Tacoma Tide FC begins a non-stop run of rivalries at 7:05 tonight, opening its fourth Premier Development League season against the Seattle Wolves at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila.
Another new rival awaits Friday, when the Tide visits the Kitsap Pumas in Bremerton. That will be the first of a two-game series with the derby winner claiming the inaugural Narrows Bridge Bell.
And while three teams operating within the Puget Sound region should add excitement for fans, it also added complications to the offseason for Tide general manager Mike Jennings.
“We were the only game in town the year before,” Jennings said last week as the Tide trained at their home pitch at Curtis High School. “And now there’s a professional team (the Pumas), which is great to give the guys that don’t have college eligibility a chance to make some money. And then there’s a new team in Seattle (the Wolves).”
Simple geography gave the Wolves an advantage in recruiting players from previous Tide pipelines such as the University of Washington. And those monthly Kitsap checks appealed to other players.
That forced Jennings to look in new places for talent. And while he agrees that his job has become more difficult, he doesn’t concede that the Tide can’t match its Northwest-Conference-best 11-4-1 record of last season.
The Tide managed to retain franchise scoring leader Rory Agu, brought in former Seattle Sounder Adam West, and hired former Tacoma Stars and U.S. national team member Greg Howes as coach.
The challenge became greater still when Wolves ownership vetoed the Tide’s plan to train at Starfire.
“That created this barrier basically with Seattle Pacific guys, with Seattle U guys,” Jennings said. “The old guys were saying they don’t want to make the trek all the way down to Tacoma, so we have had to do it in a little different way. That’s why we brought in … some of the old Sounders guys and probably a little more Saint Martin’s guys than we have in the past. It is what it is, and we’ll find a way to compete.”
The offseason departure of teams in Provo and Ogden, Utah, will give the PDL a true Northwest Division. In addition to the three Puget Sound teams, the division is made up of newcomers Portland Timbers PDL and the Victoria Highlanders in British Columbia, in addition to returning rivals Abbotsford (B.C.) Mariners, Cascade (Salem, Ore.) Surge, Spokane Spiders, Vancouver Whitecaps Residency and Yakima Reds.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808
May 30at Abbotsford
June 6at Vancouver
June 7at Victoria
June 13at Yakima
June 21at Portland
July 15at Cascade
Home games at Vikings Stadium at Curtis High School in University Place