SOUTH SURREY – The Under-18 Surrey United Soccer Club boys’ team came out of the 2013-14 season unblemished after not losing a game in league, cup or even at the national club championships last weekend.
Jeff Clarke’s team won gold after defeating Ajax Soccer Club of Ontario 3-0 on Monday (Oct. 13) at South Surrey Athletic Park to officially end the season unbeaten.
Clarke, a former Whitecap and national team midfielder, said the support the boys received from the crowd was amazing.
"There were over 1,000 people there from Surrey United. The field was jam packed with red and black jackets," he said. "There were some five and six-year-olds there and some of our senior players were there."
The boys started the tournament on a high note, beating Winsloe-Charlottetown Royals FC 4-0 in their opening match last Wednesday (Oct. 8). The coach said that the score line flattered the team representing Prince Edward Island as Surrey squandered plenty of chances.
The following day, the team beat Rapides de ChaudiÃƒÂ¨re-Ouest 3-1 in a tougher test. United was up 3-0 before giving away a late penalty kick to the squad from Levis, Quebec.
United’s third match against Bonivital Soccer Club on Friday (Oct. 10) was the ultimate test for the boys as they conceded the first goal. However, they "woke up" pretty quickly and scored two goals against the Manitobans.
With 15 minutes remaining in the match, defender Arsh Chahal picked up his second yellow card and was sent off, leaving Surrey to play the rest of the match a man down. Clarke said the boys remained calm and remained organized to ride out the 2-1 win.
Knowing they only needed to avoid defeat
to qualify for the final, United held the Edmonton Drillers to a scoreless draw on Saturday (Oct. 11).
In Monday’s final, Clarke said that he’s never seen a team with so much hunger and desire to win and the boys scored their first goal pretty quickly, which put them at ease.
After all five matches, Surrey United was the best defensive team of the tournament allowing only two goals. The squad was also one of the better offensive teams, scoring 12 goals.
"If I was to be critical of the boys this week, and they were quite fantastic, we missed a lot of scoring chances," said Clarke.
The head coach and technical director of Surrey United also said that remaining
undefeated was one of the team’s goals they made at the beginning of the season.
"It was one of our team goals, but it was one of our lofty ones that didn’t allow much room for human error or chance," he said. "The boys just showed up at every single training session and every single game and that was easily the best goal we achieved all year."
Surrey United’s Kyle Sohi was jointleading goal scorer of the tournament with Mountain United FC’s Olamide Ajibike and Dzenan Bezdrob. All three players scored five goals.
The Coastal FC girls’ team was also in the tournament’s girls division and finished with the bronze medal.
Coach Mark Pennington said it was difficult trying to get permission for the players to compete in the tournament because most of the team members were now training with university teams.
He said one coach didn’t give permission for a player to compete in the tournament.
The girls were in the same tournament last year and finished fourth, but Pennington believes that if the full squad was available, they may have finished higher.
Compared to last year’s tournament, the team lost six defenders and three players had to pull out of the tournament shortly before it started due to injury. Pennington said the team had to pull up emergency players to cover the roster.
Despite all the knocks his team took, Pennington said he was proud of the girls and noticed the only match they lost all season was to the eventual champions – the North Mississauga Panthers.
"I couldn’t be prouder of how the girl’s played and how they competed and dug deep. This is the last time these girls will play together," Pennington said.
The way the groups were set up also didn’t help the girls as three of the most competitive provinces – B.C., Ontario and Quebec – were pitted against each other in the same group, which meant only one of the three teams would make it to the final.
On the final day, all of the teams from group A (Ontario, B.C., Quebec, P.E.I. and Saskatchewan) all won their games.
The coach also mentioned how this event was special for the club and the girls as Coastal FC hosted the tournament. He said all of the support from the community probably helped the girls get through the fatigue and kept them going.
"It was pretty special being at home with a lot of support and cheering from the home crowd," said Pennington.