The Harrisburg City Islanders won’t be making an appearance in the USL cup this season, but there’s at least one Central PA soccer product who will be represented in today’s showdown in Louisville.
Colton Storm made a big impression when he went 14th overall to Sporting Kansas City in this year’s MLS SuperDraft. He’d been on the radar as a talented prospect in Central PA for several seasons, first as a standout player at Cumberland Valley High School as well as with local academy teams like HMMS Eagle. These skills helped him get invited to spend time at the USSF residency program down in Florida before he was offered a scholarship to play D1 soccer with the University of North Carolina. He also trained with the Philadelphia Union’s youth setup in its early days, played in the MLS Reserve League with the Union, and played two seasons with Reading United.
Storm had a chance to make the SKC roster a few times in 2017, particularly during their run in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. However, the bulk of his playing time came with SKC’s USL affiliate, Swope Park Rangers. Storm made 29 appearances with SPR so far this season, and his 2,553 minutes in 2017 was good enough for second best on the team.
Despite entering the Western Conference playoffs as the fourth seed, Swope Park Rangers will be playing for the USL cup for their second consecutive season. The team is already in Louisville in preparation for Monday’s championship clash with Louisville City FC. Colton was nice enough to make some time to answer a few of my questions Friday morning.
Chris Bratton: How does it feel to be in the postseason again? You had experience with Cumberland Valley, UNC, and now SPR. Are you excited to be playing for a championship in your first season?
Colton Storm: Yeah I’m excited to be playing for a title. That was a goal for me, to be playing for a championship whether it be the MLS Cup or the USL Cup. Where ever I was gonna be, I wanted to a win a trophy. Excited to be a part of (Sporting Kansas City’s) US Open Cup run. It’s amazing. And yeah I had a chance to be the post season a lot with (Cumberland Valley) and UNC was in the post season pretty much all the time. It’s kinda just the expectation that that’s what you’re working toward.
CB: SPR was in the championship last season, so for some of the other guys this is their chance at redemption. What’s that vibe like?
CS: All of the coaches have been about really trying to get everyone focused. Everything they might have done wrong (last season) they’re trying to correct. We’re already in Louisville so we can rest before the game. We’ll still practice, but we don’t have to worry about traveling. Everyone’s just waiting for this last game. A lot of guys are still bothered by (not winning last season). So yeah it’d be awesome to win for the guys who missed out last season.
CB: SPR won the Western Conference on a crazy PK shootout, which must have been interesting for you since just last season in the NCAA playoffs you came out on the wrong end of a crazy PK shoot out with UNC. Are you a fan of the shootout, or are you sick of them now?
CS: It’s a tough way to decide a game no matter what. We went ten penalties deep against Stanford. When you’re on the wrong side, it’s so hard to swallow. To be on the good end of it is a lot better, but it’s still really tough on you. When you’re playing and you know the penalties are coming. But yeah, it might not always be the better team who wins the shoot out. That’s tough.
CB: Do you think the time with SPR has improved your game? Are you glad that you have a USL side to play for to get minutes and experience? I spoke to Bobby Warshaw about this earlier this year, and he mentioned how the MLS reserve team system wasn’t all that helpful for him at the time when he was first starting out.
CS: Yeah the reason to have the USL team is to prepare the younger guys coming out of college to get more experience. It’s just prepared me so much. Because (SPR have) the same layout as SKC. SPR has the best passing in USL and SKC has the best passing in MLS, and that’s not a coincidence. It’s really the same playing style as SKC. It’s made me really comfortable. There’s no bump in the road, it’s a smooth transition. This experience has just prepared me so much.
CB: Moving back to some of your youth experience, how do you feel about the ending of the US Soccer youth residency program?
CS: I can’t believe they’re discontinuing it. It’s been upsetting to me. (The program) opens doors for youth especially now with the way European teams are looking at US kids. I think it’s really good for our national team to have that available.
CB: Right because there’s definitely room for improvement with the US national team and now this resource is gone.
CB: On top of that, (when you’re in the program) you’re playing with the best kids in the country day in and day out. To have that when you’re that age is unbelievable. But now a lot of the MLS teams are having their own academies. So now the teams are doing that so many kids would rather stay local if they can and it’s tough to compete with.
CB: Do you see Central PA as a solid pro soccer pipeline in the future?
CS: I could see that. I think it’ll be a little more difficult. If you’re serious about youth soccer, you’re going to the academy. When I was doing stuff with the Philadelphia Union I was driving 2 hours out and 2 hours back just to get in with the pro team. But I think PA is producing really good soccer players and people are starting to recognize that.
CB: Anything you’re looking forward to back in PA after being out in KC? Anything new you picked up in KC to bring back here?
CS: I mean, mostly friends and family. I’ve really been missing the crab pretzels at Dockside Willie’s. I told my family we’ve gotta go get that as soon as I’m back.
CB: Have you seen your (FIFA Ultimate Team) player in FIFA 18? Did you make somebody mad or something? They really cranked your stats down.
CS: Yeah I saw that, I didn’t know what that problem was. I think my pace and my stamina would be (higher).
CB: And your shooting is way low, which seems weird to me.
CS: But I don’t even have a (gaming) system right now. I figure that’s just another thing to improve down the road.
CB: Has the first season just flown by?
CS: I really haven’t gotten a chance to stop and (take in any moments). The season has just flown by. Early on, once I noticed that with great outside defenders like (Graham) Zusi and Saad (Abdul-Salaam) on the team I probably wasn’t making the squad a lot in my first season. I focused on doing my best and playing my best when I got my opportunities. After this the focus is on doing my best to prepare for next season and seeing what opportunities come up.
CB: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me and good luck on Monday.
You can watch Colton Storm and the Swope Park Rangers go up against Louisville City FC in the 2017 USL Cup on 11/13/17 at 9pm ET on ESPNU