A ragtag team is probably a poor way to describe them, but the Yukon did have a soccer squad at the Alaska Invitational in Anchorage over the weekend that was thrown together at the last minute.
The Yukon SC Elite, as they were named, were clearly competitive at the tournament, but fell in three close, one-goal losses, failing to make the playoffs. Elite’s final losses came with the opposition scoring the winning goal in the last four minutes of each game.
“The Selects didn’t get a team to go, so we ended up getting a bunch of guys – mostly young guys,” said Elite coach and player Jake Hanson. “It was mostly an under-23 team, plus Peter (Mather) and myself providing leadership and playing a bit, and one guy from Juneau who wanted to join us.
“Probably a dozen of them are under-19 players. So it was a combination of the Yukon Strikers U-19 team and the Selects team, essentially.”
In fact, the Elites registered the team so late, organizers of the tournament listed the team incorrectly as the Yukon Selects, the territory’s premier men’s team.
“They did list us as the Selects – I registered the team a bit late as Yukon FC Elite,” said Hanson.
“They’ve always known our Yukon team to be the Selects, so they just put us in the schedule as Selects.”
Starting the round-robin with a shutout loss, the Elites failed to produce in a 1-0 defeat to New Segaya from Anchorage.
“They have traditionally been the second-strongest club in Anchorage,” said Hanson. “They used to be called International and they’re sort of a veteran club with some older, experienced players.”
In the second game, playing the Street Development Academy from Anchorage, the Elite managed to tie the game with a goal from Jeff Hills on their way to a 2-1 loss.
“Jeff has been playing out at Grant MacEwan (University) and is trying out for University of Alberta this year,” said Hanson.
Facing the defending champion team, the Rusty Buffaloes from Fairbanks, the Elite again got on the board with a goal from Stephen Dynes – who also plays on the MacEwan Griffins men’s soccer team in Edmonton – before another 2-1 loss.
“We had every opportunity to win that game,” said Hanson. “We were all over them, but we couldn’t hit the back of the net.”
The Rusty Buffaloes, who went on to win the tournament, also defeated the Yukon Selects men’s team in last year’s final.
“Usually the Selects are one of the better teams at the tournament. They’ve been in the finals three times and won it in 1999, so we send a team that usually goes and does very well,” said Hanson. “And we’ve developed a bit of a camaraderie with some of the Alaskan clubs now, in particular the (Rusty Buffaloes) from Fairbanks. So we’re hoping they’ll come and play us, possibly this winter – if not, next summer.”
With a handful of players about to tryout for university teams, the tournament was good preparation for younger players as they head to the trials, said Hanson.
“There are five or six players in town right now that are preparing to go try out for college and university teams, so there were probably four kids on the team that were able to go this weekend – and it’s right before the trials, so it’s really good for them to see this level (of competition) going to their trials,” said Hanson. “It gives them a little more confidence and preparation for the level of play they are going to need to be at.”
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