Written By: Eric Fulton – Pictures by: Destiny Fernandez
2014 has been a year of learning.
It’s been the first year in many years when our top team, FC Denver Premier, hasn’t held the mantle of the best team in the state. Now, this designation of top team in the state is a fictitious identification only truly important to over-competitive managers (like myself) and some players, but it is something that all teams and players aim for in one way or another; to be the best. The signs we’re coming last year, but we won the Colorado State Cup dab smack in the middle of the year, dispelling notions of our rising competitors.
The early months of 2014 saw us finishing up our 2nd season of PASL-Premier Semi-pro soccer in the Rocky Mountain Division. We finished with a 2nd consecutive 2nd place finish and earned at at-large bid to the PASL-Premier national tournament, although we weren’t able to attend because it was the same weekend as the USSSA Outdoor Nationals in Kansas City, which was our primary goal. The PASL-Premier season was a lot of fun and we tried to go easier on the team towards the back-end of the season as noticeable signs of burnout we’re showing. This came from us playing 2+ years on a full-time year-round basis (spring league, summer tournament, fall league, winter semi-pro indoor). It was starting to take it’s toll on the players and leadership. Still, we finished the season strong and felt confident going into Nationals, which held the prize of qualifying for the US Open Cup for the winner.
We took a full squad to nationals in KC and gave our all, but we never quite clicked in outdoor in early March after playing indoor all off-season. We came up a bit short in a snowy and windy semifinal match against local rivals Colorado Rovers, who went on to win the USSSA National title. We put everything we had into winning Nationals to qualify for the Open Cup and came up short. It was tough to reenergize after that. Now, the Spring, with it’s long extended season, has never been our strongest season of the year, but after the Nationals let down, we didn’t have it in us to push hard in the Spring and lost in the first round of the playoffs against an organized and plucky Monaco team.
All teams lose games, but the hard part was the lack of joy and passion we experienced during those lean Spring/Summer months. Doing this, doing our FC Denver competitive amatuer soccer club, is work (both for the players and leadership), but if you are enjoying it (and no doubt that winning helps with that), then it is a very worthwhile experience to be a part of. If the passion to play, to push oneself to improve, to be the best, is missing…. then this hobby we do is just work, another responsibility to fulfill and another demand on our time and energy. It shouldn’t be that way, as the game itself is a beautiful, open and liberating sport, but if overdone, like anything, it will fail to yield the desired results. We took some needed time off to recharge, but we still wanted to participate in this past Summer’s State Cup and defend our 2013 championship. We played well, but came up short in the quarterfinals against the same frustrating Monaco team that beat us in Spring league playoffs. A win in that match would have qualified us for Nationals this upcoming year, so it was another tough loss to swallow. The passion was missing.
We started this Fall with major concerns that the burnout and fatigue was still lingering. Ex-Premier coach Kyle Firebaugh reached out to many of the long-time Premier returning players in an effort to rekindle the energy behind why they love to play the game. His communication combined with time off during the end of spring into summer and a few other conversations helped the group get over the considerable lag it was feeling. The joy, the excitement, the camaraderie was back and team coaches Luke Elbin and Brandon Best fostered these feelings throughout this season. It has been rewarding no matter the outcomes (although we do always want to win).
Fast forward to present. We beat Colorado Rovers 1-0 this past weekend in a cathartic Semifinal win over the team that ended our Nationals dream earlier this year. Now, we play the team, Harpos FC, that by many standards has taken the crown of top team in the state over the past 12-18 months. They won the Spring League Championship and won the State Cup Championship this summer. They combine youthful athleticism with a high-powered attack. We have an interesting history with Harpos, so there are storylines galore regarding this finals match. We are confident heading into the match and expect it to be a memorable game all-around. And just as important, we are enjoying it, we are living the game again, and that is something to celebrate. Come join us this Sunday.
CASL Men’s Open Fall 2014 Championship Match
FC Denver Premier vs Harpos FC
Sunday November 2nd, 2014 – 10am Kickoff
Broomfield County Commons Park #1