YAKIMA, WA— It will be a brand new era of sorts for the Hoppers in 2018. Yakima United of the Evergreen Premier League today reveals that the only coach the club has ever known is stepping down. Club President Hector Vega will remain with YUFC and serve in other capacities and Dennis Stevenson will become the new Head Coach of the Men’s side.
“Obviously I’m biased but Hector has been a great coach for us and this club wouldn’t exist without him, period. He was the right guy at the right time,” says Hoppers General Manager Josh Vega. Not that Hector is going all that far. “Of course he’s still the big man in charge, and will be around as much as ever— but we are all very excited to see what Dennis can bring to the table.”
Stevenson has been around Yakima soccer for years. He’s an all-time great in the middle of the Hoppers back line. Now he’ll train the team and make the decisions on the pitch on match days. “Dennis has always been an integral part of our club. He’s been our captain and acts like a second coach on the field,” Josh says. “When he decided to come back for one more year last season it was as a player-coach , so it was always kind of the plan that when Hector decided to step down from coaching that Dennis would take over, and that time is now.”
Dennis Stevenson comes at his new soccer challenge with plenty of experience as a Hopper. “As a player for YUFC I took pride in the time and hard work I’d put on the field,” he says, “and I am now ready to turn the page and work just as hard as the new head coach. It’s an honor and privilege to be named head coach of a club that I’ve personally been a part of since day one.”
Yakima United moved their matches to the Sozo Sports Complex in 2017. It was a new atmosphere on a fresh, new turf pitch. Now Stevenson will jump in with other club evolutions. “I’m looking forward to the youth movement and working with the local talent we have here in the Yakima Valley. Not only continuing to work in establishing ourselves as a great club, but as a good entertaining team to watch.”
The Hoppers are known to be a high-scoring team. Stevenson has the same vision. He’d like to add a better-organized middle to that equation. “The style of play I personally enjoy watching is attacking soccer, but at the same time I have always felt anyone can attack. I would really like to see our style of play become organized and hard to break down. Become a team that can keep the ball when we have possession but also defend as whole…not just the back four.”
A New Era in a New EPLWA
Stevenson will be gathering a staff that works together to build the new-generation Hoppers. “The coaching style me and my staff will bring to the table is to keep it simple; lots of communication on and off the field. To continue to work as team and always stay positive. Soccer is like life: one moment you’re up and the next you’re down and asking yourself what the hell happened. How you respond in those moments and what you take away from the win or loss is a great learning lesson.”
The Hoppers will announce open tryouts in the spring and begin training for the Evergreen Premier League season after that. The EPLWA regular season will kick off in early May. The Hoppers are part of the new Columbia Division and will battle traditional rivals Spokane Shadow and new neighbors Tri-Cities Alliance for the division title and a playoff spot.