When Lane United soccer club returns to Willamalane Center to kick off their sophomore season with an exhibition game on May 8, expect the team to build off the momentum they created in 2014.
During the inaugural season for Lane’s local soccer club last year, the team secured a home venue at Willamalane, a title sponsor with Oakshire Brewing, a developing fan base as well as a devoted supporter’s group in the Red Aces.
In 2013, the club formed an ownership group called Redside Sports (joined by David Elmore, longtime minor league baseball owner from the Eugene Emeralds) to finance the franchise. The Red Aces, which has a $20 membership fee that covers tifo (or fan flair like flags) at games and native trees planted at Willamalane for each goal scored, have a stake in the ownership as well.
Also in 2013, Lane United hired former Portland Thorns assistant coach John Galas as head coach and sporting director. All they needed was a team of players to represent the club on the field. “We had no history,” Galas says. “You’re selling a bit of a dream to the players — to come out and live in Eugene and compete over the course of the summer.”
In May 2014, however, Lane United was competing in the Professional Development League (PDL) in the United Soccer League. According to Lane United’s website, PDL is typically considered the “fourth rung of the American soccer ladder” and focuses on young talent.
Galas, who graduated from the UO and then made his coaching debut as an assistant coach at South Eugene High School in 1995, always seems to find his way back to Eugene. His recruiting prowess has formed a competitive roster for this season, including four new Spanish players — Cristian Couto, Richy Hurtado, Ismael (Isma) Fernández and Alex Pantoja — that Galas discovered during tryouts in Valencia, Spain, in March.
“People care about Lane United, and they care about the growth of this club,” Galas says. “And they care about having a sports team like this in the community.”
He and his brother David Galas, the managing director for the club, often shared conversations about plans to use the vacant Civic Stadium as a home for a soccer team in Eugene. Now, Galas says the Eugene Civic Alliance plans to work closely with Lane United during the Civic site’s planning period.
If last year is any indicator, Lane United’s future looks bright. The team won its first game last season 1-0 in front of a sellout crowd at Willamalane. They finished the season 2-2-10, but Galas says there is not much he wants to do different this season besides “win more games” and score more.
On the administrative side, Galas and the Lane United team are focusing on ticket sales.
“We started this club with a vision to give soccer to this community. We’ve had tremendous support, and we can’t do it without them,” Galas says. “We need everyone’s support to come to games.”
The season ends July 15. For a full schedule of games, visit laneunitedfc.com