Amatuer adult soccer club will have three home matches this season
Aidan McGinty went from full-time training to just about nothing last year. Just like that, the pandemic put his soccer career on hold.
At least he got some sort of college season this year.
Dylan De Baldo did not even get any kind of college season with the Clark Penguins this academic year.
Today, they are both grateful to be part of an abbreviated summer soccer season, playing for Vancouver Victory FC.
The Victory open their season Saturday at Harmony Park. The team is made up mostly of college-eligible players, giving them an opportunity for competition until they return to their soccer programs in school.
This year, the Victory men will play six matches, three on their home turf. (The Victory women will also have a season that begins in June.)
Last year, of course, the Victory were shut down during early months of the pandemic.
Now soccer players have returned to the pitch, and the Victory are ready for their comeback campaign.
“I felt I was missing it for my life,” McGinty said. “Coming back, it makes you feel more productive, makes you feel a lot more active. Just a great experience to come back.”
McGinty is a 2019 graduate of Union High School. He did get a short season this year with his college team at Northwest Nazarene in Nampa, Idaho.
De Baldo last competed in college in the fall of 2019 for the Clark Penguins. College administrators opted for no sports this academic year. Which means De Baldo has not played a real match in about a year-and-a-half.
“We had a scrimmage the other day, and that was my first genuine 90 minutes back,” De Baldo said. “It’s exciting. It’s fun. But it’s been a while, so it was really weird playing a game.”
Soon enough, it will be normal again.
“Last year, there was nothing going on for soccer, athletics in general,” McGinty said. “It’s great to have an organized team to practice with during the offseason.”
Northwest Nazarene was starting its spring workout schedule when the pandemic hit.
“I was trying to train by myself. I was getting kicked off the fields,” McGinty recalled. “I was not allowed to play for basically a month. It took a toll on me mentally and physically. Now, it’s great to be back.”
De Baldo had a similar experience. He coordinated his class schedule to work around weight lifting and soccer workouts. Then all classes switched to online only and all physical workouts were cancelled.
“It was a shock,” he said.
College athletes, after all, are not accustomed to not working out, not trying to perfect their skills.
“I’ve dedicated my whole life to it,” McGinty said.
McGinty played his youth soccer in Alaska.
“The summers are great. You get a full season,” he said. “In the winter, it’s all indoor. Not on grass at all. Some benefits to it, but for the most part, it’s really rough. It’s really hard to grow, playing there.”
He and his family moved to Clark County when he was 14. He played for the Washington Timbers as well as at Union High School.
The sport helped him find new friends in a new home.
“To me, it’s a great way to meet people, a great way to better yourself and work on yourself,” McGinty said. “It’s just the sport I love to play.”
De Baldo grew up in Vancouver, started playing rec league in Salmon Creek before he found club soccer. He shined with Skyview High School, as well.
He was planning on attending Concordia to play soccer, but when soccer fell through, he figured he would just go the academic route. He would stop playing soccer.
He came to his senses.
“I can’t believe I was going to do that,” he said.
“Last minute, I decided to contact Clark. … I was extremely lucky,” he said.
Clark College had a spot for him. After two years at Clark, De Baldo is preparing to transfer to St. Martin’s University in Lacey, a Division II program.
It turns out, playing for the Victory is a milestone, as well.
“I watched them play a long time ago when they first started. I’d come out to the games. I’ve known a lot about the Victory. I’ve had friends who played for Victory. It’s exciting to be part of it.
“I’ve been looking up to them for years. To be part of the program now, it’s all come full circle.”
The Victory play three home matches this season at the Harmony Sports Complex, 1500 NE 192nd Ave. in Vancouver:
• May 22 vs. Olytown Artesians, 5 p.m.
• June 13 vs. Tacoma Narrows, noon
• June 19 vs. Yakima United, noon
Tickets are $5 and that includes a Victory sticker.
“Our club’s mission statement, in short, is to provide opportunity,” said Sean Janson, general manager. “We just haven’t been able to do that for so long. Slowly and surely, we’re getting back to normalcy. It just means everything. We’re back.”
This Victory season is about half of what a usual schedule would look like, but it’s a start.
“Not a whole lot of expectations outside of getting the opportunity to play,” Janson said. “Shake off the dust from the jerseys.”
Steven Evans is the team’s new coach.
“I’ve always wanted to continue to help players who want to grow and develop,” Evans said. “I want to help them stay fit and ready for their college seasons. And continue to grow in my coaching experience. I’ve done a little college and a lot of youth. This will put me in a new environment and push me a lot.”