civic Stadium near downtown Eugene. The Eugene Civic Alliance, a nonprofit group comprising Lane United FC managing director Dave Galas, Kidsports executive director Bev Smith, and several other community leaders, was able to show the City of Eugene that they had raised the $4.1 million necessary to purchase the Civic property. The facts and recent history of the deal have been well-reported in the local media; the long and short of it is that, pending the closing of the deal at the end of March, Civic Stadium will be in new hands.

It will be the first change of ownership for the stadium since its construction in 1938. The 4J Public School District has been the exclusive owner of the stadium since then, and it was used for its first few decades of existence as a venue for high school sports and graduations. In 1969, the Eugene Emeralds minor-league baseball team moved in and stayed for 40 years, fielding future Major League stars along the way like Eric Davis, Mike Sweeney, Larry Bowa, and Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. Longtime residents of Eugene know the stadium best as the venue for relaxing summer evening baseball games during the Emeralds’ residence there. The Emeralds, who left Civic after the 2009 season for PK Park at the University of Oregon, were one of the major donors in the fundraising effort that allowed the Eugene Civic Alliance to purchase the property.

“The site was originally envisioned and has always been used as a community gathering place, and it was built in substantial part by volunteers who embody that spirit,” said Dave Galas, the Lane United managing director who also serves on the Eugene Civic Alliance. “I’m just glad that the community, even 75-plus years on, stepped up and was able to preserve it as a space that everyone can benefit from.”

Lane United has long been mentioned as a future tenant of a refurbished stadium, but the Eugene Civic Alliance’s plan makes it clear that many others will benefit from the renovations too. Kidsports will be helped immeasurably by having its own gym space in the form of a new fieldhouse that is intended to be built on the property, and most outdoor field sports will be able to use the new playing surface that will be installed.

“I’ve always seen Civic Stadium as the perfect venue for LUFC, but we have to take care to do what’s right for the club and what’s right for the community. The research I’ve done bears that out — that it’s ideal for all, because of the walkability, bikeability, integration with the surrounding neighborhood, access to public transit, everything. The Eugene Emeralds’ endorsement [David Elmore owns the Emeralds and is a part-owner of Lane United] of the Civic Alliance shows their dedication to the community, and that having a multi-use facility like this — great for families, sports fans, really for any type of event — near the heart of the city just makes the city so much more attractive, to an outsider or to residents, both.”

Galas has said that any talk of a timetable for completing the renovations that would allow Lane United to play at Civic would be “premature,” given the reliance on continued fundraising. But the list of necessary renovations for the stadium has been known for some time now, and Galas and others have pointed out elsewhere that the damage is mostly “cosmetic.” All but two of the 360 old-growth timbers used to build the stadium remain structurally sound 75 years on. Immediately following the closing of the sale this month, the Friends of Civic Stadium will be approached to pay for renovation of the stadium roof with funds from their own escrow account.

Though the timing remains uncertain, the dream that Lane United will one day play in a refurbished Civic Stadium, hard by downtown Eugene and serving as a healthy vibrant hub for the city’s active community, is now set to become a reality. From the entire Lane United FC community, we thank you for supporting all the Civic-related initiatives over the past few years and urge you to continue supporting the Eugene Civic Alliance in the years of hard work that lie ahead.

A TREE FOR EVERY GOAL

April 18, 2014
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Lane United’s fan club, the Red Aces, will plant a western redcedar for every goal scored at home at the Willamalane Center in the 2014 inaugural season. Each young tree will be about eight feet tall (initially).

When Lane United FC midfielder Christian Dietrich was a teenager in Germany, he trained in the youth academy for FC Union Berlin, whose home ground is the uniquely named Stadion an der Alten Försterei — the Stadium by the Old Forester’s Shed. But when he plays for Lane United this summer, he’ll be performing in front of a veritable army of foresters in the form of the Red Aces, Lane United’s official fan club.

The Red Aces have begun an initiative to plant western redcedar trees at the south end of the Willamalane Center’s fields for each home goal that the Reds score there this year. Dave Galas, Lane United’s managing director, said that the Willamalane Center had at one point intended to plant a row of trees at the southern boundary of the property, adjacent to the train tracks, as part of the facility’s expansion plans. However, budgetary restraints ended up scuppering that part of the project. A local commercial nursery recently stepped up to donate the new trees to the Red Aces, he said.

The initial hope was that the Red Aces would be able to plant only dawn redwoods for the project. The dawn redwood is the tree symbolically represented on the Lane United crest, adopted as an official icon of the club for its rareness and local historical significance. However, Galas’ wife, Arica Duhrkoop-Galas, a landscape architect who teaches planting classes at the University of Oregon and has been leading the initiative, said that the availability of dawn redwood saplings from local nurseries was limited compared to that of the western redcedars.

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The dawn redwood, the official tree of Lane United FC. The Red Aces will plant one dawn redwood at the Willamalane Center for each year of the club’s existence.

A western redcedar will be planted for each home goal, and a dawn redwood will be planted for each year of the club’s existence. Duhrkoop-Galas said that the trees will be four to seven years old and about eight feet tall at the time of planting. The dawn redwoods will grow faster, but both types of trees will be mature after ten or fifteen years, she said. The planting will take place all at once in November or December at the onset of the rainy winter season.

Dave Galas said he came up with the idea for the initiative from similar projects that the Timbers Army has undertaken, planting trees in neighborhoods around Portland. According to him and his wife, there are no plans to cease the trees-for-goals initiative on Lane United’s end; if space runs out at Willamalane, they may consider other sites such as state parks. Duhrkoop-Galas added that any dawn redwood that grows to maturity makes an important contribution to the genetic variation of the species, since the local population is currently so small.

SCANNING THE SOCCER UNIVERSE FROM AN OFFICE CHAIR: A SPOTLIGHT ON SCOUT7, LANE UNITED’S TECH-BASED COACHING AND RECRUITING TOOL

March 11, 2014

Where is a club like Lane United supposed to start?

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Assistant coach Gabriel Hernandez instructs local players who tried out for the 2013 exhibition team. Lane United’s scouting reach has extended considerably since those early days, with the implementation of intelligent, soccer-specific technology.

As a first-year club in soccer’s Premier Development League (PDL), Lane United FC has been presented with a unique challenge by the standards of sport. Not only is the club trying to amass a winning team of talented young players—most under 23 years of age—from all over the country and the globe, from scratch, but it needs to aid in the growth and development of each member of the squad over the three months of the PDL season. “The end goal,” according to head coach John Galas, “is that these guys are better off for the experience when they return to their colleges or home countries at the end of the summer.”

This is a somewhat unusual role to fill, especially in regards to recruitment. Expansion teams in other major American sports are allowed to draft known talents from around the league and the highly scrutinized college ranks. Meanwhile, at the minor-league or even scholastic level of baseball, basketball, football and hockey, there are official and unofficial networks of scouts with eyes on seemingly every high-school diamond or middle-school playground who can report back to the top, wherever that may be.

In American soccer, however, those networks have rarely been very extensive or solidified. Some youth soccer academies have been able to integrate their intra-club scouting structure at all age and skill levels, and even send out scouts into the broader reaches of their local communities, but until recently there has not been a good way for organizations at the lower levels of U.S. adult soccer to get a close look at a wide geographical range of prospects. The ubiquity and ease of web-based video has certainly helped in this regard, but YouTube is a vast and chaotic landscape of personal highlight reels that a club of Lane United’s proportions would never have the time or resources to adequately scan through. Compounding the difficulty is the fact that, unlike an established college program, the brand-new Lane United is rarely contacted by players on their own initiative—the club has to search for players within the high school and college ranks by itself.

Lane United’s technological partner and scouting and development paradigm, Scout7, has been “invaluable” in providing clarity and structure to the recruiting picture, said coach John Galas. Galas said he was introduced to the service—whose clients include Barcelona, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and approximately 150 other clubs around the world—through a colleague in England about two years ago. He then experimented with a demo version of the program at the Real Salt Lake Academy, his long-time coaching appointment before he moved to Eugene in 2013 to direct Lane United, and said that “everyone at the Academy loved it and found it incredibly useful.”

He called Scout7 “instrumental” this year in focusing his attention on players from the college ranks and some of the mid-stature club academies in Europe and South America. “In the past, there was no way to watch video of most of the players you heard about, especially video that multiple users could access. Now when I get a recommendation from a college coach, I go and pull up complete matches that the guy played in, scan his stats and so on, and so does Conner (Cappelletti, the Reds’ assistant coach).” He added that “the database of NCAA and PDL players will be fully populated and functional by next year, which will be great once we’re operating a USL-Pro club on a larger scale.”

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Players participate in open trials in 2013. In 2014, using Scout7 technology, every single fitness test, training observation, and match stat log can be archived and synchronized across multiple platforms for all coaching staff.

“We haven’t even been able to utilize a lot of Scout7’s potential so far, because we don’t have most of our players physically in front of us yet,” Galas continued. “Once we begin training and playing matches as a team, that’s when we can use (Scout7) to transition from recruiting these guys to helping them improve, and really make this a positive experience for everyone involved.”

Andy Cooper, a spokesman for Scout7, explained some of the player-development capabilities of the service by saying, “Over the course of the season, Lane United’s Intelligent Sports Framework (ISF) will store a wide range of information centrally and securely, including every match report, coaching session and fitness test made by every player, as well as all the scouting reports and player recommendations that came in when the player was recruited. By the end of the season, every facet of their development will have been managed intelligently using the Scout7 ISF.”

Galas concedes that in the absence of such comprehensive technology, it would be considerably more difficult to start and succeed with a team in Lane United’s position. “I’m not going to say it wouldn’t be possible, because I’ve been part of it before—relying on word-of-mouth and the occasionally inconsistent communication between all the coaches and staff and scouts, and using all that to build a squad—but the new way with this type of technology is so much more reliable and efficient if you really want to achieve something with you and the players.”

A NOTE ON THE OFFICIAL LUFC FISH

November 14, 2013

redside-2Lane United FC supporters may have heard recently that there has been a shift in the nomenclature surrounding the team: the fan club has been re-named the Lane United Supporters’ Trust while the Lane United FC franchise, name and marks have been turned over to Redside Sports, LLC. The focus here is not on what this means for the club—all that was recently covered in a letter to members, and isn’t especially interesting—but on where the name Redside came from.

Avid fishermen will already be familiar with the answer: the McKenzie redside is a subspecies of rainbow trout native to Lane County, specifically the upper reaches of the McKenzie River. It is named for the especially prominent red streak that runs down both of its sides. Despite an influx of hatchery-farmed rainbow trout that are frequently restocked in lower stretches of the McKenzie, studies have found at least five populations of genetically pure redsides existing north of the Blue River confluence. McKenzie redsides are highly valued by fly fishermen for their athletic, combative nature, providing the one of the hardest fights pound for pound of any trout species.

Redside is additionally the name of a wave on the McKenzie just north of Blue River that is capable of flipping boats in low water in the late summer months. Lane United is pleased to associate part of our name with this proud, fierce, entirely local natural phenomenon.

This article is a follow-up to our recent piece on the official Lane United FC tree, the dawn redwood. Have more ideas for Lane County-related symbolism incorporating the color red? Please feel free to leave a comment below or contact us.

A NOTE ON THE OFFICIAL LUFC TREE

November 7, 2013

dawn+redwood+montsouris+park-2Most people who have looked at the LUFC logo have probably assumed that it’s meant to represent any generic Big Tree of the Pacific Northwest—but that turns out not to be the case. Like the club itself, the LUFC tree has a unique and very Oregonian history. When we at LUFC Towers were designing the logo last year, we wanted a tree with deep roots in Lane County—60 million-year-old roots, to be precise. To wit:

In the 1940s, some foresters in China discovered a stand of enormous trees that no one had ever seen before. Based off their descriptions, scientists in the U.S. came to believe that the Chinese trees were the first living organisms of the so-called metasequoia (“like a sequoia”) genus, or dawn redwoods. Paleobotanists had assumed that metasequoias were long extinct, but had known about their existence through intensive study of specimens from the John Day Fossil Beds in Central Oregon. Thomas Condon, Oregon’s first State Geologist and chair of the UO Natural Sciences Department until 1907, had been the first to discover and study these leaf fossils.

Seeds from the living specimens in China were sent back to the U.S. and planted in several locations in Oregon. A tree in the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland was the first dawn redwood outside China to bear cones in 60 million years. Three dawn redwoods have survived on the University of Oregon campus, the most well-known being the 75-foot-tall behemoth next to Cascade Hall. Meanwhile, in 2005, the metasequoia was named Oregon’s official State Fossil.

Dawn redwoods are deciduous conifers, meaning that in autumn, their leaves turn—perhaps you saw this coming—a reddish color before falling off. If you have been lucky enough to pass by the Cascade Hall dawn redwood in full color in recent weeks, take a moment, take a picture, take your LUFC scarf off and hold it high singing glory to the Reds—whatever helps you pay tribute to this fascinating piece of living local history.

SOCCER AND ITS CRITICS

April 11, 2013

Soccer has been dismissed by American critics for any number of reasons: there is too little scoring; it doesn’t make sense to rely on your feet when you can use your hands; and it is alleged to lack in the manliness department, especially in comparison to American football. There is a little bit of truth in all these allegations. No other sport that is popular in the US regularly results in zero-zero outcomes. A game without goals, as one famous player put it, is indeed like a day without sunshine. It is a lot easier to catch or throw a ball with your hands than it is to trap and accurately kick it with your feet. And soccer certainly is not as violent as its’ gridironed cousin. In fact, the rules, however liberally applied, make it clear that physical contact should be kept to a minimum.

There is, however, another way to look at the exact same set of facts.

Most goalless matches are hard to watch, but the problem is not the lack of goals; it is the lack of willingness to take the risks necessary to score them. Soccer is like boxing: every time you try to land a punch, you expose yourself to a counter-attack. And thus sometimes you have matches, whether in boxing or soccer, where neither side has the guts to expose their defensive vulnerabilities. Conversely, the best matches occur when both teams have the confidence to take the initiative.

Furthermore, the relative lack of scoring in soccer means that most matches are close. I would be willing to bet that most Ducks’ football games are effectively settled by midway through the third quarter, which is why so many fans never return form their halftime drinking binge, but that’s rarely the case in soccer. Most matches are settled by the odd goal and you feel genuinely gleeful the few times your team is winning by a wider margin because it happens so rarely.

The fact that players, outside the goalkeeper, cannot use their hands also adds to the tension on offer during matches. You expect a basketball player to catch a ball with his hands if its passed 30 feet, even if he is being covered tightly, but it is much harder for a soccer player. This is why low-quality matches are harder to watch. The basic constituent parts of play—controlling a pass, dribbling, passing and shooting accurately—are much harder to master.

This is why soccer seems more disjointed than, say, basketball, but it also makes you appreciate the few teams, most notably Barcelona, who are able to make something so difficult look so easy. There is another upside to using one’s feet: the ball can be kicked farther than it can be thrown and it can be made to bend dramatically using the inside or the outside of one’s foot. Combine all these elements and you can understand why goals scored in soccer have a richer aesthetic quality than points scored in any other sport.

Finally, there is the issue of the supposed lack of manliness. I say supposed because soccer can be pretty rough. The form that violence takes can range from the inadvertent but inevitable kick on the shin (I suggest you let someone kick you on the shin before the next time you condemn a player for rolling around on the ground) to ruthless, injurious aggression. The bottom line is that soccer, like baseball and basketball, is a contact sport that sometimes degenerates into a collision sport.

The differences between these three sports, on the one hand, and football and hockey, on the other, is that brutal bodily contact is not inevitable. Now, if your standard for manliness requires high-speed, bone-jarring, bell-ringing, slobber-knocking impact, then you are quite right to condemn soccer and these other sports because they don’t sanction such carnage. But all these sports, especially soccer, do strike what might be described as a healthy balance between balletic grace and physicality.

This is well illustrated by the fact that the best player in the world, Lionel Messi, is 5’7” and weighs around 150 pounds. He could never succeed in football or hockey, or even basketball or baseball, but soccer is still a game that places as much, or more, of a premium on skill as it does on physical stature. That may be at odds with the American definition of masculinity, which is based on the ideal that bigger must be better, but the rest of the world does not share that view—which is why soccer is the world’s game.

‘IF WE COME, THEY WILL BUILD IT’

February 10, 2013

How grassroots support for a nonexistent club can build pro teams from scratch in the U.S.

“If you build it, he will come.” It’s the most iconic line from the Kevin Costner classic “Field of Dreams.”

Costner’s character, the farmer Ray Kinsella, hears it as he walks through his struggling cornfield one evening in Iowa. Soon after, he builds a baseball diamond, waits a bit, and then one day, his father’s hero Shoeless Joe Jackson walks out of the corn, soon to be followed by several other ballplayers of yore.

Scene from the Kevin Costner movie "Field of Dreams"

Scene from the Kevin Costner movie “Field of Dreams”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have the stadium ready, and the team will follow — at least that’s how it works in fictional American baseball.

In real-life American soccer, the situation can be exactly the opposite. The MLS’s Philadelphia Union, which started playing in 2010, started — literally — with three guys in a bar in 2007. They were all soccer enthusiasts and sensed that Philly had the right market to support a professional franchise.

But without the investment capital to start the team themselves, how were they going to convince the powers that be of MLS that this was the case? Answer: they started a fan club and aggressively expanded it.

They traveled to NY Red Bulls and DC United games and sang extremely antagonistic chants. They created a massive presence on social media and message boards. In 2008, Philadelphia was awarded a franchise largely on the strength of a supporters’ group that had spent an entire year supporting nothing.

Indianapolis’ Brickyard Battalion represents a similar success story. A few years ago, two men named Brett Corbit and Derek Richey started a Facebook page for Racing Indy FC, the nonexistent and hitherto-not-even-conceived-as-a-possibility local soccer franchise for Indiana.

After rallying support through Facebook and membership drives, they drew the attention of the Chicago Fire’s owners, and in January 2013, Indy was indeed awarded an NASL franchise for the 2014 season.

In the absence of a viable stadium plan, ownership group, or any sort of cohesive agenda whatsoever, a professional soccer club in the U.S. today can sprout up on the strength of local shows of support alone.

And in Eugene, the situation isn’t nearly as desperate as it was in Philly or Indianapolis. In Lane County, we have the stadium plan, the ownership group, and the cohesive agenda. And we have the local support to convince the USL that we can host a team — it just hasn’t been shown in one time and place yet.

Even though all that Eugene has is an amateur team this summer, show up anyway. Come up with some chants, make new friends, drink some Ninkasi beer or Opine wine in the fan zone.

Best of all, become a member of LUFC so that you can have the voting power to shape the pro franchise when it does arrive in 2014, and be privy to special perks in the meantime. Let the rest of the region and the USL see the scope and passion of Eugene’s soccer community on full display. We will come, and they will build it for us.