By Rob Shore
BREMERTON, Wash. — Less than two weeks after making his debut for Kitsap Soccer Club, Charlie Wilcox is ready for anything. With Kitsap well into its inaugural run into the NPSL postseason, that’s probably a good thing.
Wilcox, who graduated from Tahoma High School on June 7, was a late arrival to the Kitsap team. But he’s already made enough of an impression to be included with the 17-player squad traveling for a second-round game against CD Aguiluchos USA in San Leandro, California, on Saturday night.
“I guess I could say I’m a little bit surprised by that,” Wilcox said. “But I’m excited for it and it’s going to be a good opportunity for me.”
Wilcox is one of two recent high-schoolers, along with Tyee’s Habib Barry, in the Kitsap SC team. Both have been regular features in the side in the past three games.
But a late start doesn’t mean Wilcox isn’t valuable. With the ability to play anywhere at the back or as a holding midfielder, Wilcox’s versatility will be crucial for a short-handed squad looking to continue its postseason run.
“He is versatile,” associate head coach Liviu Bird said. “It’s always good, especially when you’re looking at those players, who in big games might not necessarily start, but they can come in and have an impact. If you can have an impact in more than one spot, it makes it more likely you’ll get a chance.”
Tahoma fell just short of the state tournament in 2017, but you couldn’t fault Wilcox for it as he earned a spot on the Tacoma News Tribune’s all-area first team with seven goals and 11 assists.
Even so, Wilcox needed to make an adjustment when he started training at Gordon Field, the first time he’d played with older players than himself.
Having played club soccer helped. He played for Pacific Northwest Soccer Club under Kitsap SC coach Roy Lassiter, who thought Wilcox might be ready to jump to the next level.
The biggest issue was adjusting to the pace of play, which suddenly got a lot quicker.
“You need to know what you’re going to do before you get the ball,” he said. “In high school, you can receive the ball, do a few moves and then play on. But here, you’ve got to take a touch and go. Right away.”
It took him a few training sessions to get accustomed to the pace. But he eventually got the hang of it.
“My first week of training here, I was definitely behind a lot of the guys,” Wilcox said. “But once we got into 11 v 11 during a regular training session, I took two or three of those and I felt pretty comfortable.”
Bird isn’t surprised at how Wilcox has adapted. He acknowledged he’s a very smart player, considering his age — and expects him to get even better.
“Obviously, it’s good for a young player to be able to adjust and assimilate quickly,” Bird said. “But it’s what we expected out of him. Once he got his chance to come into the group, we thought he would impress us and impress his teammates, and he’s done both of those.”
Wilcox made his debut on July 8 against FC Mulhouse Portland in the 90th minute, just enough time to get in a couple of touches. He played a full 90 minutes in a 2-1 loss to PDX FC in the regular-season finale, but felt good about his time on the pitch.
Then he came on in the 64th minute in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over FC Mulhouse Portland, helping close out Kitsap’s playoff opener, winning balls and giving the side some added toughness.
“He stepped on the field and made an impact in a very important game,” Bird said. “We couldn’t have been happier with his performance.”
Next comes the most important game — which is to say, the next one.
Where could he find himself on Saturday night? Wilcox isn’t too sure. But he’ll be ready.
“I could see myself at holding midfielder, since I’ve been there the last few (training) sessions,” he said. “But I’m ready for anything.”