Crossfire Redmond #1: Aligning the Levels
Redmond, Washington is commonly known as the home of Microsoft. Located 16 miles east of Seattle, it is little more than a stone’s throw from the Emerald City and the home of the Sounders, one of MLS’ marquee clubs. However, for those who follow soccer closely at the youth as well as the Development Academy and Elite Clubs National League levels, Redmond is home to another successful organization entirely.
Crossfire Premier Soccer Club’s mission is to “promote the game of soccer by providing the highest possible level of technical and tactical training, skill development and competitive team play, and to provide highly skilled and capable players with an opportunity to further excel in the sport,” according to its website.
The club, which fields boys’ and girls’ teams from U-7 all the way up to U-19, and which previously competed in the Premier Development League, announced in December that it would field an expansion team in the National Premier Soccer League. Crossfire Redmond will compete in the Northwest Conference division with Spokane Shadow, FCM Portland, OSA FC and PDX FC.
“We are excited about a new level of competition and excited to put our young guys in that environment,” said Troy Letherman, Crossfire’s director of player development. “We expect to be successful, but we also expect to incur some knocks along the way. We are putting together a team with the idea of competing regionally and nationally.”
The NPSL has 100 teams with virtually 100 different stories about how to successfully bring a new club into the fold. With the foundation of success Crossfire has cemented with its younger teams, adding a club for NPSL play seems like the logical next move.
“Our U-19s reached the Academy quarterfinals last year. We are competing with MLS, and in some cases, doing better,” Letherman said. “We previously had a PDL club, but were not ready at that time. This is an important extension to our development. We have had National team-caliber players with three years on a U-19 team, and that is not good for them.”
Crossfire will hold tryouts in April, but Letherman is confident that the bulk of the club will be comprised of existing Crossfire players. That is due to the club’s sustained success at all levels, and the national and international recognition that success has produced.
“Our development program is one of the strongest in the country and our top youth teams compete against the biggest clubs in the world annually,” Letherman said. “We have had more than 30 individual call-ups to the U.S. Youth National teams in the past two years alone, and at the latest Gold Cup, we had three players with Crossfire ties on the U.S. Men’s National team for the tournament: Cristian Roldan, Kelyn Rowe and DeAndre Yedlin.”
Yedlin, a long-time Crossfire product, currently executes his wares in Newcastle’s backline. After more than 200 appearances with the New England Revolution, Rowe is now with Sporting KC. And Roldan has solidified his midfield position with the Sounders the past three seasons. Two more Crossfire alums, Nathan Aune and Hassani Dotson, were recently selected in the MLS Superdraft.
Crossfire exposes its players to international competition at a young age. Every team from U-10 up makes at least one international trip per year as part of the club’s overall development program.
“In the past three years, our players have competed versus Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Ajax, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and more – and may of them at multiple ages, multiple times,” Letherman said. “The players who have come through our program have been tested against the very best competition in the world, and this is an integral part of our plan for developing high-level players.”
Additionally, Crossfire is an official partner of AS Roma, and has several talent cooperation agreements with first-division professional clubs in Belgium, Germany, Holland and Norway. Letherman said that Crossfire sends up to a dozen young players for training and/or professional trials in Europe each season. Two current U-18/19 players who will factor on the NPSL team – Wesley Frankel and Christian Soto-Rincon – were on trial with Norway’s Stabaek this past October.
“Our setup is certainly an advantage,” Letherman said. “We have developed an infrastructure, but it is more important than that. We have long-term strategic planning and developmental planning in place. We have specific goals in mind, and we have specific metrics to define success, and those are not necessarily wins and losses.”
Expect Crossfire to be competitive from the get-go. Spokane won the Northwest Conference division last year and went undefeated (seven wins, five draws) during the regular season. FCM Portland made a run all the way to the national semifinals in the postseason. This is a healthy addition to an already competitive group.
“New rivalries will develop and we are excited that they are good sides,” Letherman said. “That kind of competition melds with our player development.”
NPSL Managing Director Cindy Spera echoed the excitement others in the region have over Crossfire’s addition to the league.
“The Pacific Northwest is an incredibly important market in American soccer,” Spera said in a statement announcing Crossfire’s addition to the league in December. “We are very excited to grow our Northwest Conference with an accomplished organization like Crossfire Redmond. They have an incredible history in player development and we are looking forward to what they will bring to the NPSL.”
Letherman said things are moving smoothly for the club ahead of its expected May opener (the Northwest Conference schedule is not out at this time) and he expects things to get rolling by mid-March. The team is slated to play its home games at Redmond High School, but may split with Interbay Stadium, the soccer-specific home of Seattle Pacific University. The roster has a few questions that should be answered by the middle of next month as well.
“We will know by mid-March about the guys who are trying out in Europe,” Letherman said. “We will have tryouts in April, but the bulk of the team will come from Crossfire kids and possibly a couple of college kids playing with our Crossfire kids.”
Unlike many new NPSL clubs, Crossfire has its player pool, supporters and finances questions answered at this time. Letherman noted that Crossfire has around 40-45 kids currently playing NCAA soccer to go with the older Academy players that will form the NPSL club.
“The NPSL team will be a small piece of who we are as a club,” Letherman said.
Crossfire plans to market the NPSL team to its current membership, which consists of some 2,500 families. Younger players will serve as ball boys for the team.
“We want to create that club feel; we will even have the same uniform that the U-9 players do,” Letherman said. “This is about us utilizing our player pool for this. For the young guys, they can look at this team as a place they can eventually play.”
Financially, there is no pressure for the club to make money or draw thousands of fans, but a talented, competitive club in a hotbed soccer region with successful older clubs gearing up to knock them off is the perfect recipe for a Saturday out with the family.
“Right now, we are focused on locking down administration and logistics and connecting with the player pool,” Letherman said. “These players know how we work and where we train. We can hit the ground running, especially once the season starts.”
Letherman is a big fan of the condensed schedule.
“We will be playing every week, and that is a good thing,” Letherman said. “The Academy schedule features 28 games spread over 10 months. That means there are big gaps. It is much easier to get the players on a consistent schedule like this. It is better for development and fitness.”
As some players may still be away at college when the regular season begins, Letherman anticipates utilizing older Crossfire alums, guys in their mid-20s.
On the administrative side, Crossfire has numerous talented and experienced coaches throughout its club, including Seattle Pacific University men’s coach Mark Collings and Jim Rilatt, who led the Portland Timbers U23s to the PDL championship in 2010. A decision on who will be the club’s NPSL coach will be made shortly. Bernie James, a Coventry, England native who played professionally for 24 years with clubs such as the Edmonton Drillers and Cleveland Crunch, serves as the Club Director.
“This team will be consistent with our development philosophies,” Letherman said. “This is an opportunity for us to extend and augment the long-term development of our players, and it’s important to us that we establish a direct connection to our club’s existing style of play. The goal for us, as always, is to develop and move along talented players to higher and higher levels of play.”
Protagonist Soccer will follow Crossfire Redmond throughout its inaugural season of NPSL play. As we move toward the club’s season opener in May, we will discuss players and other key decisions the club faces moving forward.
- Brian Burden