2003 Champs - Mount Pearl or St. Lawrence?

After viewing most of the games in Round two, I am firmly convinced that this year's Provincial Challenge Cup Champions will be either Mount Pearl Sportsbeat or the St. Lawrence Laurentians. Although Corner Brook did end the regular season in Round One, I personally don't feel Corner Brook has any chance or are anything near what it takes to be a Provincial Champion. Also, there is the fourth place team, who have advanced as the top team in Tier 2 and will join the three clubs in Tier 1, but it would take a miracle for this club to win. The top team in Tier 2 would have to win three consecutive games. Of course, this club could beat Corner Brook but they would also have to defeat Mount Pearl and St. Lawrence on Labour Day Weekend before they would be declared Provincial Challenge Cup Champions. At this time I will take a look at the NLSA's top two men's soccer teams, evaluate each team, position by position, and give my prediction should they meet in championship game on Labour Day Weekend.

Goaltending:

St. Lawrence Laurentians: John Douglas, N. J. Edwards, Keith Jackman
In regular season play, while the Laurentians coach Junior Edwards was searching for a number one keeper, he basically shared the goaltending duties between John Douglas and N. J. Edwards. In early August, after Douglas was identified as the Laurentians top keeper, he sustained an injury in exhibition play in St. Pierre. This injury, combined with a very poor performance by Douglas in the opening game of Round 2, led Coach Edwards to very quickly contact former Laurentians goalie Keith Jackman and add him to their roster. Keith had been the Laurentians star keeper during the 1990's. It appears the Laurentians coaching staff are second-guessing their goaltending and if Douglas miscues in any shape or form in Game one, I wouldn't be totally shocked if Jackman or N.J. were to start, should the Laurentians make it to the final. If not, Coach Edwards will probably cross his fingers and stay with Douglas.
Mount Pearl Sportsbeat: Gerald Connolly, Jamie Korab
Throughout the 2003 season, Mount Pearl's number one goalkeeper, Gerald Connolly has led the league in shutouts. Yes, a number of people may feel Mount Pearl's shut-outs are more of a reflection of their team's strong defensive than of Gerald's abilities, but I think Connolly is quite capable of getting the job done and is much under-rated. Mount Pearl's back-up keeper Jamie Korab, who comes from Harbour Grace, supplies adequate support. Jamie Korab was on the world championship Brad Gushue Curling rink, so I guess he is a world class athlete.
Goaltending Advantage- Mount Pearl

Defence:
St. Lawrence Laurentians: Blair Aylward, Robert Kelly, Bob Spearns, Jeff Warren
If the Laurentians are required to play three games in three days, age may play a very important factor here should the Laurentians veterans, Bob Spearns (36), and Jeff Warren (35), play all 90 minutes in the Laurentians games. This season I have been totally impressed with the steady play of Robert Kelly, and Blair Aylward has been his usual very steady self. If Mount Pearl is to be victorious they will have to exploit, constantly run and pressure the Laurentians back line.
Mount Pearl Sportsbeat: Victor Dray, Carl Reddy, John Kelly, David Bailey
While Victor Dray is the mainstay of the Mount Pearl back line, I like the cohesiveness of the Mount Pearl unit. Collectively, all four players play a very important role and do it extremely well. Coach Walt Mavin has done just fine in manoeuvring his players from defence to midfield, or vice-versa, and I realize he does this according to his opponent. Good quality coaches generally do move around his players accordingly.
Defence Advantage-Mount Pearl

Midfield:
St. Lawrence Laurentians: Andrew Perrott, Chris Caines, Adam Loder, Clinton Edwards
This foursome led by Andrew Perrott could very well dominate Mount Pearl. Although, Caines certainly hasn't had a banner regular season, he has had a very good second round. Caines definitely has the ability to shoot from outside and it is his shot that will always be a threat in the big game. Adam Loder is by far the Laurentians "Most Improved Player" and is starting to get an eye for the net. Versatile Clinton Edwards, the Laurentians MVP, has solidified the Laurentians midfield in Round 2. This unit can contribute offensively as well.
Mount Pearl Sportsbeat:
Will Hearn, John Acreman, David Manning, Mark Reddy
John Acreman can run miles. He is strongly supported by a much-improved Mark Reddy. David Manning is solid, while young Will Hearn gives this position great speed. Even so, I feel this unit is not a great offensive threat to other teams.
Midfield Advantage - St. Lawrence

Forwards:
St. Lawrence Laurentians: Rudy Norman, Richard Kelly, Ryan Drake
Both Richard and Rudy have had an off-season, while young Ryan Drake does posses good speed and is starting to learn where the net is.
Mount Pearl Sportsbeat: Alex Turpin, Jeff Walsh,  Rob Carter
Jeff Walsh is the leagues highest goal scorer while Alex is a very strong candidate for the league MVP. Rob Carter's 8 goals demonstrate that he can also put the ball in the net.
Advantage- Mount Pearl

Coaches:
St. Lawrence Laurentians: Coach Junior Edwards
Former NLSA "Coach of the Year", former "Challenge Cup All- Star Coach", former "Sport Newfoundland & Labrador Coach of the Year" and the holder of 6 Challenge Cup coaching titles.
Mount Pearl Sportsbeat: Coach Walt Mavin
Top candidate for NLSA "Coach of the Year" in 2003 and has coached the Mount Pearl entry in Challenge Cup soccer for the last five seasons. He has never coached his club in a provincial final.
Coaching Advantage- St. Lawrence

Field:
Mount Pearl is hosting the Challenge Cup Weekend and I feel this is certainly an advantage for Mount Pearl.

Intangibles:
St. Lawrence Laurentians: The Laurentians history shows they are winners. They have won 19 Provincial Challenge Cup titles and are presently looking to make this championship their 9th consecutive. They also have the best fans in the country.
Mount Pearl Sportsbeat: Mount Pearl, who has a 30-year history in provincial soccer, has never ever played in the Challenge Cup Final. Teams generally learn how to lose before they learn how to win the big game.
Coach's Corner Prediction: I expect the winner of Game One on Labour Day Weekend between St. Lawrence and Mount Pearl to be the Challenge Cup Champions. In five games thus far this season between St. Lawrence and Mount Pearl, it is quite evident that both of these teams are quite capable of beating each other on any given day. Actually, St. Lawrence's three victories, compared to Mount Pearl's two victories, show that there is very little difference between the clubs. I predict the winner will be St. Lawrence

Dunphy's Details: Coach's Corner All-Star Team and award winners for 2003 are:
Strikers: Alec Turpin, Jeff Walsh
Midfielders: Shane Antle, Andrew Perrott, Chris Roche, John Acreman
Fullbacks: Clinton Edwards ,Victor Dray, Carl Reddy, Blair Aylward
Goalie: Matthew Prim
Coach of the Year - Walt Mavin
League MVP: Alec Turpin
Top Defender:Clinton  Edwards
Most Gentleman and Effective Player: Victor Dray

Gord Dunphy is a former Challenge Cup 1990's All - Star coach of the St. Lawrence Laurentians and National Bronze Medallist. He can be reached by e-mail at gorddunphy@email.com