Pitman and Wyatt Thrive in Women's Pro-Am Soccer
July 30, 2014
DePaul’s All-BIG EAST women’s soccer duo spent June and the first half of July playing with the Seattle Sounders in the highly competitive USL W League.
The 2014 W League is composed of 25 teams in locations such as Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Charlotte, the Washington D.C. area and Colorado Springs, Colo.
The pro-am league provided Pitman and Wyatt with a chance to compete against top collegians along with players with national team and professional experience.
And both Blue Demons acquitted themselves quite well.
In nine games, Wyatt finished with one goal and a team-high four assists---tied for ninth in the league after the regular season. She was tied for fourth on the Sounders in points.
Pitman was a stalwart defender who played the full 90 minutes of her nine games and scored a goal against the Colorado Rush.
“The Sounders had me playing as an attack-minded right back,” said Pitman, a talented defender entering her senior year. “In our game against the Rush, my teammate played a ball out to me on the right side of the box. I lofted the ball intended for the back post and it went into the top left-hand corner.
“That’s what I was doing throughout the W League season, getting on the ball and crossing it in pretty high. To be honest, I had quite a few near-misses on goals. It was nice that I finally got one to go in.”
Pitman and Wyatt helped Seattle finish 7-4-1 for third place in the eight-team Western Conference. The top two teams in each of four conferences advanced to the W League playoffs which was won by conference rival LA Blues---their fourth title in seven years.
“Some of the best moments I had while playing for the Sounders was being surrounded by an immense amount of talent with teammates who had the exact same passion for the game as I do,” Wyatt said, “My most memorable assist came against the Bay Area Breeze. Tied 1-1 in the 89th minute, I turned and dribbled up the field and played a through ball where my teammate was able to take a touch and shoot to win the game 2-1.
“My only goal was an equalizer against Santa Clarita, and it came on a deflected shot. I controlled the ball out of the air and hit it in the back of the net. It is always a great feeling to score or get an assist.”
Despite missing the first three games due to NCAA regulations, the Blue Demons adapted quickly to their new soccer environment.
“It didn’t take long,” Pitman said. “Everyone is such a good player, you just go with your instincts. You know where your teammates are going to be because they all play at a high level.”
Wyatt added: “We had missed a few away trips and some bonding time, but were able to make up for that lost time. We were surrounded by a number of different personalities, and everyone was extremely friendly.”
But once they were on the pitch, everyone wanted their share of playing time.
“It was a lot tougher competition in the W League with each team handpicking top college players and some who have played professionally,” Pitman said. “I came in knowing that I really had to prove myself and needed to have a great game every time out.
“That really sharpened my mental approach. There were so many talented players on the Sounders that one bad game and someone else would be looking to take my starting spot.”
Having a fellow Blue Demon around was a big help.
“It was great to play with Elise because I know how she wants the ball and how she likes to play,” Pitman said. “We had quite a lot of good connections. There were other times when I sent crosses to the back post where either the goalkeeper deflected it or she just missed wide.”
The feeling was mutual for Wyatt, a forward entering her junior year.
“Having Rachel there with me was the best thing, because it took a lot of the pressure off,” Wyatt said. “It was also nice to have her to support me along the way, and be there for me whenever I needed her.”
They lived with a host family in Seattle which reminded Pitman of her childhood in London.
“Back in England, we had four kids growing up together just like they did in Seattle,” Pitman said. “Our host family had 15 and 13-year-old girls and 9-year-old twins, a boy and a girl.
“And just like mine, it was a crazy house and always busy with everyone playing soccer all the time. It was super fun. Elise and I would go out in the garden and play soccer with them.
“In our free time, the Sounders signed us up with the Seattle Tennis Club located on Lake Washington. There was tennis and activities in the gym. There was a beach on the lake and also a swimming pool we could use. I went canoeing and paddle-boarding, and it was so nice to go out and chill on the beach with scenic views of downtown Seattle and Puget Sound.
“I also went to a Seattle Reign game---that’s the women’s pro team. I know a couple of players on the Reign---a Scottish girl and a Welsh girl that played with me in England.”
And what did Pitman think about the Emerald City?
“This was my first time in Seattle and I loved it,” Pitman said. “It has become one of my favorite places. It’s a really beautiful city and felt a lot like England. I loved everything about it.”
DePaul women's soccer coach Erin Chastain will like the impact the Sounders had on her top returning position players.
“Playing for the Sounders was quite different from playing with DePaul in the sense that the Sounders have a lot of experienced, seasoned veterans,” Wyatt said. “Most of them have already graduated, played on a national level or have experience playing professionally. This type of experience allowed the speed of play to be faster with quicker decision-making off and on the ball.
“With W-League play being a lot faster, it conditioned me to speed up my decision-making and releasing of the ball. Playing with the Sounders has increased my vision with regards to different styles of runs and has challenged my technical skill while maturing and refining my game.
“What I will be bringing back to DePaul for the 2014 season is a whole another style of play as a forward. My style has always been to make dangerous runs in behind the defensive line. But with the Sounders, I became more comfortable with checking towards the ball and being able to hold the ball. This next level of my game will allow more players to advance in the attack and create more opportunities.”
Pitman and the Sounder back line were at their best in a terrific match against the champion LA Blues.
“That was maybe our best match coming against the premier team in the W League,” Pitman said. “We were really tight that game and really confident as a back four. We had become a strong force and hardly anything was getting past us.
“It was 1-1 until the Blues scored in the 88th minute. If we had gotten a tie, that could have been the difference in making the playoffs.
“When I first came to Seattle, I didn’t think I’d play that much. I figured it would be a good experience just being around all that talent.
“But actually playing the full 90 minutes every game made me realize it’s possible to have a pro career after I graduate, and that I’m good enough to compete at the next level.”
Wyatt came away with a similar feeling.
“This has definitely created a stronger interest in a pro career overseas,” Wyatt said. “I think the opportunity that I had here with the Sounders impacted me physically and emotionally, and has allowed me to grow as an individual and an athlete.”