Friday, June 10, 2005

London Rivals Will Not Face Off

Gryphons, City tie won't fly
By JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press
June 10, 2005

In boxing, they call a bout that is never going to happen a Sunday Fight.

While the new elite women's soccer teams aren't exactly fighting, there's enough animosity to fuel a terrific matchup between the London Gryphons and London City.

But it won't happen, despite City general manager Ryan Gauss considering a challenge to the Gryphons for a charity game. With an allusion to boxing, you could call it Socks in the City.

"We'd love to do it -- at their field or at the Cove -- and put on a real show for the fans of London and show them the best of women's soccer," Gauss said.

Such a showdown is comparable to the regular speculation over a London Knights-Western Mustangs charity hockey game. There are insurance concerns along with unlikely OHL approval.

"We're not permitted," Gryphons' Ed Lauterbach said. "We got releases from players' teams in the NCAA (U.S. college system) and our agreement does not allow games outside the W-League.

"Those schools have a major investment in their players so you can understand their concerns."

City opens Monday at Cove Road field in what the Canadian Professional Soccer League-associated group terms a summer-long tournament. They'll play Windsor Border Stars in an 8:30 p.m. game.

Meantime, the Gryphons were to hit the road this morning for a 1,500-kilometre return trip with stops at Holland, Mich., for a game against the West Michigan Firewomen tonight, and at Cincinnati against the Ladyhawks tomorrow night.

But don't expect the London teams to make the short hop to play at either Cove Road or the Gryphons' field, North London Stadium. Judging by what is known of the teams and their personnel, it would be an interesting game.

The Gryphons have had a powerful start in the W-League's Midwest Division, which has entries in Chicago, Cleveland, Fort Wayne and Detroit, as well as Holland and Cincinnati. They have three wins and a draw in four starts.

Coach Aaron Lauterbach gives a verbal rundown of a roster that includes Kent State all-American striker Kimberly Dimitroff of Oakville and touches on 17-year-old surprise Devon Romak from London's Lucas. "We were going to sign (Romak) to London United but she played her way on and has been on the field every minute of every game as midfield anchor."

Ed Lauterbach likens his team to the London Knights.

"We've got good chemistry and good players," he said. "Good players alone isn't enough. They do everything for the good of the team; they're a lot like the Knights."

They're still a long way from the Knights' record 31-game undefeated streak, but their start is promising.

The City women are an unknown quantity beyond a roster led by captain Eva Havaris that boasts some excellent elite players. Monday's game will be their first toe in the water in meaningful play.

It is not without some effort the CPSL's women's division is getting underway. The Ontario Soccer Association threw up some roadblocks initially, questioning whether there was an adequate number of elite players to stock six teams.

Besides City, other teams are Toronto Supra, North York Astros, Durham Storm, Border Stars and Vaughan Shooters. As the Gryphons did last year, they'll play the tournament format then open with a league schedule next year.

Like Lauterbach, Gauss touches on the commitment his players have shown.

"We have a remarkable commitment, attitude and skill level," he said. "I think we're going to be very competitive."

Crossing The Pond

A number of young players from London and surrounding area hope to hone their skills in the coming year with European teams.
By KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press
June 10, 2005

European soccer fields are full of international players. London has been represented there in the past and this year some new local players are lacing up.

Fabian Knezevic Jr. has been with Croatian Premier Soccer League's Kamen Ingrad junior team since early May. The former Canadian national development team goalkeeper got the call from Croatia this spring after trying out last year.

Kamen Ingrad, which plays in a new 10,000-seat stadium in Velika, finished seventh out of 12 teams last season.

Knezevic, 17, who was attending St. Thomas Aquinas when he was invited, made great progress under London's Luka Shaqiri when he was younger, his father says.

Two years ago, Knezevic told The Free Press his goal was to play professionally in Europe. There are not many who actually realize that dream, however.

The elder Knezevic is extremely proud of his son.

"We're more than glad to see him there. I have to give credit to my wife (Mary-Ann). She took him to practice all the time."

That included trips to Toronto at 5 a.m. in the middle of winter and games throughout Ontario and the United States.

Knezevik trains with Kamen Ingrad twice a day as the team gets set to start play in July. The junior squad travels with the men's team and plays its own matches.

"He has a really excellent chance to be called up," said Fabian's father, who at 60 still plays soccer in the Middlesex Masters league.

The elder Knezevic says his son's skills have been honed while he works with Ingrad's goalkeeper coach.

Another Londoner heading to a soccer-crazy country shortly is Michael Pereira.

The 16-year-old phenom, who plays with Canada's under-17 team, has signed a contract with 2004 Portuguese champion FC Porto's development team. He leaves for Portugal at the end of July for "a new life."

Pereira was courted by some big-time soccer clubs, including Newcastle and Sporting, and chose Porto because he has relatives nearby.

The player, who speaks Portuguese, also liked the package the team offered. That includes $700 a month as well as expenses, and enrolment in a private international school.

Porto has made a two-year commitment to the centre midfielder -- who also plays for the provincial squad and Martin Painter's London Dynamite -- with an opportunity to renew for two more years.

"When they asked me to stay, I was just in shock," said Pereira, who scored two goals for Canada last month in a 5-0 victory over Haiti.

"I'm starting a new life. I'm nervous . . . scared a little bit.

"I'm leaving behind an amazing life," the Grade 10 CCH student said. "At the beginning, I thought a lot about that. But now I've made up my mind and I'm going over there with the intention of staying for good."

Pereira travelled to Portugal with his family in March. He said Porto officials were impressed with his physical makeup and condition.

Three members of Western Ontario Soccer League's White Eagles will head to Poland this summer for soccer action.

Matt Baca, 21, of St. Thomas will try out next month for Legia Warszawa in the Polish First Division.

The White Eagles 'keeper spent last October and November, playing in intrasquad games and practising with Legia Warszawa, which won the Polish championship and League Cup in 2002.

Baca picked up some pointers and was told what to work on for his next tryout.

"When I went the first time, it was more of a learning experience for me," he said. "Now I've worked on what I need to improve. This time I think my chances are a lot better than last time."

Baca said he also lost some weight over the winter, which has improved his speed and agility.

"I'm a lot quicker than when I was there the first time. I feel more set."

Baca's White Eagles teammate Mark Drapala, 18, is heading to Poland to train with two teams with the hope of catching on.

He'll be paying a visit to First Division team Togr Szczecin and Third Division club Energetyk Gryfino.

Finally, in August, Adrian Majcher, 18, will join an Ontario squad getting set to play in the World Cup of Poland, which attracts Polish teams from around the world.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Three Ontario Grads Join Canisius

Women’s Soccer Announces 2005 Recruiting Class
Three Canadians will join the Golden Grffin squad in 2005-06.
June 2, 2005

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Canisius College women’s soccer head coach Meagan Dougherty has announced that Danielle Bernier (Oakville, Ont.), Nikki Gabrielli (London, Ont.) and Rebecca Shupe (Niagara Falls, Ont.) have signed National Letters of Intent to attend Canisius and play for the Golden Griffins in the fall.

Bernier, a graduate of St. Ignatius of Loyola, was a four-time letterwinner with the Hawks and served as team co-captain her senior season. A two-time Athlete of the Year, Bernier was also honored with the Sportsmanship Award and made the Honor Roll for Academics and Athletics from 2002-2005. As a member of the Oakville Cobras, Bernier won three outdoor Ontario Cups, one indoor Ontario Cup and finished second in the Ontario Youth Soccer League (OYSL). She also was a member of the Ontario Provincial Under-14 and Under-15 teams. Bernier also played basketball and hockey at St. Ignatius of Loyola, earning MVP honors in both sports.

“Dani is a physically powerful and nasty defender,” Dougherty said. “She is tough and, has great technical ability and tactical understanding of the game. She is not afraid to be vocal and demanding of her teammates. We look for her to play centrally in the back, and to be the leader and anchor of our defense.”

A graduate of Catholic Central, Gabrielli played five seasons as a sweeper for the Crusaders, serving as captain in 2004 and 2005. Gabrielli was named the team’s MVP in 2004 after leading the Crusaders to City Championships in 2003 and 2004 and finishing as 2004 Silver Medalists in the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA). Gabrielli also lettered in cross country and wrestling at Catholic Central, earning MVP honors in cross country and several city and regional honors in wrestling. She was also the Senior Athlete of the Year in 2004, a SPECTRA nominee for athletic and academic excellence and on the Honor Roll all five years.

“Nikki is athletic, hard working and a very versatile player,” Dougherty said. “She can play the left side or right and she can play both on defense and in the midfield. She is exceptionally strong in the air and does a great job of distributing the ball. We look for her to solidify our defense and to play-make and create scoring chances for us in the midfield.”

Shupe played three seasons at defense for A.N. Myer. As a member of the Marauders, Shupe won a Zone Championship in 2002 and served as team captain. Shupe also lettered in basketball and volleyball, earning MVP honors in hoops and winning another Zone Championship in volleyball.

“Becca is a very strong all-around player,” Dougherty stated. “She can play in the back or the midfield, and can play on the width or in the center of the field. She is a hard tackler who will win balls for us on defense and offensively she can score goals. We will look for her to create chances by getting our strikers the ball and to be a scoring threat herself on set-plays and free kicks.”

Canisius returns 18 letterwinners and nine starters from the 2004 squad that finished 2-14-0 and placed ninth in the MAAC Soccer League. Dougherty returns for her fifth season as head coach of the Golden Griffins.