The Selects Men’s and Women’s Annual Christmas Showcase put the Yukon’s soccer talent of all ages on display at the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse on Dec. 19.
Featuring two games, the evening started with the women’s Selects taking on the Yukon U18 girls team in the opening game before the men’s Selects played the Yukon U18 boys team.
Played with arena rules in an arena, the game forced players out of their futsal comfort zones to play within the older code of rules.
Women’s Selects beat U18s in women’s game
Things got off to an exciting start for the crowd as the women’s game was close from start to finish, with the U18 side making a push in the second half as they adjusted to the game.
The final score was 4-3 for the women’s Selects, with a number of goals coming on highlight reel plays.
Spencer Rich, coach for the U18 squad, said his team took some time adjusting to the arena rules.
“We play a lot of futsal,” said Rich. “That’s all we play now, so I thought that we struggled in the first half to adapt to arena, which is kick and chase.”
The team did adjust, though, and Rich was happy with the way the second half unfolded.
“I thought we controlled the game in the second half really well,” said Rich. “We moved the ball well. We changed a little bit of the lineup strategies, gave some of our players a little bit more permission to do one versus one and be creative that way.”
Players on the team echoed their coach’s sentiment, adding the showcase was an excellent precursor for the upcoming Insomnia tournament, which is played with rules somewhere between arena and futsal.
“It challenges us and prepares us for the upcoming tournament we have … the Insomnia tournament,” said Kaydia Campbell.
Campbell’s teammate Abby Rich said given that the team almost won the tournament last year, she’s hopeful this game might be the difference this year.
“I think it’s just a really good experience overall to be able to play with such high-level players,” said Abby, who had two of her team’s goals. “It’s mostly the ball and the board because we’re not used to the ball — it’s really bouncy. So just this game, we could already see ourselves improving by the end.”
Teammate Bayly Scoffin agreed.
“We don’t usually get very much competition,” said Scoffin, explaining the team typical plays against younger competition.
The majority of the girls team will be competing at the upcoming Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse, and Spencer said he hopes this game will help with preparations.
“I think our girls learnt a lot from it,” said Spencer. “It was good for us to play that level of physicality and even that speed is different from futsal and that will get them ready even more for Arctics.”
Men’s Selects stage comeback win over U18s
The nightcap on the evening’s event was between the men’s Selects and the Yukon U18 boys team.
Things started slowly for the boys, as the men adjusted faster to the arena rules and took a 3-2 lead into half time.
Far from over, the U18 boys popped in two goals in a row to take a 4-3 lead with plenty of time remaining in the second half.
The Selects tied the game with just over 10 minutes to play and managed to find a game winner to secure a 5-4 victory before time ran out.
Ash Jordan, a player for the men’s Selects team and a coach for many of the players on the U18 team, said the style of game was a bit of a throwback.
“None of us are used to playing in here anymore,” said Jordan. “It was really fun changing it up and everybody took a little bit to get used to it.”
As is often the case, the mood changed once the youth took control of the game.
“I think some of these men don’t realize how much these boys have grown over the year,” said Jordan. “It took (the boys) going up for the guys to kind of snap into it and go, ‘Oh wait a minute here; we gotta play hard.’”
The showcase is over a decade old, said Jordan, and is ingrained in the soccer community.
“To watch these kids grow up — they used to come here when they were little and watch us play and want to be here one day — it’s super cool to be a part of it and see the level they’ve grown to now.”
Callum Weir, the keeper for the U18s, had one of the toughest adjustments to make — live rebounds on missed shots.
“The first half I wasn’t really used to it — they got a goal from that,” said Weir. “The second half honestly it’s just about getting my body wherever I could see the ball and go for it.”
Weir echoed what so many others said — the arena rules were a jolt to the system.
“It’s nice to be able to get a bit out of our comfort zone,” said Weir. “It’s nice to get on the ‘grass.’ Scrapes are a bit rough, but it’s nice to get out and have a different game.”
Including Yukoners playing Outside in the game is something Weir said is a nice touch.
“There are quite a few people — like Tyler Milton coming back from England and Skyler (Bryant) coming from university, Dawson (Weir) coming back from Denmark — (and) it’s nice to see them again,” said Callum. “Dawson is my brother, so it’s good to see him and play against him — I haven’t done that in a while.”
What Jordan highlighted, though, was the crowd and the atmosphere.
“Every year there are more fans and more fans,” said Jordan. “It’s a pretty special event to be part of.”
Callum also mentioned the crowd.
“You get the crowd out and get them involved,” said Callum. “It’s great. It’s good for the territory and we’re using the facility for what it’s meant for.”
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at email@example.com