For just the second time in the five season history of the Western Indoor Soccer League, someone other than Bellingham United won the championship. The Hammers were nipped in a hard fought and intense final game by the Tacoma Stars Reserves, snapping their three season title run. Despite that, they still posted a +40 goal differential and dominated everybody not named the Stars Reserves. This season, they return the majority of their squad, mix in a few newcomers and look very strong yet again heading into their season opener on Saturday against Tacoma Narrows.
“The Bellingham squad has a lot of returning players but it is definitely younger with an influx of new players,” said Hammers player/head coach Richard Henderson. “We have some personnel newer to the game but they are learning quickly and we have freshened up the identify of the team that was maybe needed after several years of a consistent group. Developing as a team but maintaining the high standards expected in terms of results and performance can be challenging but I think we are up to the task.”
Henderson returns to the bench and the field after a 17 goal season that led the league by a fair margin, topping Snohomish’s Devin Shull by three goals. While they are not guaranteed to be with the team all season while they pursue professional playing opportunities, at least for the first week, Christian Caro and Uriel Herrera, who each scored 12 goals last season, are on the roster and ready to roll. Connor Moe will captain the squad this season as yet another returner and veteran striker Nick Cashmere returns after scoring seven goals last season.
Newcomers include Lynden native and Westmont College alum Sebastian Kent and Whitworth product Spencer Wolfe. And Eleazar Galvan, who stars for the Hammers during the Evergreen Premier League seasons, will be with the club full-time after appearing sporadically in the past.
“Eleazar is starting to understand the indoor game and show the talents that he as shown regularly in the EPLWA over the years,” continued Henderson. “We had a strong partnership in the attack for outdoor and hope to reproduce that indoor this season.”
The defensive line took a hit with Kenny Parker and Behr Ibarra having limited availability and Uche Ugwoaba not making the commute from Seattle this season. But Noe Betancourt-Cruz, Dylan Langei and Olegario Orozco all return with Wolfe and Kent joining them to once again put forth a tough back line.
Despite having to work a few new players into the mix, it looks like the Hammers have maintained their fantastic depth and quality and will once again challenge for the WISL Championship. They kick off the season this Saturday when they face Tacoma Narrows at the Sportsplex and will follow that up with another home game against Oly-Pen. If they can get past those first two weeks unscathed, that sets up a rematch against the Tacoma Stars Reserves in Tacoma, a facility that has not treated them well over the years, after the Thanksgivng Break on December 7th.