In a rather interesting turn of events, the North County Battalion has been bolstered by unexpected reinforcements. In the wake of the news that the San Diego Flash have pulled out of the NPSL, several (eighteen to be exact) players from last season’s Flash team showed up at the Battalion open tryout this past Saturday. What makes this fascinating is that the Flash players were directed to the Battalion tryout by none other than former Head Coach Warren Barton.
In an exclusive interview with SoccerNation.com, Warren Barton explained his reasoning in reaching out to the Battalion. Barton explained, “When I came to San Diego 8 years ago my dream was to bring professional soccer to the city. It is a beautiful place with a vibrant soccer culture. We tried with the Flash but unfortunately due to my commitments with Fox, I was unable to be involved day-to-day and build the club the way it really deserved to be built. Since the tragic passing of my partner Clent Alexander, I’ve had to take a step back and assess what is the best next step I can take. I now believe that I have a realistic opportunity to bring true professional soccer to San Diego, but it is more of a 12-18 month project and not something that I can manage while maintaining involvement with the Flash.”
“The NPSL has always been dear to my heart,” Barton continued, “and I’ve built wonderful relationships with my players over the years we’ve been together. From what I’ve seen and heard about the Battalion, they are setting up to be a very successful organization. I feel very comfortable entrusting my players to Jason and Gio and I look forward to supporting the Battalion as I can.”
Upon the folding of the Flash, Barton reached out to Battalion owner Jason Barbato to deliver the news about the Flash’s withdrawal, and to ask a favor. Barton coaches with the Del Mar Carmel Valley Sharks youth club along with Battalion Head Coach Giovanni Vlahos. Through the Sharks connection, Barton learned about Barbato’s vision for a community based club, and was impressed with everything he heard from Coach Vlahos. Barton wanted to know if his players would be welcomed amongst the Battalion’s ranks. Barbato duly agreed to give the former Flash players a chance, and then upped the ante by asking Barton to support the Battalion in a more official capacity.
Barbato explained his gambit to SoccerNation.com, “Warren has been so succesful in his career as a player and now as an analyst at FOX. His experience in the San Diego area and his familiarity with the NPSL league makes him an invaluable resource for our club and I’m delighted he has agreed to serve as an advisor to me.”
The San Diego Flash have a long and storied history, and despite their longevity as a household name amongst San Diego soccer fans, the reality is that the Flash have failed to fulfill their stated goal of establishing a professional soccer club in San Diego. But while the Flash have fallen, the Battalion have risen to take up the baton and assume the mantle of what the Flash could have really and should have been. “We feel that we have a responsibility to our community to be the club that the Flash couldn’t be.” said Barbato. “And it isn’t a responsibility we take lightly. We want to be an asset to our community and we want to empower our supporters to believe that we will achieve our initiatives.”
There are still hurdles for the Battalion to overcome before the 2016 NPSL season starts. They will need to sell season tickets, and secure sponsors. They will need to engage the community and unite supporters. They still need to announce their plans for where they will play their games. The road is long and there are many miles yet to travel before the first goal is scored; but the support of Warren Barton is definitely a massive boost for the Battalion.
Thank you to Dave Riddle and Aaron Uher for their photographs