With four finals appearances and three straight championships, Bellingham United has been dominant during their first four seasons in the Western Indoor Soccer League. They are 36-7-1 during the WISL regular season and playoffs and have lost just four games over the past three seasons. But is it possible that complacency and a loss of a couple top players and their head coach will result in a let down this season? Time will tell, but it would be hard to believe.
“The squad has a lot of returning players, therefore we are quite experienced,” said new Hammers head coach and always dangerous presence on the field, Richard Henderson. “However we have had a couple of losses in players that will make some guys play different positions than they have had to in the past.”
Henderson returns to the Bellingham Sportsplex for his fourth season on the field. The Scotland native has scored 48 goals during his tenure with the Hammers and teams with Nick Cashmere as their offensive powerhouses. Cashmere poured in 17 goals last season and 33 goals over four seasons in Bellingham. Chris Jepson also adds to the firepower. The Bellingham native, who played at Sehome High School, Whatcom CC, Western Washington and now with United, holds the record for most goals in a game (7) and 34 during his career, capped by a 20 goal season in 2015-2016.
But the Hammers will be without two of their stalwart players this season.
“Brendan Quilici is a big loss,” Henderson continued. Quilici was injured midway through last season. “His experience and versatility is tough to replace. He has been such a key staple in the success we have had.”
“And Kurtis Pederson has relocated down south after several successful seasons, both with our indoor and outdoor teams. His knack for scoring goals in big games will need to be replaced.”
Fiery goalkeeper Riley Liddle returns for the always tough Hammers defense along with returner Connor Moe and newcomer Uche Ugwoaba, who played with the Hammers in 2015 before leaving the area. Christian Caro also returned to the area after spending the summer with the Sounders U23s and will team up with his brother, Rene.
As with all WISL teams, one of the biggest challenges is fielding a consistent lineup each week.
“We have lots of players who coach in the community and at the club level and most of their weekend is spent traveling across the state,” said Henderson. “Getting the same roster continually, especially for away games, can be challenging.”
And maybe winning too much can have an effect.
“The team has been successful over the last few years so we can’t get complacent,” warned Henderson. “But we try to push ourselves to get better and add to our game.”
The Hammers pushed themselves on Saturday night, facing off against the Major Arena Soccer League’s Tacoma Stars. They dropped the game 7-3, but looked good against the professionals who were playing at nearly full strength. By pushing themselves in preseason with an experienced roster, nobody should be surprised if they make another trip to Nationals at the end of the season.