AHA MEDIA at “Vancouver Street Soccer League vs City Hall” Soccer Tournament in Vancouver
The Vancouver Street Soccer League Takes on City Hall
In a series of classic confrontations, Vancouver Street Soccer League (www.vancouverstreetsoccer.com) teams tested their skills not only against each other, but also against a City of Vancouver team lead by Mayor Gregor Robertson on Saturday, December 4 at Memorial South Park.
Many people contributed to the organization of the tournament and even Mother Nature chipped in by giving us a beautiful sunny day. Malcolm Bromley and the Park Board had an amazing new turf field for us to Christen with some soccer magic. Continuing their strong support of Street Soccer, the Portland Hotel Society provided tents, heaters, food and other pieces of the puzzle through our great PHS-based volunteers, including Kailin See and Sarah Blyth who had lead organizational roles. Snacks and drinks were generously provided by the Vancouver Food Bank. Andrea Reimer, Sarah Blyth, and Amy and Gregor Robertson recruited a strong team for the City. Ex-Vancouver Dream Catcher turned AHA Media reporter Peter Davies and Vancouver International Soccer Festival President Adri Hamael were quick to answer the call and then make all the right ones as referees. We also felt the love of Street Soccer friends across the country as everyone received a Street Soccer Canada toque from Paul Gregory and Wendy Perkins at SSC headquarters in Ontario. The live music by Good for Grapes completed the atmosphere, and Kurt Heinrich ensured the event got the attention of the city by once again attracting prominent media coverage (http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20080124/BC_Vid_Newscast_080124/20091203?hub=BritishColumbiaHome ; pick the broadcast from Dec. 4 and advance to the 7-minute mark). As usual, the comprehensive account was also recorded by April Smith at AHA Media.
As hosts of the tournament, Portland FC (www.portlandfc.ca) setup camp on Field 1 for the duration. Team Canada veterans and new recruits alike made sure that points weren’t easily gained by the competition. Randy showed moments of goaltending brilliance reminiscent of his all-star performance against Mexico at the Homeless World Cup, while Hector, Rik, Frank, Sid, Peter and Patrick put on a passing display that was tastier than Prime Time Chicken.
Like the Montreal Canadiens of Vancouver Street Soccer, the Eastside Sun Eagles brought their proven formula of intensity and reliable play to the tournament. Playing coach Lotfi and Team Canada penalty-shot expert Robert lead usual suspects Virgil, Hudson, Saul, Carlos, Bryan, and Shamaly in a relentless attack that gave Mayor Robertson a loss to revisit in his mind through slow moments in Council Chambers over the coming months. Keeper Hector was stingier than Ebenezer Scrooge, allowing only a single goal the whole tournament.
Since steamrolling the competition in their Street Soccer debut in the February, 2010 Going For Gold tournament, the Aboriginal Friendship Centre has consistently raised the bar of competition for the other VSSL teams. Saturday was no exception as Mel, Shane, Dennis, Quoc, Jerry, Jake, Aaron, Joseph, Conrad, Dude, Ted, Enrique, and playing coach Brian rolled shift after skill-laden shift in a system that Alain Vigneault would have been proud of. With small nets making goals hard to come by, Brian and Enrique impressed by each rippling the mesh and then providing an encore.
Like a series of election night nail biters, the City team, bolstered by VSSL volunteers, squeaked out a collection of close victories, but couldn’t beat the eventual tournament champions. The one – nil win over Portland FC must have been sweet redemption for the now legendary 6-5 Portland FC triumph over the Mayor and City Council 11-aside in the teams’ only previous meeting. Street Soccer fans everywhere are already debating the likely outcome of a balance-tipping third game. Mayor Robertson delighted the populace with game-winning goal. Not to be outdone, and possibly a signal that he intends to run for office himself, Diego lead the way with three match-deciding markers. Chris, Zoran, Kurt, Barry, Adrian, Ron, and Andy provided a supporting cast with more style than City Hall’s art deco relief.
By all accounts, the favourites of the tournament were Portland FC Phoenix. Not intimidated by the greatest collection of Street Soccer talent ever accumulated in Vancouver, the VSSL’s first all women’s team stepped up and rolled out an inspired brand of football. In one close game after another, Phoenix averaged less than two goals against per game. A slim one to nothing scoreline was all that separated Phoenix from the Mayor’s team and their male Portland FC counterparts could also only manage one tally against them. Keeper and City Councilor Andrea Reimer served early and frequent notice that unwanted guests weren’t welcome in her goal crease. Amy and Carla showed the poise of experienced veterans, while Sarah, Kailin, and Heather proved quick studies from their time practicing with Portland FC. Christa (“iano Ronaldo”) revealed step-over moves that will be dancing in the heads of more than a couple defensemen this holiday season. Meanwhile, Paula had something to teach Ryan Kesler about being an effective two-way player by establishing a formidable presence at both ends of the field. Kayla, Claire, Tracy, Tanya and the rest of the team must have been fired up by Lauren’s surprisingly effective battle cry as they brought the fight to the guys match after match.
In the end, there could only be one winner and on this day, the North Shore Shields would not be denied. The mountain men from the other side of the water went undefeated through all five games. Only the Sun Eagles managed to avoid a loss to the Shields by clinging to a zero – zero draw. A true sign of a dynasty team is even scoring throughout the roster, and with Steve, Trevor, James, Fred, Ramin, and Alex all putting up numbers in the goal column, the Shields could be the team to beat for the foreseeable future. However, the 2-1 victory over Portland FC must have been bittersweet for Steve, Trevor, and James who were on loan from the home side. Only time will tell if a return of their services will brighten Portland FC’s fortune in the next tournament. Masoud, Mori and Nathan were solid when called upon and coach Dave did his best Sir Alex Ferguson impression to guide his team through five impressive results.
The next VSSL action takes place January 8, 2011 in North Vancouver as the North Shore Shields and the VSSL host the Kelowna Kodiaks. Will the newcomers from the Okanagan be easy pickings or craftier than the Ogopogo? Stay tuned.
President, Vancouver Street Soccer League