Ten years ago, Dave Galas and his brother John co-founded the Lane United Football Club. But if you ask him about that milestone, he says it doesn’t feel like that much time has passed since the creation of the USL (United Soccer League) semi-professional soccer franchise.
“Sometimes it seems like it was just yesterday,” Galas says with a laugh. “Other times it seems like it was 20 years ago when we started.”
Galas, who is Lane United’s managing director, says managing and developing this team has brought plenty of rewards, including creating community around the club, which was one of the goals.
“I would definitely say one of the highlights has been how well we’ve been received by the soccer community and being recognized on the national stage,” he says. “We’ve won several awards, including best supporters’ group in the country.”
There’s also pride in the players who have gone on to higher ranks after wearing the soccer cleats in Eugene.
“After our first year, Khiry Shelton got selected second overall in the Major League Soccer super draft,” Galas says, listing one example. “And just this past year, Duncan McGuire won the Mac Hermann Trophy while scoring goals for fun with Orlando.”
More recently, Lane United has added a women’s squad to the mix.
“There is now a women’s team in the USL W League,” Galas confirms. “That league has grown and learned a lot and has done a lot of good things. Last year, they had 44 teams for their inaugural season. Now they’re up to 65, and the growth has been tremendous and well-received around the country. We’re excited to have the Northwest represented in that league.”
And there could be professional soccer coming to town soon. Lane United has exclusive options on both USL League One and the women’s super league franchises, and Galas is thrilled about those professional possibilities. “If the facilities pieces can fall into place, as well as fall in line with the possible investors we’re talking to, then Lane County should have two professional soccer teams soon,” he says.
But that isn’t to say there haven’t been pitfalls for the organization during the past decade. Galas says he still runs into people who are soccer fans that don’t know about Eugene’s team. “It’s all about reaching a larger audience in our community,” he says. “This is an area so dominated by University of Oregon athletics. But this is a challenge we embrace. After all, not everyone who lives here attended the UO or has allegiances there. So, to become a community-based club that really represents the larger Eugene-Springfield area is something we will continue to strive for.”
Dave Galas clearly loves the game of soccer, which he calls a multi-faceted sport. “Possession of the ball is so fleeting,” he says. “You must run around and maintain control of the ball with your feet. So, particularly with a team, it’s a very difficult proposition to begin with. It’s also very much in that boxing realm when making the decision to go on offense leaves you very exposed on defense. There’s a back and forth, a tension, where anything could turn at any moment. It’s a lot of those pieces in terms of how the game is played.”
The tension is only part of what makes the sport great in his mind, however, because it’s also a game that doesn’t require that players be a certain size or have a certain athleticism. “It’s a game that’s played to your own advantages rather than any inherent advantages within the game,” he says. “That’s probably why it’s a game that is so approachable for so many people around the world.”
For those reasons, Galas is looking forward to the next decade of Lane United. As proud as he’s been of the goals scored so far, he’s optimistic about the games yet to come.
“We’d like to see Lane United fully professional on both the men’s and women’s sides,” he says. “That’s been the goal since we’ve started. We’ve been getting closer and closer to that. I couldn’t be happier with the direction the USL is going.”
See the website for the men’s and women’s teams. All home games are played at Civic Park: laneutd.com/schedule