Wonders in expanded Southwest Division
If the Premiere Development League’s rules for the 2005 season were instituted last year, the Nevada Wonders would have been a playoff contender.
But it’s likely that the Wonders will be hard pressed to be a playoff contender in 2005 since the revamped Southwest Division looks to be tougher than ever. The United Soccer Leagues announced that it would expand the Southwest Division of the Western Conference in the PDL from five to eight teams when it released the PDL alignment last week.
Since the Southwest Division has eight teams it will advance three clubs to the PDL’s Western Conference playoffs in 2005. The Northwest Division has only four teams and will advance just one team to the Western Conference playoffs.
The Wonders will enter their third season in the PDL this spring and made vast improvement from its first to second season. After winning just one game in 2003, the Wonders won six games in 2004, battling the Southern California Seahorses and the BYU Cougars for third in the Southwest Division.
The problem was the Fresno Fuego and the Orange County Blue Stars were the two powers of the Southwest Division that advanced to the playoffs. The Wonders, though, showed how far they had come when they were on the verge of beating the Fuego last year, having to settle for a 3-3 tie when they gave up the game-tying goal in the game’s waning moments.
The schedule will likely be as tough as in the past. The Wonders played the Utah Blitzz, California Gold of Modesto and the San Diego Gauchos, all second profession tier teams in the USL with paid professionals.
This year, two of those teams – the Gold and the Gauchos – will join the present five teams and a new club from Bakesfield making up the Southwest Division. “It’s hard to compete with that,” Wonders general manager Randy Roser said.
The PDL’s schedule will also be cut from 18 to 16 games. One champion from the Western, Eastern, Southern and Central Conferences will advance to the PDL’s semifinals. Sixteen of the PDL’s 53 teams will make the playoffs.
Even with what looks to be a tougher division, Roser said he hopes the new format will improve the Wonders’ chances of making the playoffs. “We’ve got a little bit better option to get into the playoffs,” Roser said.
Paul Aigbogun, who came from England, will enter his third year as the Wonders’ coach. Andy Hill, who played in the English Premiere League, is serving as the director of the Wonders Academy. Hill coached the Wonders Academy 14 and under girls team this fall.
Roser said he expects the Wonders to be made up of virtually all college players in 2005 and so far at least one player from England could join the roster. The Wonders have had a good arrangement with the University of San Francisco and Roser said he expects that arrangement to continue.
But high school players, such as Carson High junior Loren Wooldridge, who played with the Wonders last year, should also have a chance to play with the Wonders, Roser said. Roser said the Wonders Academy 18 and under team will be considered the Wonders reserve club, with players on that team having a chance to move up to the Wonders squad.
Roser said there’s also a chance in the future for Carson City to have a W-league team, a women’s equivalent to a PDL club. Roser said with the number of players trying out for the Academy girls teams, a W-league club would be a “natural progression.”