Whitehorse soccer fans received an early present of high-octane soccer action just before Christmas.
The Canada Games Centre’s Fieldhouse stands were packed as Yukon’s top soccer players took part in the 2014 Selects Annual Christmas Soccer Showcase on Dec. 22.
The main feature of the evening was a pair of short matches between the Yukon Selects and Total Soccer Excellence Academy players with former and current Canada Games players, post-secondary players and national team players – a real who’s who of Yukon’s elite.
“We need this level of competition week in, week out,” said Selects men’s coach Spencer Rich. “It’s so hard to have that in the Yukon, but if we could get this going once a month, once every six months, it would be really beneficial to all the players.”
The showcase kicked off with a women’s match between the Yukon Selects and the younger U20 Academy Girls.
After the Academy jumped out to a 3-1 lead, the Selects caught up with a pair of goals, ending it in a 3-3 tie.
“We like to do the Selects against the younger girls,” said Selects goalkeeper Emily Hoefs. “It’s great training for the younger girls and it’s a great way for the older girls to still have opportunities to play.”
The Selects forced the tie on a goal from Amy Vermeulen – her second of the match – in extra time. Selects forward Laura Whitty also scored.
Putting the Academy on the board was Thea Carey with two goals and Sam Wintemute with one.
“The comeback was really good,” said Selects’ Megan Lanigan. “We fought to the end having no subs. We had two or three subs and they had an army.
“When I’m in Victoria (at university), I always look forward to playing in these tournaments. Seeing all these girls and hearing about what they did at university – I love it.”
Following some short U10 Strikers half-time show matches, the Yukon Selects men took on the U20 Boys Academy team.
With four goals in the final eight minutes, the Selects ran away with a 5-0 win over the Academy.
“It took them 15 minutes for the Selects to gel and once they gelled, we figured out what (the Academy) was doing: they were pushing three up, so they were trying to compress us in. Once we rotated our defender to make the runs down the left, it created opportunities and we managed to get odd-man opportunities and score some goals,” said Rich. “Their goalie (Timber Schroff) kept them in it. He made some good saves.”
Scoring for the Selects was Stephen Dynes with two, plus goals from Harrison Kwok, Caleb Kelly and Dom Pehar.
The Total Soccer Excellence Academy was founded in May of 2012 and is aimed at furthering the development of local players. It runs year-round for male and female players ages 8 to 20.
“Three years ago Victor (Lavanderos) and I started an academy, Total Soccer Excellence Academy,” said showcase organizer Jake Hanson. “We started with kids training twice a week pretty much year round. Last year it was three times and this year it’s four times a week.
“So the kids come up here after school, or at Porter Creek outdoor in the summer time, and it’s primarily kids who are in the Strikers club or who are playing for the Yukon rep teams that want more soccer, more development.”
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