The WSA Rapids are set to begin their sixth season in Bellingham. After advancing to the semifinals of the PASL Premier National Tournament last season, the local indoor team is ready to go even further this year.
Mark Lackey, in his third year as the Rapids coach, said it is going to be an interesting season because the league has added three new teams and the Rapids won't play every team in the league this season.
"It gives it a little unknown factor," Lackey said in a phone interview. "The good news is that we are returning a lot of the same guys and hopefully we can build some continuity."
The team is returning many of the players from its semifinal squad including leading goal scorer Kellan Brown.
"Kellan is a really versatile attacking player," Lackey said. "He is a creative force in the middle with the ability to score. It's a dual threat cause he can dish it off or take the shot."
The Rapids will also return Brenden Quilici, goalkeeper Christian Warman, defender Mitch Barrows and all around player Chris Jepson.
"Jepson is who I consider our everything player because he can play almost anywhere," Lackey said. "He gives us everything and has a really high work rate and is willing to do the dirty work that some of the other players aren't willing to do. He is very important to us having a successful season."
The team is looking to learn from its experience at the national tournament.
"Those teams we played were a lot better than some of the teams we will face in our division," Brown said in a phone interview. "We know we have to move quicker and stay tighter on defense. Lackey has said it a few times, our team will score a lot of goals but we need to focus on defense. If we can hold them, we will win every game."
Lackey also noted that defense is an area that the team can improve on.
"We need to defend a lot better; it's like the old saying, defense wins championships," Lackey said. "We added Greg Brisbon this year and he will give us some veteran experience and hopefully we will give up less goals than last year."
Brown said another thing the team can work on is making sure they don't give up cheap fouls. In indoor soccer, if there are too many fouls, that team will need to pull a player off, giving the other team a power play type advantage.
"We don't need to give up cheap fouls to defend," Brown said. "I know that if we play six-v-six, our six players are always going to be better than their six. We have a really deep and strong squad."
Brown said that road games are more challenging in indoor, too.
"The fields, goals and walls are all different sizes," Brown said. "I'm just looking forward to playing home games. We always play our best at home because we know the field. We also get the most fans and that makes it a lot of fun."
With new teams coming in, it will make it even more difficult for the Rapids because they have never played in some of the new arenas.
Lackey also noted that the Sportsplex caters to the Rapids style of play.
"We have a nice big field that gives our players with technical ability an advantage," Lackey said. "For us to be successful, we need to take advantage of the home field. But we know we will score a lot of goals and good, exciting goals."