Coach's Corner

2007 Challenge Cup forecast

Southern Gazette June 5. 2007

By Gord Dunphy

gorddunphy@email.com




2007 Challenge Cup forecast

Well it’s still cold but the grass is green and soccer balls are being kicked around for the past six weeks or so at the King George V Pitch in St. John’s. There’s no doubt this pitch is beautiful, but this venue has the worst parking grounds in all of Canada.

I’ve a got a $30.00 ticket to prove it! I got this ticket while I was watching my niece, Katie Dunphy who plays with the NLSA U-16 team.

Anyway, soccer is booming in this neck of the woods and with a pre-season schedule completed, you can get ready for one heck of a great soccer season. The teams playing in the spring league are already in fine form, and here is a look at those teams with my predictions on what you are about to see in the 2007 season.

ST. LAWRENCE LAURENTIANS:

Coach: Derek Strang

Strength: The top 15 players on the Laurentians rank with any other club’s best in the country. Their strength is the players the Laurentians have performing down the middle – Richard Kelly, Rudy Norman, Clinton Edwards, and Marc Pittman. New additions Mike Howlett, Robert Kelly and Joe Checchini certainly make the Laurentians early season favourites.

Weakness: With Alec Turpin’s unexpected retirement, the Laurentians lack a strong physical presence. Actually, St. Lawrence Soccer Association need to put a strategic plan in place and make plans for the long term. Players on a team that rank below the Laurentians’ top 15 players should be young players with potential that are capable of playing beyond the next two seasons. We must again start developing some of our own young prospects for St. Lawrence to secure a soccer future. The Laurentians, carrying a selection of mediocre intermediate players, who can do very little to contribute to the Laurentians of today or to the St. Lawrence Laurentians of the future, need to evaluate these players.

Key Performers: Clinton Edwards, Rudy Norman and Paul Slaney.

Coach’s Corner Comments: The Laurentians in 2007 may very well be the best team in Eastern Canada. The Laurentians need to start thinking big time and look outside the box. I feel for far too long we have been satisfied with the winning of a Provincial Challenge Cup Championship, instead of putting greater focus and attention into a National Championship. This year’s club categorically has the potential to compete for the National Challenge Cup.

Prediction: 1st place

HOLY CROSS/THE KEG:

Coach: Bernard "Fox" Reddy

Strength: Jon Hawco is their strength. With the addition of Zack Wade from last year’s Provincial U-18 squad, plus Karl Reddy coming over from the Mount Pearl team to wear the gold and red colors, this should up their calibre.

Weakness: Holy Cross lacks real leadership from any one player.

Key Performers: Jon Hawco, Jeremy Babstock and Corey Moore.

Coach’s Corner Comments: Holy Cross is back and is for real. Their loss in the Provincials last year hurt, but the club will benefit overall from that loss. Winning is a developmental process and you will see Holy Cross much hungrier for victory this season. Holy Cross has the potential and the desire to compete with the Laurentians and could possibly upset the Laurentians for the Provincial Challenge Cup.

Prediction: 2nd place

MOUNT PEARL/THAT PRO LOOK/MOLSON:

Coach: Walt Mavin

Strength: Their numbers and their raw talent.

Weakness: Mount Pearl lacks heart.

Key Performers: John Kelly, Justin Pickford and Gerald Connolly.

Coach’s Corner Comments: Mount Pearl needs a big time shake up. The team needs to get motivated and play with a greater desire to win. This club has become stagnant and with the movement of John Acreman and Karl Reddy, this verifies the team has internal squabbling but with the return of Will Hearn and Victor Dray, Mount Pearl’s deserters shouldn’t be missed. In order for Mount Pearl to move forward, veterans Andrew Moyst and Bernie Manning must become role players, not core players.

Prediction: 3rd place

BURIN SHOOTER EAGLES:

Coach: Albert Anstey

Strength: Burin’s home field, the ‘Alphonse Warren Memorial Pitch’ in Salt Pond will give Burin a great advantage in their home games.Burin has performed rather well on their home pitch, while all other clubs find it a disadvantage playing on this relatively small surface.

Weakness: Game fitness. The fact all other Challenge Cup clubs have participated in a seven game spring league certainly will make Burin play catch up during their games in the early part of the season.

Key Performers: Jeremy Brenton, Shannon Francis and Colin Power.

Coach’s Corner Comments: Burin's young players will continue to develop and with the folding of the Marystown United team, Burin will be the beneficiaries.

Prediction: 4th Place

FEILDLIANS ERNST & YOUNG ORENDA:

Coach: Pat Kennedy

Strength: Goaltending

Weakness: This club lacks goal scoring. The Feildians will absolutely need Matthew Wilkins, or a quality replacement for him, if they are going to be any kind of threat in this league.

Key Performers: Matthew Prim, Steven Croft and John Acreman.

Coach’s Corner Comments: The Feildians of 2007 look to be more upbeat, but their lack of raw talent will strike against them in the end. Coach Kennedy will get the most out of his squad but overall this team lacks offensive skill.

Prediction: 5th place