Published May 21, 2022
Written By:   Sam Palmer
              West Region Contributor

The state of Washington can sometimes feel like two states, welded together, or really separated, by the Cascade mountains. The agricultural plains of the east can feel like a different world from the drizzly metropolis of the west. They are linked together by just one major highway, Interstate 90, which winds its way through the fields and mountains from the Idaho border, into Spokane and finally to the heart of downtown Seattle. 


So, when Spokane Shadow fires up its team bus for the first road trip of the 2022 WPSL season against OSA XF this afternoon, although the Shadow won’t be leaving the state, it may well feel like an away match in a different country.  


It is exactly this type of clash, between cities and soccer cultures, that makes the resumption of WPSL Northwest Conference play such an interesting prospect. The opening match between Spokane and OSA XF could hardly be a better example. 


Both clubs are new to the conference, having played only one season in 2019 before the extended disruption of the league by COVID-19. During that one season, they both acquitted themselves well; OSA XF finishing in fifth place with four wins and four losses, Spokane finishing in third with five wins and three losses. 


On the whole, however, that is where the similarities end. Spokane Shadow is the eastern outpost of the Northwest Conference, the only club on that side of the Cascade Mountain Range. Its a longtime fixture in the Washington soccer scene, with an illustrious recent past in the Northwest Premier League, a high-level regional amateur league which the Shadow nearly won twice in a row before making the switch to the WPSL. 


The Shadow roster pulls talent from across the Columbia River basin, but some of its most exciting additions are based right in Spokane. Livvy Moore, for example, comes onto the team after averaging 2.75 goals per game while leading Deer Park High School to a state championship last fall. 


Sophia Braun, the junior midfielder from Gonzaga University, was named to the All-West Coast Conference second team in 2021 in addition to being capped by the senior Argentinian women’s national team. 


The Shadow’s WPSL record while playing at home is sterling - not a single loss so far. This match poses the important question; what can it do outside the Spokane Valley?


Its opponent, OSA XF, is firmly metropolitan in nature. The team is actually a partnership between two clubs, OSA Seattle FC and Crossfire Premier. Crossfire Premier is a top youth club in Seattle, and OSA Seattle FC is the brainchild of Giuseppe Pezzano. Pezzano and his club OSA Seattle FC bring a consciously Italian influence to the venture, but at the time of writing the roster features mainly homegrown talent. 


Cameron Bourne, a University of Oregon commit, was among the first signings announced for this season. A positionally versatile attacking midfielder, Bourne can put crosses in from the flanks, play progressive passes through the middle and chip in with a few goals as well. She’ll be joined in the attack by Ryann Reynolds, a striker who can play a poacher’s role, or involve herself in more dynamic sequences within the run of play.


In its one previous WPSL season, OSA XF excelled at keeping the door shut to its opponents, conceding only 14 goals in league play. The question of how things play out at the other end of the field with Bourne, Reynolds and their teammates, may determine whether OSA XF is ready to crack into the upper echelons of the Northwest Conference. 


The one previous meeting between these two sides resulted in a 2-1 victory for OSA XF in 2019, which kick-started its late-season push into fifth place while simultaneously snapping a four-match winning streak for Spokane. 


With the departure in 2022 of the two clubs which finished first and second in 2019, both OSA XF and Spokane may justifiably harbor ambitions of winning the Conference and advancing into the WPSL regional playoff picture. Both teams will hope that a win here will set the tone for the rest of the season. Two talented teams, from two sides of one soccer-crazy state kick off at 4:00 p.m. PST - you don’t want to miss it. 


All matches will be available on Eleven Sports, the official streaming partner of the WPSL.