With the kickoff of the match between the Vancouver Whitecaps Women and the Victoria Highlanders Women in Langford yesterday evening, the western Canadian soccer picture for the summer of 2011 has almost become complete. From Major League Soccer down to the Pacific Coast Soccer League, almost every summer team of consequence west of the Canadian Shield is now in action, fighting to win their respective titles and get whatever glory can accrue to them in whatever league they're in.
We at Eighty Six Forever have always been fans of Canadian soccer at whatever level. So, with affairs well underway across the greatest half of this great nation of ours, it was long-past time for a brief look at western Canadian soccer action from Nanaimo to Winnipeg and all points in between. Well, maybe not all points (still waiting for you to get an MLS team, Regina!), but we're doing our best.
If you have results from a high-level competition not listed here that you'd like to see reported, or if there's another competition you'd like the site to track, don't hesitate to send an e-mail using the link at the bottom of the page or report it in the comments. If you'd like me to stop talking about this crap, don't hesitate to tell me that too. After the jump, the year so far in sub-MLS western Canadian soccer.
Please note that all results or scoring will usually come from official team or league websites (lower division webmasters aren't always scrupulously accurate, and apart from anything else I spotted a couple players' names being misspelled as I was compiling this). I regret any inaccuracies and encourage you to report them, but if you're using this as inside information to run your gambling syndicate you're a moron.
North American Soccer League
Only one western Canadian team in NASL action this year, but they're off to a decent start. FC Edmonton has lost their two home games by a combined score of 8-0 which might have caused you to forget the fact that they're going pretty well on a road-heavy schedule. The Eddies have beaten the Atlanta Silverbacks twice and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers once, drawn FC Tampa Bay on a last-ditch Chris Kooy equalizer, and lost to the Carolina Railhawks (who are beating lots of pretty good teams lately). As a result, the expansion FC Edmonton team finds itself running third in the league behind Carolina and the Puerto Rico Islanders.
Because this is the North American Soccer League, their schedule is pretty screwy: Edmonton's next game is at home against the NSC Minnesota Stars next Monday, giving them twelve days off between games. Obviously the team hasn't been beating the cream of the NASL and they better start winning home games to turn the fans on, but nobody can deny they're off to a better-than-expected start.
USL Premier Development League
The Abbotsford Mariners, who last year were among the doormats of the USL PDL Northwest Division, aren't off to a much better start this year. The Mariners looked ugly losing 2-1 to the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency last Friday night at Empire Field and returned home to play a 0-0 draw with the Victoria Highlanders. Victoria is expected to have a pretty good team this year and a 0-0 draw may sound good, but by most accounts the Highlanders carried most of the play. Abbotsford's only goal this year was from Mark McQuade, who hit a beautiful shot from distance that flew past Whitecaps Residency goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre into the top-left corner.
- The Vancouver Whitecaps Residency already gets plenty of attention in this space so I won't belabour them too much. They're off to a decent start with one win over the Abbotsford Mariners and a loss in their home opener to the Kitsap Pumas. Their next game is in Victoria on this coming
SundaySaturday apparently as part of some "hey let's have all the Canadian teams play each other as quickly as possible" scheme from the USL PDL scheduling gurus.
- The Victoria Highlanders have had a mixed start to their season. In their first game of the year at Jeld-Wen Field, the Highlanders ended the Portland Timbers U-23's historic 20-game unbeaten streak in USL PDL play. Backup goalkeeper Eliott Mitrou was the hero of the hour, stopping two penalty kicks, while substitute forward Jared Stephens scored the only goal in a 1-0 Victoria win. However, the Highlanders then lost 2-1 in Kitsap and mustered only a 0-0 draw in Abbotsford, giving them a 1-1-1 record through three games all on the road. They finally return the ironically-named City Centre Field at Bear Mountain Stadium in Langford, British Columbia when they take on the Whitecaps Residency on Sunday.
WSA Winnipeg, the newest addition to the western Canadian soccer universe, has not yet begun competitive play. Their first game is Saturday, May 28, when they host the closest-thing-to-a-local-rival-they've-got Thunder Bay Chill.
On a related note, have you seen the WSA Winnipeg schedule? In what is one of the most unusual things I've seen in my soccer-loving life, Winnipeg will play the entire first half of their schedule at home and then the entire second half on the road. I hope that's for a bloody good reason, that's all I have to say about that. This being the PDL, the road half of their schedule only lasts about five weeks: they head to Colorado on June 25 and play their last road game, barring playoffs, in Thunder Bay on July 14.
USL W-League (Women)
Western Canada has two teams at the nation's highest level of club soccer this year: the Vancouver Whitecaps Women and the Victoria Highlanders Women (you'll never guess which cities they're based out of). The Highlanders women, in their first year of existence, have already played two games at home: they drew the Seattle Sounders 0-0 on a stormy Victoria evening and then lost 2-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps Women yesterday.
The Vancouver Whitecaps Women have played one game so far in the 2011 W-League season, and if you look up one entry you'll see who it was against. Tiffany Weimer, an alumnus of Penn State, picked up a brace on her debut in a 2-0 win at Victoria. Kristen Funk kept a clean sheet for the Whitecaps ladies.
Annoyingly, the Whitecaps have decided to move their "home" games around the lower mainland this year. Take a look at their schedule: the Whitecaps Women will play in Coquitlam, Chilliwack, Surrey, Whistler, Richmond, Penticton, and Langley. That's only three games in the greater Vancouver area and none in Vancouver proper (as well as none at Burnaby's Swangard Stadium, which would at least be fun for the old supporters). This more-or-less denies the ladies a home base, which is a big disadvantage for a team that might be scrapping for a W-League title this year. Still, the season's off to a good start for them.
Pacific Coast Soccer League
The 2011 PCSL Premier Men season kicked off on Saturday. The division boasts seven teams this year with the departure of the Athletic Club of BC and the Victoria Highlanders Reserves but the addition of Mid Isle Highlanders FC, which isn't so much a continuation of the old Highlanders reserves as a new team based in Nanaimo associated with the Victoria USL PDL club.
In the first weekend of action, Mid Isle lost their debut 5-1 away to the Vancouver Thunderbirds, with former five-time Canadian U-20 Brandon Bonifacio among those scoring in the rout. The other game saw the Okanagan Challenge beat the Kamloops Excel 2-0 in Kamloops on a brace by Enzo Paal.
- The Vancouver Thunderbirds also lead the Premier Women division thanks to two wins in two games over TSS Academy and NSGSC Eagles, with Lisa Furutani scoring in both games. But they'd best watch out for the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Prospects; the Prospects went almost undefeated last season, losing only in the playoff final when it matters most, but they've kicked 2011 off on the right foot. In their only game so far, the Prospects waxed Abbotsford 8-1 in Abbotsford, thanks in no small part to four goals from Nahiomy Ortiz.
- If you're interested in the reserve divisions, then you either play in them or you're insane. In the former case you don't need me to tell you the standings. In the latter case, the Penticton Pinnacles have the early advantage in the Reserve Men division with a 2-0-0 start and the Kamloops Heat as well as TSS Academy are jockeying for the lead in the Reserve Women.
British Columbia Provincial Cups
The winners for the 2011 tournament season in British Columbia have been decided. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, provincial powerhouses Surrey United have won their eighth straight premier women's championship, beating Westside FC 1-0 in the final Sunday in Aldergrove. Midfielder Nicole Stewart scored the winner for the team coached by former Canadian national team and Vancouver Whitecaps legend Jeff Clarke.
On the men's side, ICST Pegasus made it a Surrey double as the team beat Columbus FC in the "A" cup final on a goal from Jag Gill. Both teams will now advance to their respective national tournaments this October in Quebec.
- Other winners in the cups were the Victoria Highlanders U-21 taking the Doug Day Cup for the men's U-21 bracket over the Coquitlam Metro-Ford Junior Wolves. The U-21 women's cup going to NCUSC Fusion over Damsesh United FC. West Van FC won the men's master's championship and the women's classics went to Semiahmoo Supra. Shaheen FC won the men's B cup and Richmond FC Selects the women's.