This is a press release review of the Lions’ PDL season, by GM James Shipley.
Cottleville, MO… In its 5th Anniversary season, the St. Louis Lions of the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League showed great promise both on the pitch and in the stands in 2010. The 2005 PDL “Rookie of the Year” franchise faced a very strong, competitive Heartland Division loaded with professionals and battled to a record of five wins, seven losses and four draws.
“There was never a game that we didn’t have a solid chance of winning,” said President and Head Coach Tony Glavin. “Despite our record, the difference in almost every game came down to one or two mistakes that are going to be made by a young team.”
The Lions opened the season with losses to Real Colorado 2-0 and Des Moines 2-1, before surprising Rochester on the road with a 2-1 Lions victory. That started a strong run that included three wins against Springfield and ties against Kansas City and Des Moines. “At that point we were right in the middle of the fight for first place in the Division,” said Glavin. “We had the momentum and were ready to challenge the top teams.”
But the early promise faded under pressure from older, more experienced teams. The Lions lost two games in succession to Colorado, followed by two consecutive losses to Thunder Bay, one of the top PDL teams in 2010 and National Championship winner in 2008. Reeling from four consecutive losses, the Lions finished the season with a win in Kansas City, 5-2, a loss against Rochester 1-0, and draws against both Springfield and Des Moines.
Perhaps nowhere in the PDL was the clash of philosophies more apparent than in the Heartland Division, where some teams heavily recruited experienced players from around the globe and others chose to develop younger players from surrounding areas.
“Going into the season we made the decision to develop younger players. The Heartland is the toughest division in the PDL. We knew we would hit some tough stretches, but we need to continue to improve our pipeline of players.” said St. Louis Lions General Manager Jim Shipley.
“We are already working on next season. Fans will continue to see the organization develop and we will strive to produce the best product we can on and off the field” said Shipley.
Lions midfielder Jonny Brown led the team with 16 games played and 1416 minutes. Forward Dan Meagher led the team in scoring with 4 goals and 5 assists, with wingman Jarius Holmes second with 3 goals and 3 assists. Ten different players scored for the Lions, reflecting the attacking style of the team from any position. In goal, Nate Thackery had an outstanding season with a 1.241 Goals Against Average.
Off the pitch, the St. Louis Lions had perhaps their finest season ever. It began with a new agreement with Umbro to provide all equipment for the team. This was followed with a new agreement with Anheuser Busch and Monster Energy Drinks to provide beverages for all Lions games. New shirt sponsors included Fast Lane Convenience Stores and the American Drag Racing League and new special promotions with McDonald’s and Applebee’s were just a few of the national organizations on board in 2010.
“We had a very solid sponsorship year,” said Beth Causey, St. Louis Lions Sales Director. “The amazing demographics in St. Charles County, is drawing a lot of attention our way and national advertisers are increasingly seeing the benefit of being associated with soccer in affluent areas.”
Looking forward to 2011, the Lions will continue to develop promising young players who have an eye on a career in professional soccer. Despite the traditional strength of St. Louis club soccer, the focus will remain on attracting players who have been developed locally or play college ball in the region. As the top amateur soccer competition in the United States, the Premier Development League is the final step for many athletes before embarking on professional careers.
“Our success in placing players in the pro ranks is an indication of the preparation our players are receiving, said Glavin. “Winning is something we all want, but developing top players who can go on to greater achievements is the most important thing we do here.”