Although the 2004 Challenge Cup season appears to just have begun, already twenty-five percent of the schedule has been completed. At this time I would like to focus on trends I see developing and current situations that I see mounting. I’m sure a number of these movements will continue throughout the year.
St. Lawrence Laurentians:
The Laurentians, after their first five games, have five victories for a total of fifteen points. The blue and white have scored a total of twelve goals and have allowed just three. A couple of the Laurentian games I watched were not impressive. These games included the ones between the Laurentians and Marystown (in Marystown), and the Laurentians and Mount Pearl (in Mount Pearl). These games were not exactly what one would call classics even though the end result was that St. Lawrence walked away from each with three points. Again, this may be a reflection of a team that knows how to win. A team that has a knack for coming out on top can play poorly and still find a way to pull of a win. After a mediocre performance in 2003, I sense Rudy Norman is back on track for a MVP season. I think Chris Caines is becoming a dominating player in midfield. Already in 2004, I have noticed that Clinton Edwards and Laurentians goalkeeper John Douglas are vying to be two of the best in the province at their position. Although the Laurentians have yet to be defeated at this point in the season, I believe that the key factor in the success of the Laurentians in 2004 is that Richard Kelly must return to his 2002 form.
Marystown, after their first five games, have nine points (2-2-1) with an extra point in a penalty shoot-out. I also realize that eight of their points have come by defeating Corner Brook. They have a total of two losses to Mount Pearl and St. Lawrence, which have occurred at home. This record is a clear indication that they are a lot better than the worst team- Corner Brook- but not ready, in 2004, to compete with the best. They have scored fifteen goals and allowed twelve. I wouldn’t exactly get excited just yet over the high number of goals for, since twelve of them were gained by defeating Corner Brook. At this stage the goals allowed by Marystown definitely indicates they have major problems defensively. I will have to wait and see if the price the Marystown Soccer Association are paying to fly Johnny Pickett and Brian Francis from Nova Scotia is worth it. I understand that United is also trying to recruit another goalkeeper as well.
Mount Pearl Sportsbeat:
How the mighty have fallen! This is certainly a cliché, which describes Mount Pearl’s season to date. After having a remarkable season in 2003, they have only experienced two victories out of a possible five thus far. They have scored nine goals and allowed six. Goalkeeper Gerald Connolly has gotten himself very fit and is looking exceptionally sharp. It may be sad to say but the opposite may be true for their full back unit who has looked rather weak. Chad Parsons is nursing an injury while Gerry O’Brien and Bernie Manning have looked much out of place in trying to adapt to the wing back position. Newcomer and midfielder Shane Antle has looked, at best, very ordinary. As of now, the greatest difference with the Mount Pearl club is that they have very little to show for their number of quality scoring opportunities. Alec Turpin and Jimmy Fleming are Mount Pearl’s two main strikers. Fleming has yet to score while Alec has on ly accounted for a mere one goal. Coach Walt Mavin may have upset the team chemistry by bringing in so many newcomers, which is unquestionably a very important ingredient in winning.
Holy Cross Crusaders:
If early indications follow true, Holy Cross may be the dark horse for the remainder of 2004. Three wins and one loss are not bad at all in Holy Cross’ start to the 2004 season. They already have nine points, scoring eight goals and allowing five. Last season it took Holy Cross nearly half the season to accumulate the same number of points and they had much more difficulty in scoring. The fact that their only loss has come at the expense of the Laurentians shows promise. I’m sure their early season victory over Mount Pearl must have been bittersweet due to the fact that former Holy Cross players Chad Parsons and Shane Antle are now members of the 2004 Mount Pearl entry. Jay Babstock, after struggling offensively last season, has scored two early season goals and appears to be back to his 2002 form. His brother Jeremy certainly brings heart to the game. The return of veteran J.B. Delizzo and Mark Fleming gives this young team good d irection and strong leadership. Since the last Canada Games I have enjoyed watching the talents of Steve Croft and Chris Roche. Both of these players are continuing to show promise. Although at this point I still feel their record may be overstated, I would advise opponents to be aware that this team shouldn’t be taken for granted.
This group of players are in for a long season. They will no doubt win some home games after the first round seeding has been decided. To date this squad has only one tie in six games and they have allowed a total of twenty-six goals while scoring nine.
The fact that the Burin Peninsula is involved in the Provincial Jubilee Shield ladies soccer maybe a positive for soccer. But after their opening weekend losses to their Avalon opponents by scores of 6-0 and 7-0 shows we’re really not ready to compete at that level just yet.
Gord Dunphy is a former 1990’s Challenge Cup All - Star coach of the St. Lawrence Laurentians and National Bronze Medallist. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com