The Springbank Soccer Club’s (SSC) U17 men’s team did its club proud at the 2018 tier one outdoor provincial championships, held in Edmonton Aug. 23 to 26. Though the squad came home with seventh place, the tournament proved a valuable learning experience for the players – most of whom are still only 15 or 16.
“They did very well. They probably exceeded expectations, as they were a [younger]team for the U17 age group,” said SSC technical director Chris McKaig. “As a club, we were really impressed and very pleased with how they finished.”
Springbank had qualified for provincials by finishing second in Calgary’s U17 tier one outdoor league. Despite its youth, the team finished with an 8-1-0 record, scoring 21 goals and conceding only five. Springbank’s record was the same as Calgary Foothills 17 (which won the division), but came second due to the two teams’ head-to-head record.
“They did really well and the boys worked hard all season,” said Nigel Brattle, the team’s assistant coach. “They were out [training]four times a week, so they put a lot of time and effort into it.”
At provincials, Springbank got off to a decent start in the round robin Aug. 23 by tying Calgary’s East Memorial Football Club 1-1. But the team fell the next day to the Warriors Soccer Club of Edmonton, 4-3.
That loss was followed by another narrow defeat to an Edmonton side, as Springbank lost 1-0 to the Inter Soccer Club Aug. 25.
McKaig said Springbank was competitive in all three of those games – and perhaps the better team, in a couple of them.
“There were a few games where we were in leading positions – we were 2-0 up in one game – and didn’t pick up the three points,” McKaig said. “We had a few chances to score some extra goals that might have killed the game off, but we weren’t able to do that.”
The first three results meant Springbank didn’t have the chance to contend for a medal.
“The learning experience for the guys will be that when we’re in a leading position, it’s learning to take advantage of opportunities that come our way, while keeping the door closed at the other end,” McKaig said. “We didn’t do a great job of that, but that’s exactly why we go to these events – it’s to learn and be better tomorrow than you are today.”
After picking up just one point in its first three games, Springbank rallied back for a positive performance in the consolation game for seventh place. The team tied the Calgary Villains 1-1, before winning a penalty shootout 3-2.
Brattle highlighted that it was the team’s reserve goalkeeper who emerged the hero in that match.
“Because we had two goalkeepers, in our last game, I played our keeper, who’d been sitting on the bench all season,” he said. “He did really well in the game and in the shootout, made two penalty saves.”
Another factor that affected the team’s performance at provincials was that Springbank was missing a few key players, according to Brattle. Two were injured, while one of the team’s star players – Akwasi “Junior” Agyekum – had joined the Vancouver Whitecaps’ residency program just weeks before the tournament.
“We knew he was going [to Vancouver], but he was a strong player and obviously we missed him at provincials,” Brattle said.
The team took a short break following the tournament in Edmonton, but Brattle said the athletes are already training again to prepare for the 2018-19 indoor campaign.
Since the majority of the team will play one more year of U17 in both indoor and outdoor, McKaig said the SSC’s hopes are high with this group of players.
“Most of them should’ve actually played U16, so the fact they were able to finish joint-first in the league [in outdoor]is something they should be pretty happy about,” he said.