A goal here, a goal there, and results could have been a lot different for the two Yukon Strikers teams at the National Soccer Club Championships in Vaughan, Ontario.
The Strikers U-14 boys and U-14 girls teams went winless at the championship, placing last out of 12 teams, but both had tight battles along the way.
The Strikers girls tied Saskatchewan 0-0 on Thursday and New Brunswick 1-1 on Sunday.
“Overall, we’re really happy with the performance,” said Strikers head coach Doug Harris. “We had a great tournament.”
The Strikers also narrowly lost 1-0 to P.E.I.‘s West Prince Storm on Saturday.
“That was a little disappointing,” said Harris. “We started a little slow, gave them a goal, but then we dominated the rest of the game. We probably had 10 good shots to their two, but we couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.
“That was disappointing because of the three teams we had to finish with, we knew that was the one we could beat. We just didn’t quite get it done.”
The girls finished the championship with a 3-0 loss to Newfoundland’s Mt. Pearl Stingers on Monday.
The 0-0 tie with Saskatchewan could have paved the way to a historic run for the Strikers. The Yukon squad opened the nationals with a 6-0 loss to the Burlington Bayhawks, Ontario’s No. 2 team, on Thursday in the ranking portion of the championship.
Had Burlington defeated Saskatchewan by more than six goals on Friday, Yukon would have been in the top-eight pool of teams for the playoffs for the first time. Instead, Burlington, which went on to win the gold, defeated Saskatchewan 1-0.
“And we tied Saskatchewan, so we’re obviously competitive,” said Harris.
Getting the shutout tie for the Strikers against Saskatchewan was goalkeeper Sandy Dubois.
In the 1-1 tie against New Brunswick, strong offence from the Strikers’ attackers caused an error by New Brunswick, scoring on their own net.
“We played really well that game,” said Harris. “We started a little bit slow, but in the second half we were in their end probably 80 per cent of the time. We had all sorts of chances, we just couldn’t get the ball in the net.
“The hard work paid off and, at least, there was one on the scoreboard,” he added.
“Sandy Dubois played really well for us, consistently, in goal. Avery Bramadat, I think, played every minute of the tournament, as did Christine Moser. They’re both defenders. They really held the line, all the way through the tournament.”
The Strikers boys didn’t take in a win or tie, but they didn’t leave empty handed. The team was given the Fair Play Award for their sportsmanship at the championships.
“That’s a reflection of the fact that we were really were a fair-spirited team,” said head coach Ed van Randen. “That really does reflect this team actually. This team has a really great camaraderie, they’re good buddies and they show it on the field too. They are very positive to each other and the other team. They really deserved that award.”
The Yukon boys had their closest matches over the weekend, losing 3-0 to Halifax City on Saturday and 2-1 to Newfoundland’s Mount Pearl on Sunday.
“We played well in both of those games,” said van Randen. “Our defence and our goalkeeper (Luka van Randen) was really excellent; he played really, really well. He really did play well in those two games.”
Scoring the Yukon’s goal against Newfoundland was fullback Logan Harris on a corner kick from centre back Malcolm Muir.
“Then (Harris) had a header right after, that he missed by just a little bit, that would have made it 2-2,” said Ed. “(Muir) had a fantastic game – both of those games he played really excellent.”
The Strikers began the nationals with a 14-0 loss to Alberta on Wednesday, followed by a 7-1 defeat to P.E.I.‘s Sherwood Parkdale Rangers on Thursday, with centre mid-fielder Callum Wood-Ryan getting Yukon’s goal.
The Yukon boys finished the championships with a 7-1 loss to New Brunswick on Monday.
With the score at a narrow 1-0 going into the second half, New Brunswick went on a scoring spree, scoring five goals in about five minutes.
“We had a bad five minutes,” said van Randen. “That was unfortunate.”
Against New Brunswick, Wood-Ryan got his second goal of the championships, scoring on a free-kick from 30 yards out, tucking it in top corner.
“He’s really a solid player,” said van Randen. “He played every minute of the tournament. He played centre in the mid-field – so a really important position for us. He’s just a great, hardworking player, very generous with the ball and a good leader.”
The two U-14 squads were the only Yukon teams that competed at the nationals this year, down from five last year.
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