Photo by Adam Lapierre
SO SAMBA team member Felipe Heredia challenges a player from the Seattle Sounders U18 team in a recent game at the Sounders’ training facility. SO Samba FC is a recently formed semi-pro team based out of Hood River.
The National Premier Soccer League announced last week that the Hood River-based semi-pro soccer club, SO Samba FC, will join the league as an expansion team for the 2014 season. The recently formed team consists of adult players from throughout the Gorge, coached by Brazilian native Thiago Samba.
In addition to accepting SO Samba FC into the nationwide league, NPSL announced the formation of a new Northwest Conference to join the West Region. The conference, formed in large part because of SO Samba FC’s efforts, will consist of five teams representing Oregon, Washington and Idaho for a 10-game regular season running March through June. The top team in the conference will move on to play against Northern and Southern California conferences; the winner of that will move on to national competition.
“The launch of the Northwest Conference is an important milestone for the NPSL which would not have been possible without the vision and leadership of SO Samba FC,” said Michael Hitchcock, NPSL commissioner. “Samba is not only bringing NPSL soccer to Hood River, but the club led the way to help bring the NPSL to the soccer hotbed of the Pacific Northwest.”
Samba, who carries more than two decades of high-level playing and coaching experience, formed the club over the summer and has been recruiting a lineup of Gorge area all-stars to fill the roster in time for the start of the 2014 season. Although he now calls Hood River home, Samba is taking advantage of his Brazilian roots to impart a distinctive style of play unique to the area.
“We have a unique format for training, player development and game strategy,” Samba said. “The Brazilian style is very new here in the Northwest. Teams will underestimate us because we’re rural, but we fully embrace our Brazilian and Latino influences, which have created a very unique playing style that can win games.”
The club played several games this fall against teams of varying levels from around the Northwest, including Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers development teams. Last weekend the team played to a 1-1 tie against the Timbers’ U18 team, with Hood River Valley High School alumni Diego Diaz scoring SO Samba’s goal early in the first half.
The same day, SO Samba brought its budding U18 team to challenge the Timbers U16 development team, which resulted in at least one player on the team (Giovani Magana) being courted to join the Timbers’ club.
Although several players have been locked in for the NPSL season, the club is holding tryouts Jan. 25-26 to give others an opportunity to make the lineup. See sosambafc.com for tryout details. As of this week, Brandao said the following players have signed contracts for the 2014 season, with more to follow in the coming weeks: Felipe Heredia, Lazaro Ramos, Immanuel Aguilera and Rafael Mondragon.
“SO Samba is so pleased to be a founding member of the new Northwest Conference,” said team manager Melissa Brandao. “We are exceptionally proud of our region and our new team. The Northwest is fertile ground for soccer.”
See sosambafc.com for more on the team.