Born Out of a Desire to Continue the Pipeline of Soccer Development
Published May 27, 2023
Written By: Thomas Costello / WPSL Correspondent

Sunday, the Lake Erie Conference got underway with a match-up of expansion sides. Erie FC, not only an expansion team but an expansion club altogether, traveled to Rochester, New York, to face RNY FC. While Erie came out on the wrong side of a 4-1 defeat, it’s the beginning of something special on the coast of Western Pennsylvania.


Erie FC is a marriage of sorts. A pair of clubs in the area, Erie Premier Sports and Erie Admirals combined to create the WPSL’s Erie FC – a side born out of a desire to continue the pipeline of soccer development. For the new side from Pennsylvania the WPSL is only the beginning.


“We have a range of age groups from little kids to u17/18 boys and girls,” Andrew Bennett, Erie FC head coach, said. “A lot of the teams start with really good talent. That’s where the WPSL had formed for the girls.”


Like many WPSL sides, Erie FC is full of both local and out-of-state athletes. Many of them come from local Edinboro University, holding five roster spots for the expansion club, where coach Bennett works during the NCAA season. It doesn’t stop there.


“We’ve got overseas players that’ve played at university. Good mix in terms of our roster,” Bennett said. “It’s important to give them the right opportunity as well.”


Those opportunities also fall with a pair of international players who joined Erie following successful collegiate seasons.


The first is forward Salomé Prat, from Tarbes, France. After two collegiate seasons with High Point University of the Big South Conference, which featured Prat winning the 2020 Big South Freshman of the Year award, Prat joined Erie FC following one season with Iowa State University.


Prat brings speed and power to the forward position. With the Cyclones, Prat scored a goal and added two assists in 16 starts.


Part of getting the ball to Erie’s attacking players is Julie Anderson, midfielder from Southwestern Oklahoma State. The Denmark native joins the new WPSL club following two seasons with the SWOSU Bulldogs – including helping secure a Great American Conference title in 2022.


Anderson brings a solid foundation in the middle of the field and also has the ability to slide back into a more defensive role if needed.


The additions of Prat and Anderson into a squad of local NCAA athletes will take a little bit of time to mesh, but coach Bennett is hopeful.


“It’s important to have good team cohesion at the start. Everyone wants to have that possession style, but you have to have the hard work that goes into that,” Bennett said.  “We want to be a hard-working team that’s hard to break down. We’re not just trying to protect the ball in the back half, we want to move the ball through the midfield.”


So, Sunday’s defensive lapses are likely to happen for a team that’s starting its first season. Not only its first season of WPSL play but the first season of the club overall.


Coach Bennett not only has the connections to bring a team together but the experience of competing as a player himself. 


Bennett received the head coaching role for Erie FC after playing four years as a defender with Mercyhurst University before moving into an assistant role on the team. After a move to Edinboro as a goalkeeper assistant coach, Bennett shifted his focus to the women’s game.


All the while, Bennett continued his playing career in Erie, PA, playing for the Erie Commodores of the NPSL. That gives the coach the unique experience of recent competitive play at a high level – something that helps him relate to college and high school players alike in the Erie FC club.


So, even if the season didn’t start the way Bennett and Erie hoped, there are still at least seven matches for the new side to show the rest of the Lake Erie Conference tits capabilities.


“With our first year it can be a good thing to be a first-year team in a way, not many people know about us,” said Bennett. “But you have the other side that we’re learning the other teams. It’s going to kind of be new.”