Manning among national nominees for UPSL Player of the Week
Playing a new position for a new team forced 17-year-old Hatcher Manning of Anchorage to reinvent himself on the soccer field.
The striker-turned-midfielder developed into a more complete player with improved strength and better field vision in his time with the Alaska Timbers of the United Premier Soccer League.
Manning’s growth was on display during last weekend’s two-game series against the Fairbanks Soccer Club as he bagged three goals in back-to-back victories of 2-1 and 3-0 at Kincaid Park in Anchorage.
“It’s been great playing for this team. I’ve gotten more physical. I’ve gotten more confident,” Manning said. “It’s brought my game to a whole new level.”
With the two wins, the Timbers finished the spring season with 16 points on five wins and a tie to clinch the championship in the Last Frontier Division. The Arctic Rush came in second with 11 points.
Manning’s marvelous play in the series earned him national recognition as he was one of four players nominated for UPSL Player of the Week.
“It’s just a nomination, it’s not like it’s an award,” he said. “It does still feel pretty good.”
Manning, of Service High fame, played for a Timbers youth team before the senior team joined the UPSL this season. At tryouts, he was surprised how many current and former college players showed up.
“There was a lot more talent there than I expected. It was tough,” he said.
The UPSL is a development league with teams all over the country. Four Alaska teams in Anchorage, Fairbanks and the Mat-Su Valley were added to the mix and excitement was off the charts.
“We got the best players from Alaska,” Manning said. “I heard somebody refer to it as an all-star league and I think that’s the best description.”
The opportunity to play in the UPSL came at just the right time for high school players like Manning, who had their season wiped away due to COVID.
The Class of 2021 standout was the only junior nominated for Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year. Last year as a sophomore, he was named all-state and led Service with 18 goals.
But he said the UPSL is worlds apart from the CIC.
“It’s a faster game, more physical, a lot better. It took me a while to get used to it, but this experience has made me better as player as a whole,” Manning said. “I’ve gotten a lot better on the field. I’ve become more social off the field, which has kind of been a big deal. It’s benefitted me as a whole.”