May 24, 2018
This coming Saturday, Real Madrid will take on Liverpool in the Champions League final. But even more importantly to many soccer players with roots in Portland, Oregon, the afternoon will feature a friendly between alumni from two prestigious local organizations: International Portland Select FC and Warner Pacific College.
In what we hope will become an annual tradition, former players from both squads are flying in from out of state to join those who still live in the area in anticipation of the weekend’s festivities. Three years ago, Bernie Fagan, who coached the Warner Pacific Knights men’s soccer team for 21 years before retiring in 2014, organized the first all-WPC alumni game between former and current players of the college. This year, he added a twist after connecting with longtime friend and current International Portland Select FC manager Harvey Hurst, as the two agreed to convert the match into one featuring ex-players from both entities.
That decision did not come out of the blue, as Fagan’s Warner Pacific teams had a long history of acting as a bit of a feeder program for International Portland Select FC. As he himself stated, “Many IPS players were former players of mine at Warner Pacific. I didn’t necessarily have anything for all of them at the school upon graduation. Many of them stayed in Portland, got other jobs, and then became key players for International Portland Select.”
One player who will be flying in from out of state is Matt Atencio, who not only joined Fagan’s staff at Warner Pacific as an Assistant Coach, but also played for IPSFC for several years. Atencio, who currently resides in Northern California, helped organize the friendly and touched on its origins, highlighting that, “The idea for this game was to have a game/social event involving many players that knew each other, either by playing with or against each other, several years ago in Portland. These were some great groups of guys, high level players that loved to compete, and of course everyone had a lot of fun on a social level back in the day, too.”
When asked what he was most looking forward to, he said:
“I have been in and out of the US for the past 15 years, and it will be great to see the local guys again and others from out of town. Several are coming in from Seattle, Luke Ordway is flying in from Moscow, Idaho, and Jack Wheeler is flying in from Kansas City. IPSFC's former deadly striker/sweeper Gene Bowman was even thinking about coming back from Switzerland – we'll get him next time. I hope that this match creates some momentum that will support future social events for the IPSFC and WPC veterans. Maybe we’ll be able to align it with a community/social cause. On a side note, I’ll also be working with members of the Portland Parks and Recreation Department to develop another annual World Cup tournament in the summer this weekend. This event is for refugees and newcomers to Portland to help them get connected with resources.”
Fagan similarly stressed the importance of connecting with players from the past and ensuring that they remain a part of the present: “It really means so much to me, with guys coming in from all over. In the past, it’s been a well-watched event by many people, mostly family members. Personally, it’s a passion for me having been a coach at Warner Pacific for 21 years; having players come back for the alumni game means a great deal to me.”
For many of the players who will be suiting up on Saturday, the Warner Pacific and International Portland Select soccer programs not only helped shape who they would go on to become as players and individuals, but also helped them see the joy in the beautiful game. Atencio fondly recalls that, “Being around coaches like Bernie Fagan, Pat Kirk, Ray, Denny, and Glenn Rogers was great. All of them gave a lot personally to make these programs successful. And, again, I think all players had fun while playing hard whether for IPS and WPC, and I think this is always important – to enjoy the game.”
Everyone is looking forward to a day of enjoyment on Saturday, rekindling old connections and hopefully creating new ones as well! We welcome everyone, former players, family members, and supporters alike, to come join us not only for the match itself, but also for a drink and a bite afterward at a local bar (kids are welcome). The game will kick off at 3 p.m. at Buckman Field. See you on Saturday!