Despite the labour dispute affecting the use of Vancouver fields, the 2007-2008 VMSL season got off to a good start as all 7 Premier Division games were played. Needless to say, all 7 games were played outside of Vancouver! No major upsets took place as most of the games were closely contested and hard fought. Perhaps the most stunning result was Sporting Club’s emphatic 4-1 victory over perennial powerhouse Surrey United as the Cloverdale-based team struggled during the entire 90 minutes of play against the very strong and determined Portuguese team. On Friday evening, at Byrne Creek School in Burnaby, the season got under way in a very bright fashion for the defending Group ‘B’ champions, Sporting Club of Vancouver. As mentioned earlier, the Portuguese team waltzed to a decisive 4-1 victory over the visiting Surrey United. Led by the fine play of defender Mark Gomes and midfielder Mike Wooldridge, Sporting Club dominated proceedings from start to finish and fully deserved the uncharacteristic margin of victory. Sporting Club took the lead at the 15th minute mark when Matt Ormerod, after streaking down the right flank, crossed the ball into the Surrey United box where an unmarked Ryan Dormer calmly controlled it and slotted it home for the go-ahead goal. Early in the second half, Sporting Club added to its lead when Mark Gomes converted a penalty kick that was awarded when Ryan Dormer was fouled inside the penalty area. After Surrey United had narrowed the margin—on a goal by Ryan Hopp—Sporting Club restored its 2-goal lead when Mike Wooldridge converted an impeccable cross from Mike Gomes. Wooldridge then added insult to injury when he scored his second goal of the match as he took advantage of some sloppy defending by intercepting a Surrey United back pass before chipping the ball over goalkeeper Paul Shepherd. Also on Friday evening, at Mundy Park in Coquitlam, the Norvan Eagles and the Metro-Ford Wolves kicked off their season with a closely-fought encounter that ended in a 1-0 victory for the visiting North Shore team. The Eagles got off to a good start as Danny Nind, James Wilton, and Blake Burgon drove the Metro-Ford defenders to distraction with their pace and constant pressure. The Wolves recovered from the early onslaught and began creating chances of their own, mostly due to the fine play of young veterans Emilio Bottiglieri and Andrew Veer. In fact, the Norvan goalkeeper—the newly signed Mike Norris—came up with a couple of brilliant saves late in the first half to keep Metro-Ford off the scoresheet. Most of the second half was a carbon-copy of the first 45 minutes as both teams took turns attacking. The turning point of the match occurred midway through the second half when Nick Slaney and John Reda were inserted into the Norvan lineup by new coach Craig Smith. The two substitutes seemed to turn things around as they exerted some considerable pressure on the Metro-Ford defence. In fact, it was Nick Slaney who scored the lone goal of the match late in the game as he skipped past 2 defenders before tucking the ball behind goalkeeper Zach Burns and into the back of the net. Metro-Ford came storming back but some more excellent goalkeeping on the part of Mike Norris kept the score at 1-0 in favour of the Eagles. The third Friday evening place took place at Confederation Park in North Vancouver as the two newly-promoted teams—Delta Metro Blaze and Westside FC—met in a cross-over match. Westside controlled most of the match but was unable to penetrate a very stubborn and well-organized Delta defence. Led by Louis Hughes, Tim Sowerby, Tommy Loewe, and Daniel Tshimba, Delta kept the Westside attackers at bay throughout the entire contest. Coached by Randy Samuel—the most-capped player in Canada’s soccer history—Delta appeared satisfied with defending and counter-attacking. The strategy paid off late in the match as Shane Waterhouse—on a brilliant set-up by Paulo Valdez—was able to race in all alone and score the lone goal of the match. It should be noted that defensively Gaby Bourbara and Dave Irvine played extremely well for Westside FC, albeit in a losing cause. On Saturday, the Sapperton Rovers hosted West Van FC at Queen’s Park Stadium in a Group ‘A’ match that ended with the visitors edging the Rovers by a 1-0 margin. West Van carried most of the play during the first half and fully deserved its 1-0 lead at the break. Jesse Fetterley scored the lone goal of the match in the early going and his teammates managed to squander several other opportunities that could have put an end to Sapperton’s chances of recovery. In the second half, however, the Rovers came roaring back and, led by the indomitable play of Ted Ullrich, came close to tying things up on several occasions. Both goalkeepers—Cory Breure for Sapperton and Marco Durante for West Van—played extremely well throughout the match. Veterans Nico Berg and Mike Dodd were at the very best in the West Van line-up in their respective defensive and midfield roles. Ryan Glanville and Drew Gelley also deserve special mention for their fine play in a winning cause. Also on Saturday, at Town Centre Stadium in Coquitlam, the Vancouver Firefighters got off to a great start by defeating the rather disorganized AFC Leopards by a 3-1 margin. The Leopards had most of the play in the first half, due mainly to their speed and technical skills. However, some timely saves by former Whitecaps goalkeeper Mike Franks kept the game scoreless till halftime. The Firemen took control of the match in the second half and scored 3 great goals to lay claim to all 3 points. The first goal originated from a great through ball by another former Whitecap—Jeff Skinner—which sent Peter Bergholtz flying down the wing. Bergholtz’ cut-back pass was calmly tapped into the net by Niall Thompson—yet another former Whitecap—for the opening goal. Soon thereafter the Leopards knotted the score when Desmond Tachie converted a clever set-up by Gretshen Waite for the equalizer. The Firemen recaptured the lead a few minutes later when Jeff Skinner once again played the role of the provider as he sent newly-signed Trevor Rosencrans in on goal. Rosencrans made no mistake as he unleashed an unstoppable shot past AFC goalkeeper Che Koostra-Nair. Late in the match, the Firefighters added the insurance marker as Greg Pears and Chris Jarvie combined to set up Niall Thompson for his second goal of the match as he calmly chipped the ball over Koostra-Nair’s head into the net. The third Saturday game was played at the new turf field at Burnaby North High School and featured Croatia SC and Indo FC in a hotly-contested Group ‘B’ match-up. Both teams came prepared to play and exhibited some excellent skills and a lot of competitiveness. The final 2-1 score in favour of Croatia SC does not tell the entire tale of the match as Indo FC probably deserved at least a tie. After having a goal called back—for an offside infraction—Croatia took the lead midway through the first half when two newly-signed veteran players—Rob Hall and Oliver Heald—combined to score the first goal of the game. It was Hall’s perfectly-placed free kick from the middle of the park that found Heald in the middle of the Indo FC penalty area. Heald, a former Whitecap, took advantage of a defensive lapse as he pounced on the loose ball and slotted home the go-ahead goal. For the remainder of the first half, and for most of the second half, Indo FC attacked relentlessly in search of the equalizer. Unfortunately for the visiting team, however, it was Croatia that added to its lead on a goal by Mike Masi midway through the second half. Despite the 2-goal deficit, Indo FC continued to press and came very close to scoring on several occasions. Goldy Takhar, David Samra, and Patrick Mohammed were particularly unlucky not to narrow the margin as they came very close to scoring but were thwarted either by the woodwork or by some excellent goalkeeping on the part of former Indo FC (and Vancouver Whitecaps) goalkeeper, Didar Sandhu. Late in the game, Indo FC was finally rewarded for its perseverance when Robby Toor converted a superb cross from Patrick Mohammed. All in all, a very entertaining match! Congratulations to both teams!! Finally, also on Saturday at Charles Best School in Coquitlam, the match of the week took place between Columbus-Clan FC and ICSF Inter. The ‘Italian’ Derby lived up to expectations as the numerous fans were treated to some entertaining and exciting soccer action. The final result, 3-2 in favour of Columbus, was a bit of a shocker as ICSF led by a 2-goal margin for most of the match. Inter got off to a great start, scoring 2 goals in the early going and missing a few other golden goal-scoring chances—in particular a poorly-executed penalty kick by Matt Judd. It should also be noted that Columbus goalkeeper, Luca Dalla Pace, stood on his head on various occasions to prevent Inter from scoring. Kevin Crouch opened the scoring when he headed home a Bevan Footman free kick. After Judd had missed his penalty kick, Crouch himself took the responsibility of taking yet another 12-yarder and added Inter’s second goal to the scoresheet. At this point Inter seemed content with the result and reverted to a defensive strategy, a strategy that came back to haunt them. Throughout the second half, Columbus attacked relentlessly as second half substitutes Robbie Cairns, Davide Xausa (yet another former Whitecap playing the VMSL), and Brendan Stabeno injected a much-needed spark to the attack. With 15 minutes left in the match, and with the score still 2-0 in Inter’s favour, Columbus was able to get on the scoreboard when Robbie Cairns curled a brilliant shot from outside the penalty area into the top right corner of the net. Columbus continued to demonstrate a lot of character and snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat by scoring two more excellent goals in the dying moments of the contest. First, defender Tony Gaita took advantage of a goalmouth scramble to tie the game with 5 minutes remaining in the match. Then, with practically the last kick of the game, Tiarnan King converted a brilliant pass from Joey Scigliano into the winning goal. All in a all, a remarkable performance by the entire Columbus squad! It should be noted that Columbus is the defending Province Cup champions and will represent BC in the upcoming National championships in Nova Scotia. TEAM OF THE WEEK: COLUMBUS-CLAN FC for its brilliant performance in defeating ICSF Inter by a 3-2 margin in a game played on Saturday at Charles Best School in Coquitlam. Inter led 2-0 for most of the match and only some amazing demonstration of grit allowed the defending Province Cup champions to come back and claim all 3 points. Columbus will represent BC in the National Championships which will be held in Nova Scotia during the Thanksgiving weekend. GOOD LUCK BOYS! PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Vancouver Firefighters’ NIALL THOMPSON for his remarkable 2-goal performance in his team’s hard-earned 3-1 victory over the AFC Leopards. Thompson, last years’s GOLDEN BOOT AWARD winner, got off to a flying start this season by scoring 2 brilliant goals to lead his team to an all-important victory. For his outstanding performance this past weekend, NIALL THOMPSON will receive a prize of a pizza for two, compliments of THE GOLDEN BOOT CAFFE`. The prize is available up to 2007-09-27.