The last time the St. Louis Lions men’s team played in a USL League Two soccer match was on July 13, 2019.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, but COVID really set us back,” said Tony Glavin, president/head technical director/head coach of the Lions. “On the plus side, though, the response this season has been unbelievable. Our numbers for tryouts this season were incredible, and the level of talent I’m seeing right now is exceptional. The guys are really pushing themselves in workouts, and we’re still expecting more top-quality players to join the mix between now and the start of the season.
“I’m definitely excited.”
This figures to be Glavin’s final season. He sold his facility in March, and his youth club is merging with St. Charles FC.
“I’ll work one more year, coaching with the St. Charles group, and then I plan on retiring and moving to Florida,” he said. “Honestly, I’ve loved every minute of what I’ve done and wouldn’t change a thing. A few years back, I wouldn’t have thought something like this was an option, but it’s something me and my wife have talked a lot about and now it’s something we’re looking forward to. But first, I’d love to see the Lions go out with a strong season.”
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The Lions, who are schedule to open the USL2 season on Saturday against Kaw Valley FC in Kansas, have added ex-Lions Martin Clayes and Brock Chatman (CBC) as well as Missouri Baptist coach Jake Alvernia to the coaching staff.
“We’ve put together a great staff, and we’re excited to get things rolling,” Glavin said. “We’ve only been training a few days, but I like what I’ve seen. Once we get the whole group together, I’m expecting this to be a pretty competitive side.”
The Lions will compete in the Heartland Division of the Central Region along with Kaw Valley FC, Chicago FC United, FC Wichita, Chicago City SC, Chicago Dutch Lions FC and Springfield ASC of Illinois.
Some of the players Glavin mentioned as key to this squad’s success include forward Joe Spotanski (Columbia College/Fort Zumwalt South), goalkeeper Liam Gibbs (St. Louis Community College/Columbia College) from England, English midfielder Charlie Checklacz (University of Rio Grande, Ohio), midfielder Sam Costa (Quincy/Parkway South), forward Louis Perez (Missouri Baptist/Pattonville), midfielder Harvey Moyes (SIU Edwardsville/Scotland) and goalkeeper Lucas Morefield (IUPUI/Rockwood Summit).
On the recommendation of former Lions standout Tom Heinemann (Rockhurst/CBC), who now serves as the head coach for the U.S. under-15 squad, Glavin is excited about two players expected in from Belmont University: forward Sam Rowan (Holt) and midfielder A.J. Chastonay.
“Typically, we like to build from the back and play a high-intensity, high-tempo game,” Glavin said. “But you adjust your coaching to match your players’ skills and talents.”
Glavin women switch leagues
While the Glavin men were shut down due to COVID, the women’s squad played on. Competing in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, the squad was winless last summer.
This year, the Lions will compete in the inaugural season of USL W League play.
“We’re definitely excited about the new league and new opportunities,” head coach Geoff Lorimier said. “The last couple of years have been difficult, no question. Last year, because of COVID, we didn’t hold tryouts until early May, and for our first session, we only had six players. And we only had four training sessions before we played our first game.”
After playing college soccer in that spring due to COVID, a number of players elected to sit out and relax during the summer.
“We improved and made a lot of progress last season, but it didn’t show in our results,” Loimier recalled. “It was a strange season, no doubt, and I was proud the girls’ work and progress we saw. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how they felt about the experience until I reached out to them before this season. Having 10 girls back this season tells me that they got something out of last summer and makes me feel good about our future.”
With a large turnout for this year’s tryouts, Lorimier said he was “pleasantly overwhelmed” and that the Lions will field a pair of women’s teams this summer.
“A couple of teams in the USL have reserve teams, and we’re also planning to reach out to some other area clubs to find some competition,” he said.
Some key players back from last year’s squad include top scorer Kat Van Booven (Timberland/Milwaukee), attacker Hadley Cytron (Ladue) and defender/midfielder Julie Steiger, who’s finishing up her high school season at Francis Howell. Key newcomers are centerback Keley Kehoe (SIUE/Francis Howell), midfielder Katie Spotanski (McKendree/Fort Zumwalt South) and gifted forward Chloe Netzel (Xavier/Liberty).
Lorimier also added longtime area coach Bob Spotanski to his staff for the summer.
“Bob’s coached club and at the high school level; he’ll be a big help for us,” Lorimier said.