Defending champions FC Olympia set sights on new season

It’s outdoor soccer season again and with the USL W and the USL2 just around the corner kicking off this weekend in the Northwest Division, this year promises another cracking season for the men’s and women’s teams of FC Olympia. This article previews Thurston County’s only semi-professional soccer team as it competes with the best amateur teams in the country in this United Soccer League season.


United Soccer League West: FC Olympia’s championship set to repeat?

Imagine winning the division just on your very first try in such a dominant fashion that you never lost to any team in that pool. That was the dream that the team that was called "Oly Town Artesians FC"  experienced and lived last season in their USL debut as they swept the Northwest Division in ten games, only dropping points from two draws against United PDX FC.

But the newly renamed FC Olympia should wake up and bring their feet back to Earth this season as they will try to retain the championship in Olympia and represent the Northwest Division in the national playoffs.

Luckily for the Artesians, they have re-signed much of the core championship squad from last year, with the likes of Shu Ohba, Kelsey Kwon, Ava Uribe, Maia Tabion, McKenna Martinez and Sydney Stephens, who have been instrumental to that winning squad last year.

Martinez has been clinical in scoring for FC Olympia as the main striker while Tabion and Uribe provided the necessary backup in attack, with Kwon vital as CDM last season to control the tempo in the midfield. Stephens has been a rock at the defense for the Artesians as the main center back while Ohba, who had caps for the Japan U20 National Team, was decent as a backup goalkeeper.

With the retention of the main guns comes the vital departures of players to the pro ranks such as starting goalkeeper Kat Asman, who now plays for the NWSL for the Portland Thorns, defender Abby Jacobs to Sport Clube União Torrense in Portugal, and Emily Bunnell to Spanish side Clube de Albergaria.

But what surprised the whole of USL W was the shock return of last year’s Northwest Division MVP Mariah Lee after her professional spell in Australia. As the team’s leader in goals and assists last season, she is expected to lead the team and guide FC Olympia’s new recruits to attempt to reclaim the NW crown.

Also crucial to this title defense is the rotation in the coaching staff, as Chris Wells hands off coaching duties to a young coach Ben Willis, as last year’s winning coach moves as sporting director of the club. Despite the lack of experience, Willis will be helped with the reinforcement of last year’s defender Kellyn Green and former Reign FC youth coach Eric Rossitch on the coaching staff on this big task.

FC Olympia will start their title defense this Saturday, May 18, against newcomers Tacoma Galaxy at 7 p.m. kickoff at the South Sound Stadium. They are expected to give the neophytes some initiation rites as a welcome to this sorority of sorts in the division.

Player to watch out for: Mariah Lee. The prodigal daughter of Olympia is back home and is expected to bring her pro soccer experience to the Artesians as she re-signs for the club.

New signing to watch: Amara Huseen. The former Washington Huskies attacking midfielder will play for the Artesians after competing in the top-tier Icelandic Women's Football League for IBV women.

Predicted finish this season: 1st in the NW Division (lone playoff spot), 2nd at worst.

With most of last year’s Artesians pictured here now out of the squad, how will a revamped FC Olympia men fare in the upcoming USL2?
With most of last year’s Artesians pictured here now out of the squad, how will a revamped FC Olympia men fare in the upcoming USL2?

USL League Two: A rebuilding season for the men’s side of FC Olympia?

For the first time last season, the men’s side of FC Olympia finally got a playoff spot in the USL2 national tournament after placing second in the Northwest Division, with their season just ending in the hands of inter-state rivals Ballard FC. The rivalry between both squads was brewing as they faced four times in four immense fixtures last season, until the Bridges became USL2 champions themselves, which sort-of widened the gap between the squads.

As the new season unfolds, the men’s team will undergo a total facelift under the tutelage of former USMNT forward Jason Dunn. With Dunn’s vision of establishing the club’s core and path-to-pro in Thurston County, it looks like he prefers giving local players more opportunities to play as shown by the signing of talents who played in closer universities such as from the University of Washington and Seattle University, while tapping players with roots from the community such as current Gonzaga University defender and former North Thurston HS standout Farhan Moustafa returning home.

This means a total overhaul from front to back, as notable players from last year’s playoff squad were missing from this season’s Artesians provisional squad, such as goalkeeper Charlie Lanphier, top scorer Gil de la Luz, center back and captain Jack Sluys, wingback Habib Famuditimi, and goalkeeper/part-time striker Dante Perez, just to name a few. Center back Camron Miller has also left the club as he went professional with Spokane Velocity FC in USL League One.

With this huge rebuild in the men’s squad, it seems like the gaffer is doing a high risk move to build the team closer to the heart of the community, all the while keeping the squad competitive this season, especially with the additions of expansion teams Midlakes United, Tacoma Stars FC, and West Seattle Junction FC spicing up the competition in the division. Will there be enough time to build chemistry from a squad from scratch and challenge the defending champs for a playoff spot? We shall see.

FC Olympia will start their USL2 season next week, May 24th, away from home against Tacoma Stars FC, while their home debut will be on May 26th, Sunday afternoon, against a returning Lane United FC

Player to watch out for: Manny Nicasio. You can’t just ignore the loyalty of this Oly Legend, who will play for the Artesians for the third year from the indoor program and now back to USL2 soccer, mainly as a wingback or midfielder.

New signing to watch: River Stewart. This young prospect from Everett Community College was awarded as the NWAC Player of the Year last 2023 and shipped 46 goals in two seasons with the Trojans, currently the school record for most goals scored. Hopefully, he will translate his goalscoring powers from the conference to the USL2, although this would be one heavy task for this starboy in the making.

Predicted finish this season: 2nd in the NW Division (second playoff spot), 5th at worst.


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