It’s been a while in the making, but the Mountain United under-17 boys soccer team are prepared to take on the best teams from around Canada for national bragging rights.
The Burnaby-North Shore based B.C. Soccer Premier League squad kicks off the Toyota national championships Oct. 9 in Prince Edward Island, eager to make an immediate impact.
Distance presents one challenge – although most teams will be out of their comfort zone in the land of Anne of Green Gables.
The other is time – it has been a long time since the team’s last meaningful game in June. Britain’s gone through two Prime Ministers and a couple of Brexit proposals in that span.
The roster of 17 includes a majority of Burnaby names, a handful from the North Shore and one each from New Westminster, Richmond and Port Moody, all banding together to cap a season that has stretched into fall.
Being that they won the right to contend by beating Surrey United 1-0 back at the beginning of summer while other provinces wrapped up their championships much more recently, the B.C. champs enter the tournament with an extra element to the unknown. Can they pick-up where they left off? Is the chemistry still intact?
Head coach Craig Ogilvie believes they can.
“The boys have picked up where they left off,” he said. “From winning provincials they have come back to this phase with a purpose. Training has been of high intensity and really good quality.”
North Van’s Lucas Booth and Burnaby’s Lucas Dasovic are the lettered leaders, but Ogilvie said numerous players have a role in that department.
A number of players are heading to their second nationals, having been on the Mountain United squad that competed at the 2017 championships.
Getting back to the tournament – which is held for U15 and U17 levels – has been a major goal for the boys.
“The biggest success was their technical ability, game awareness and overall team spirit that got them this far,” noted Ogilvie. “They have been one of the dominant sides for years. We have lost two players to the Whitecaps in the last few months but the majority of the team have been consistent over the last three years.”
At provincials, Mountain opened with a decisive 4-1 triumph over Coquitlam Metro-Ford, then advanced to the final by blanking Fraser Valley 4-0.
It was a well-played final, with Mountain coming out with a 1-0 victory. Things will be different at nationals though.
“(Our) biggest challenge will be the unknown as they are used to playing against a certain type of player,” said Ogilvie. “(The) time difference will also be a major factor, as will rest between games.”
The schedule doesn’t provide a lot of time to see the sights. On Oct. 9 they open against Manitoba’s champions, followed a day later with a game against Ontario. On Oct. 11, Mountain lines up against Saskatchewan’s Regina SC, and after one rest day, they close out the round-robin on Oct. 13 against New Brunswick. It all comes to a conclusion on Thanksgiving in the championship final.
B.C. is usually in the mix when the smoke clears, but Ogilvie said nothing can be taken for granted.
“I would say there are four teams – B.C., Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec – that are the favourites to win. We have a good chance due to our technical ability, solid defensive unit and an array of attacking qualities.
The North Shore players include Booth, a centre midfielder and team captain who has played with MUFC since he was 12; defender Matthew Harland; centre midfielder Jordan Curlier; and both the team’s goalkeepers, Michael O’Flynn and David Justin Moretto.
The Burnaby players heading east for the nationals are Dasovic, Luca Alberti, Matias Estay, Joshua Greco, Zakiy Karim, Nicholas Momotani, Zachariah Thomas and Imran Zohdi. The New West player is Dylan Wells, the Port Moody player is Hamish Ogden, and the Richmond player is Rodrigo Tiscareno.
The squad has been active fundraising for the costly travel expense of getting to P.E.I., with raffles, silent auction, a pub night and grocery bagging events. They’ve received support from Canada Soccer, B.C. Soccer, Mountain United FC, Novus as well as local stores like Superstore and Safeway. The team also has a gofundme page – https://tinyurl.com/y3uvo4er – where people from the community can kick in their support.
- with files from Andy Prest, North Shore News