From here to the pros and back

Steve Gerace
Ian Anderson with two of the players on his U-12 soccer team that he believes have what it takes to go a long way in the game, Corey Slabaugh, left, and Jenni 
Heikura. They’re 
holding his old Mount Shasta High School and Chicago Fire jerseys.

Ian Anderson went from playing youth soccer in Mount Shasta all the way to what he calls “a taste of the pros.”

Now he’s back as a youth soccer coach, saying his goal is to help open doors for other talented young players in the area.

Anderson said he was helped by influential people in the soccer world as he advanced to play one preseason with Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire, and he’d like to play that role for others.

His entrance as a U-12 coach of the Mount Shasta team now known as The Fire caused some excitement on the local soccer scene.

The newspaper received several requests to do an article about Anderson. Those requests included comments such as, “He could be just what Mt Shasta needs to get soccer noticed big time in the area” and “Mount Shasta's Youth Soccer Program just got a huge boost.”

Helped along the way

Anderson said a highlight of his career was being able to train and play with former Major League Soccer star Zach Thornton.

He said he was helped in his younger years, while living in San Jose, by attending a camp led by Junior Olympics scout David Gold.

Later, after a playing four years of college soccer, Anderson said LA Galaxy coach Curt Onalfo “helped open the door for me to play with The Fire.”

Anderson has a national coaching license and said he was offered a chance to train as a coach with the LA Galaxy.

“But I want to be here for a couple years to help these kids,” he said prior to a recent practice with his Mount Shasta team.

He said Mount Shasta soccer board vice president Rich Viturino helped “open the door to get back into the world of soccer here. He and I have become very good friends almost wingmen of sorts.”

Local soccer progressing

Anderson believes several of his U-12 players have the talent to eventually play at the high school level and beyond.

He said Jenni Heikura “is an excellent defender who has the technical abilities” to some day play at the Division I college level.

Cory Slabaugh is playing U-12 with The Fire, but is ready to move up to U-14, Anderson said.

He said, “Ireland Cross is a very gifted well rounded defender. Her leadership skills are unmatched by any 12 year old in the league.”

Others like Bliss Powers, Alicia Moore, Casey Day, Taylor Beggs, and Asher Aguirre “are progressing at a rapid rate and when they came into the season were raw untrained players who had a general idea of how the game works, but in three weeks their skills have been correctly trained and their technical abilities on and off the ball have improved greatly,” Anderson said. “They do have the skills to advance.”

Overall, he sees youth soccer in the Mount Shasta area “making progress in the right direction. It’s going from recreational to competitive. The league is progressing.”

With his experience and connections, Anderson believes he can help open doors for local players to get college scholarships and beyond.

“I want to develop youth players,” he said. “The talent is here. Our players are behind in skills, but they’re just lacking player development. I think I can bring out the talents in others.”

The first MSHS team

Anderson started playing soccer in Mount Shasta at the U-14 level after his dad retired and the family moved north from San Jose.

He was a key player on Mount Shasta High School’s first soccer team in 2005. One of his highlights that season came during a key league win over Burney as the Bears were chasing a spot in the playoffs.

When goalkeeper Shon Bollock was injured just before a Burney penalty kick, coach Rob Davies moved Anderson to the net, and he blocked the penalty kick to help preserve a 2-1 Mount Shasta win.

After college, he spent four months with the Chicago Fire in 2010 and got into a couple preseason games.

“To train with the pros is fantastic,” he said.

But a torn ACL short-circuited his career and led him to life-changing realizations.

Life-changing experience

He said he eventually broke his addiction to pain killing medication and realized that he wasn’t as “untouchable” as he thought he was.

“When you get knocked down, it’s an eye-opener; I had nothing but time to reflect and see the errors of my ways,” he said, referring to his “wild child” years.

He said he went into a depression and “had to figure life out. I lost my smile for a while. I was not sure what I was going to do. But I always wanted to coach; I want to coach the high school team eventually.”

He said that experience helped him gain perspective, humbled him, and “helped me be more accepting and wanting to do things that benefit others. I’m still learning to be more patient and humble.”

He moved back to the Mt. Shasta area in 2012, where his parents Jack and Kathy Anderson still live, and where he hopes to grow the local soccer fire.