Anthem Media, a multimedia production company based in Eugene, filmed and interviewed Lane United staff, players and supporters from January 2014 through the end of the season as part of an exclusive documentary series on the team and its origins. The eight-episode series, entitled “The First Touch,” is embedded below!
Lane United Football Club (LUFC) is a first-year Premier Development League soccer program based in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Coach John Galas seeks to develop the region’s top talent (and out-of-state recruits) into a title-challenging squad; his brother Dave works as managing director to develop a self-sustaining business model hinging on grassroots participation and community involvement. Bringing a high-level brand of competitive soccer to Lane County was always their intent – although it took some time to convince sponsors and administrators to jump on board.
Prior to the start of the regular season, Coach Galas held three rounds of weekend tryouts to gauge local talent. Though the club is in its infancy, plans are already underway to build a strong foundation upon which the team can build.
Bolstered by the success of a standing-room-only turnout at their jersey unveiling and season-ticket launch, the Lane United staff begins their final preparations for opening day. For Coach John Gallas, this means refining the local talent pool and narrowing the field of potential players – but deciding which players will make the final cut is not always easy.
With many roster spots filled by out-of-town college recruits, many local, prospective players must find a way to stand out in early season trials. Pre-season games against Oregon State and Corban University will give coaches a glance at how players respond to the pressures of high-level competition.
Players on the cusp must ramp up their training schedules in the weeks prior to the first game of the season to improve their overall fitness levels and on-field form. For tryout hopefuls like 17-year-old Rolando Velazquez, a solid performance at these pre-season trials could mean the difference between making the team, or missing an opportunity to perform at the next level.
With less than a week before the opening match, the last of the Lane United recruits arrive in Eugene. Many of the out-of-town players will be staying with families in the area. They will have less than a week to acclimate to their new surroundings – and to meet their new teammates.
At the Lane United training facility, Coach John Galas prepares his team for their first match, amidst the constant din of construction. A recent preseason loss to Oregon State University inspired some back-end negotiating; several Corban and Oregon State University players will join the ranks of the Lane United team for the summer.
Meanwhile, the Red Aces—the Lane United supporters group—are midway through their opening-day preparations. The Red Aces, comprised of over 150 fans, retains an ownership stake in Lane United FC and has its own officers’ board that liaises with the club.
They share the club’s ethos of maintaining a DIY-spirit and grassroots mentality, encouraging fans of the beautiful game to share their love of local football. Banners, chants and drum routines are readied in anticipation for the home opener. But the question remains… will the team be ready for the season ahead?
After weeks of preparation, the Lane United squad hosts their first regular-season opponent: the Seattle Sounders u-23 team. Following three weekends of hosted tryouts and four months of roster revisions, the starting eleven is set. Players from as far away as Spain and Germany will take their place on the team alongside local, homegrown talent.
The community is out in full support, crowding the bleachers and sidelines, curious about what the Lane United Football Club will bring to a competitive division in a competitive league.
On the pitch, the starting eleven have outperformed dozens of prospects – and overcome injuries, jet-lag and cultural differences to make the final roster.
As the teams line up for the national anthem, the frenetic drumming of the club’s supporters group, the Red Aces temporarily subsides.
Then, the crowd erupts as the first whistle sounds, indicating the start of the match–and the beginning of Lane United’s inaugural season.
The Northwest Division of the Premier Development League is considered to be one of the most competitive semi-pro leagues in the nation. Major League Soccer-affiliate clubs use the PDL as a proving ground for potential first-team talent. Coaches field squads of young MLS prospects to gain on-field experience against grass-roots, homegrown clubs such as Lane United.
This high level of competition is heightened by a schedule that leaves little time for rest and recovery. Road games are often scheduled back-to-back to help economize travel budgets and keep operating costs low.
With only a day of rest after a successful opening night at home, Lane United welcomes its next opponent: Washington Crossfire.
A week later, they host the Puget Sound Gunners, before traveling to Kitsap for its first match away from home.
For midfielder Armando Filho, the prospect of bi-weekly games and daily training helps to keep him motivated during his rehabilitation.
After tearing his ACL in collegiate competition, Armando came to LUFC to recover and work toward complete recovery. Early indicators suggested he would be ready to train with the team by the third week of the season, but his situation remains tenuous.
As Armando struggles to reach full fitness, the team contends with a series of hard-fought matches against physical opponents.
Questions remain whether Armando will play – and whether the team can continue its run of form.
After a successful start to their 2014 campaign, Lane United endures a series of defeats away from home. The team faces off against Major League Soccer-affiliate clubs and established regional powerhouses during a stretch of games that test the players’ fitness and mental strength.
For many collegiate players, the Premier Development League offers a high level of competition and a chance to retain a high level of fitness before their fall seasons resume. Other players view the league as a opportunity to showcase their skills against some of the best under-age players in the region.
While life as a PDL player offers the prospect of next-level competition, teams must spend countless hours on the road traveling to meet opponents. The long nights on the bus and the shared hotel rooms are the unglamorous side of a league that puts players in a position to advance their careers.
And although the team struggles to find their form, the Lane United players become fast friends during their time on the road.
Lane United’s struggles on the road continue as they travel to Canada to compete against the Vancouver Whitecaps — a Major League Soccer-affiliate club. Like many teams within the Premier Development League, prospective professional players and collegiate standouts make up the Whitecaps’ roster.
The added hours on the road add to the difficulty of the contest. And with playoff contention off the table, Lane United is playing for pride — and the opportunity to represent the Willamette Valley in an across-the-border contest.
With the season winding down, chances for first-team competition are few and far between for fringe players. But with the team struggling to find the back of the net, no player’s position is absolute. And more playing team invariably leads to more opportunities to advance to the next level of competition.
After losing to the MLS-affiliate Vancouver Whitecaps u-23 team, Coach John Galas rallies his squad for a game against the Victoria Highlanders — a team who beat LUFC 7-0 in their previous match-up. With a playoff appearance out of the question, LUFC players must keep their focus to avoid another blowout.
As the season winds down, Coach Galas and his players look to the future — and reflect on a successful first season in a competitive division.