CPSL This Week
Kathy RumleskiLondon Free Press
Defensively they're sound. Through the middle, the team is solid.
London City manager and coach Harry Gauss is hopeful some new talent will help there as the team starts its sixth season in the Canadian Professional Soccer League tonight at home.
"Everything is for naught if you're not putting the ball in the back of the net," he said.
City scored 22 goals last season, the same number as the North York Astros, with only the Brampton Hitmen scoring fewer at 19.
Gauss said he has two main goals this year.
"Fifty per cent is turning (City) into a team and 50 per cent is putting balls in the back of the net."
Newcomer Isa Bulku will add some speed to the forward line.
The striker will make the jump from the Western Ontario Soccer League Premier Division, where he plays for the Exeter Centennials, to the CPSL.
Gauss has had to replace forward Janko Stukic, defenders Tyler Hemming and Gerald Gallacher and goalkeeper Josh Wagenaar.
He's still looking for a keeper who can back up Anthony Camacho but the other areas have been filled.
"I'm fairly happy everywhere right now," Gauss said.
Besides Bulku, Gauss has been impressed with CPSL rookies Jeff Russell, a sweeper who also plays for the Western Mustangs and London Portuguese, and midfielder Greg Rebello, who plays for Strathroy Portuguese.
Haidar Al-Shaibani, who plays for London Croatia, is on City's roster but will not play tonight because he has a hamstring injury.
"He has just looked so good in speed and strength," Gauss said. "He has been a more-than-pleasant surprise all the way through."
Al-Shaibani can play anywhere on the field, including goal, but Gauss will likely use him as a striker.
Two teenagers who survived all the cuts and are on the roster are Derek Battin, 17, and Adam Legg, 19, both of Aylmer.
Battin is a midfielder and Legg is a left-side defender. They also play for WOSL's St. Thomas team.
"You can never have enough left-sided players," Gauss said.
The fresh legs will help bring speed to the squad, Gauss feels.
"I'm looking for more team speed because I felt we were the slowest team in the league last year."
City begins its season against the Durham Flames, who lost their first game of the year 2-1 to the St. Catharines Roma Wolves last week.
The Flames ended the 2002 season in fifth place with a 7-10-2 record in the Eastern Conference. London was seventh in the West at 2-10-7.
The Flames' only goal against the Wolves came on a penalty kick by Jamoh Welsh at the 65th minute, but the sides were close throughout the match.
The Flames are a quick team, which will pose a challenge to City.
"This will be a good test of our team speed right now," Gauss said.
City will play its first six games at home before hitting the road.
Gauss said he never gets a perfect schedule but the schedule should be irrelevant if the team is doing well.
"If you're not doing well, the schedule factors in there heavily."
Game time tonight at Cove Road field is at 8:30 p.m.