07/25/2013 9:52 AM
It’s been quite the sophomore season for the Hammers. It started off with back to back wins in Victoria which set the tone for what would be a phenomenal season on the road. Perhaps the only slightly negative aspect to the 2013 season was the fact that most Hammers fans didn’t get to see the matches where Bellingham truly excelled. Their record on the road was a brilliant 5-1-1, while their record at home was an average 4-3-0. However, that small bump wasn’t nearly enough to trip up what was an amazing charge toward the Challenge Cup Playoffs for BUFC.
The first huge match for Bellingham came on June 6th against a red hot Khalsa SC side. Bellingham traveled up to New Westminster, which might as well have been called the ninth ring of hell for any other opposing team who stepped foot on the pitch there in 2013. After a string of blowout games that ended in Khalsa’s favor to begin the season, the New Westminster side had their eyes set on doing the exact same thing to the Hammers after being manhandled by them in 2012. However, the underdog (at the time) Hammers had different plans and ended up not only beating Khalsa SC 3-1, but also taking the lead in the PCSL away from Khalsa for the time being.
After that came the back to back wins against Coquitlam Metro Ford. After beating Coquitlam 2-1 in front of hundreds of fans at Civic Stadium, the Hammers repeated the same score line just a few days later in Coquitlam. The wins helped Bellingham keep their position at the top of the PCSL standings, while Khalsa continued to scratch and claw their way back.
Fast forward a little to July 7th and the Hammers found themselves in the first ever Cross Border Challenge match put on by the PCSL. The PCSL chose Bellingham as the host city before the 2013 season started and at the same time chose Khalsa to be Bellingham’s opponent. Little did they know at that time that the two teams would end up being the cream of the crop all season long. Although the Hammers lost the match, it was an epic battle that won’t be soon forgotten. At the end of the match both teams were recognized with medals as fans cheered on their valiant effort.
Not only were Khalsa SC and Bellingham United FC battling it out for first place in the PCSL throughout all of this, but there was also a battle between two players from the respective sides for the league’s Golden Boot title. Bellingham’s Kellan Brown was having a career season averaging a goal a game, while Khalsa SC’s Milad Mehrabi was trying his hardest to stick with Brown. As the season winded down to a close, Brown found himself in the driver’s seat with a four goal lead on Mehrabi. However while Brown sat out the team’s final road game against the Vancouver Thunderbirds, Mehrabi had scored a hat-trick against Victoria United in Khalsa’s final game of the 2013 season. The effort wasn’t enough to overtake Brown’s lead though and with no games left to play besides Bellingham’s finale against the Victoria Highlanders, Brown had secured the 2013 Golden Boot title. The achievement would mark the first regular season title of any kind for Bellingham United FC.
Before the season finale for Bellingham, the PCSL announced their 2013 All Star Team. It didn’t come as much of a surprise to see multiple Hammers announced to the squad. Goalkeeper, Leo Cohen was recognized as one of the men between the pipes along with Luke 0’Shea from the Vancouver Thunderbirds and midfielders, Oscar Jimenez and Brendan Quilici joined defender, Joel Grossman and of course striker Kellan Brown as All Stars as well. Bellingham’s five All Stars matched both Coquitlam Metro Ford and Khalsa SC with the most players representing on the All Star team.
The season finale found Bellingham United FC in a spot that nobody could have imagined they’d be in after a spectacular regular season. However, because of a late season push by the Vancouver Thunderbirds, an equally fantastic season by Khalsa SC and Coquitlam’s bye as the host city of this season’s Challenge Cup Playoffs, the Hammers ended up in a do or die situation against the Victoria Highlanders. A win would land them second place in the standings and a playoff date with the Vancouver Thunderbirds, while a draw or worse would leave them in fourth place and out of the playoffs entirely. The pressure wasn’t enough to blur Bellingham’s focus though as they toppled the Highlanders 2-1 in front of an overjoyed crowd at Civic Stadium. Kellan Brown recorded one of the goals to finish his final regular season as a Hammer with 14 goals in 14 games.
Post-game awards were given out to the Hammers by both the organization and the Hammers Supporters Club alike. One of those awards from the supporters was the “Hooligan of the Year” award handed out to Chris “Mayor” Jepson, while the fan voted MVP award was given to Bellingham’s rock solid midfielder, Oscar Jimenez. The organization also handed out awards for Humanitarian of the Year as well as Defensive and Offensive Players of the Year which were won by Matthew Zigulis, Joel Grossman and Kellan Brown respectively.
In only their second year as a club, Bellingham United FC cemented themselves as something much more than their league’s semi-pro moniker. Both on and off the field, the Hammers conducted themselves in a professional manner that would rival any professional club team in the world. Whether it was Matthew Zigulis coaching Bellingham High School to a very successful 2013 season, a mix of Front Office members, supporters and players volunteering to help out local organizations like Growing Veterans, or Kellan Brown knocking away 14 goals, the memories and achievements from Bellingham United FC’s sophomore season will be hard to match in the future.
All that’s needed now is a little silverware…