Two Yukon Selects FC teams were in Laval, Que. for the Canada Soccer National Championships U15 Cup from Oct. 3 to 8, with one of the teams earning an historic seventh-place finish.
The boys team opened group play with a 3-1 loss to eventual bronze-medal winners Edmonton Warriors SC. The lone Yukon tally in the match came from a penalty kick driven home by Joe Hanson.
In the second game of group play, the Yukon team bested Halifax Dunbrack SC 2-0, earning a spot in the quarterfinals. Goals for the team came from Sullivan Bond and Hanson.
The quarterfinal matchup against Winnipeg Bonivital SC was a hard-fought match, ending in a 1-0 win for Winnipeg off the back of an Alessandro Calado goal in the 44th minute.
That loss knocked the Yukon team out of medal contention, and a 3-0 loss to AS Blainville meant the boys were playing for seventh place on the final day.
Against Feildians AA St. John’s, Selects FC put home three — one each from Ivan Johnson, Ben Kishchuk and Bond — to secure the win and seventh place overall.
On the girls side of the draw, the Yukoners dropped matches to Calgary South West United SA 16-0 and FC Regina 12-0, putting the team into the seeding phase of the championship.
Losses during seeding to Fundy SC, PEI FC and Conception Bay South SC meant the girls Selects FC team finished 12th overall.
Boys head coach Ash Jordan said while he wasn’t surprised with the success on the scoreboard, his players might have been.
“The week was unbelievable,” said Jordan. “I knew these boys were able to pull off results like this. Coming seventh out of the country is a pretty big feat for a little place like this.”
Jordan said the coaching staff expected a solid finish.
“My expectations and the expectations of our coaching staff were to finish somewhere in here,” said Jordan. “I think we could have finished a little better. Getting there and seeing the competition and the games we did play, we could have finished higher.”
For many of the players, this was a rare chance to play against someone their own age — and size — at a national level.
“This group of guys, growing up especially, always had to play an age group up, so they were always the smaller kids on the field,” said Jordan. “This year was the first time I think ever that they’ve played their own age group, so they were able to match up physically and match up (in) speed and skill.”
If the team didn’t have high hopes before the championships, Jordan said they do now.
“I don’t know that they were expecting to do so well, just from past experience,” said Jordan. “But I know their eyes are open now that they can perform on a national stage.”
Certainly one of the unexpected narratives for the team was the scoring touch of goalkeeper Sullivan Bond who found the back of the net in both victories.
“Double O Seven, we call him. He’s our secret agent,” said Jordan, adding that Bond has always been a goalkeeper for the team.
“We sent him on a run one game out on the pitch and he scored potentially the biggest goal in soccer history, moving us into a position that nobody (from the Yukon) has ever been in. He’s going to have a decision to make for himself if he wants to stay in net or stay out, but he was a goalkeeper up until this last week,” said Jordan. “I’m pretty proud of him and I know he’s super excited to have been able to contribute the way he did.”
Asked if any players in particular stood out, Jordan said that just about every player on the roster raised their level of play during the tournament. The coach named a handful of players — centreback Kaelan Lewis, left fullback Arya Khodakarami and goalkeeper Callum Weir — before stopping himself.
“I could go on and on about every single player,” said Jordan. “Everybody brought their game to a totally new level and set a (new) bar.”
The futsal season is now underway, but the teams are enjoying a well-deserved break before jumping into a busy winter schedule that includes a tournament in Saskatchewan next March and builds into the Western Canada Games next summer.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org