The Whitehorse FC Yukon Selects U15 boys soccer team was in Richmond, B.C., over the long weekend for the 27th annual Richmond Thanksgiving Soccer Tournament on Oct. 12 and 13, finishing undefeated with two wins and two ties.
Competing against teams from the B.C. Coastal Soccer League’s Division 1 and Metro Division, the Yukon team were the runner-ups despite playing the tournament with a handful of much younger players.
Joining the players from the U15 group were three U13 players as well as a U10 player.
Head coach Sean Alden explained the idea was to try to put together a competitive side from front to back after the team’s return from a Labour Day tournament last month.
“We took a U15 team down to the Labour Day tournament in Vancouver and played in a metro (division) and we played well, but were definitely missing a few key players in a few key positions,” said Alden, adding that he knew there was plenty of talent in the younger age group. “I thought maybe we can bring those players together and see if they mesh well and work well and are able to train in that environment.”
It went well, Alden said, so the club held tryouts to put together a select team for the tournament.
Whitehorse FC opened the tournament on Oct. 12 with a 2-2 tie against Coquitlam Metro-Ford Soccer Club Valencia. Ryder Brulotte scored his first two of four goals for Whitehorse FC in the draw.
Later that day, Whitehorse FC was back in action against Vancouver United FC Fury — the eventually division winners — as the two teams played to a 2-2 draw. Scoring for Whitehorse was Seba Insley and Brulotte, who tied the game with just seconds left to play.
On Oct. 13, the Selects defeated Coquitlam FC Royal 1-0 on the back of a Kade Bringsli free kick converted near the end of the first half. John London earned a hard-fought clean sheet in the victory.
The final match of the weekend was a 5-1 victory for Whitehorse against the host Richmond FC Rangers. Bringsli had two goals in the victory, while younger brother 10-year-old Cameron Bringsli had one, Louis Mouchet had one and Brulotte had one.
Alden said that the mix of players was a success.
“These players definitely are very intelligent players. They’re very mature in terms of their tactical awareness and their technical ability is right on point in terms of comparison to other academy players I’ve worked with in the past,” said Alden about the youth on the team.
“It worked kind of how I thought, and hoped, it would. Everything kind of slips into place and we developed more – we worked more as a team – after it was selected and tactically we were light years ahead of the previous team we took to the Labour Day tournament.”
Snowfall here in Whitehorse coupled with the upcoming Arctic Winter Games trials mean the focus is now on futsal for the foreseeable future.
Alden, who has been working with the group for nearly a year, said the improvement has been notable.
“I’ve seen nothing but improvement and I’ve seen lots of growth in terms of their tactical awareness of the game and that’s something that maybe needed a little bit of work — the mental awareness, field vision, comfort on the ball,” said Alden. “At this young age, these kids have been such sponges. They’ve really taken on that opportunity to learn and grow and it’s been working exponentially.”
Soccer, like all team sports in the Yukon, struggles with the fine balance required to both provide opportunities for all to play as well as opportunities for players to excel, and Alden thinks select teams may be a part of the solution.
“I think the numbers seemed to have dropped over the past few years, it seems, in terms of soccer and things like that, so it’s something we’re obviously looking to change,” said Alden.
“Offering different levels of training is going to be a big part of that. You can’t have an elite group without development below that, but training in the right environment with like-skilled players is very key. So obviously getting numbers out supporting the growth of the program is going to be important moving forward for sure.”
Growing the game and increasing the quality may seem to be pulling in different directions, but this tournament is proof for Alden that drawing from a larger player pool may be the answer.
“I want to offer the opportunity to go and compete against metro-level teams in Vancouver — that’s the goal,” said Alden. “We have the talent here, but we don’t necessarily have the talent within one age group to have strength all the way through the squad. There is definitely some talent there that we should be able to draw upon and I don’t think it’s going to be much of a problem moving forward.”
Futsal trials for the 2020 Arctic Winter Games are Nov. 1 to 3 at Yukon College for both female and male teams.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org