Perhaps coach Nick Walker and the GSSC U16 Impact boys really can capture the essence of their summer season in a single game.
Taking their record of 3-6-3 into a road battle with the Barrie Spirit (5-6-0), the Sudbury crew surged out to a 3-1 lead at the half, courtesy of a hat trick off the foot of Malik Olanrewaju.
Unfortunately, deteriorating field conditions would cause the game to be called prior to the 75 minute mark that would have made this an official outing, with the two teams now having to start from scratch come Saturday, October 9th.
It’s been that kind of a summer for the local lads.
“I thought we showed a lot of resiliency this season that wasn’t as prominent in years past,” said Walker, a former captain of the Cambrian men’s team. “We found ourselves faced with numerous challenges over the course of the season and I found that our players were able to consistently rise to the occasion.”
That might not always be reflected in the win column, though the team found themselves in pretty much every encounter they faced. Walker, for his part, held firm with his steadfast approach, even as he remains in the relative infancy of his coaching career.
“You can only plan for what is right in front of you,” Walker suggested. “Sometimes, when you are dealing with injuries, players playing in different positions, needing to call up players from lower teams, then you have to approach each game with a specific plan and not think too much about the game afterwards.”
“I think maintaining that narrow micro-focus allowed not only me but our entire team to stay motivated to the task at hand.”
While accolades have been dished out to the scoring prowess of the likes of Nicholas McGee and Nathan Cranston and others, Walker suggested that it would be a gross oversight to forget about the other end of the pitch.
“Our goalkeeper, Matthew Bodnar, time and time again this year proved that he was among the best if not the best goalkeeper in the league,” said Walker. “Some of the saves that he made in big games were the difference between getting a result and losing by a goal or two.”
One GSSC team that has been able to consistently rack up results in CSL play has been the 14U boys, earning a split this past weekend even as the multi-sport facet of Sudbury soccer teams offers a late season hurdle or two.
A pair of goals by both Paolo Grossi and Ibrahim Najem allowed the Impact to defeat Cherry Beach 4-1 Saturday at Delki Dozzi, with Ajax handing the locals only their fourth setback of the summer, 3-1 the next day (Sudbury goal by Boston Ranger).
With AAA hockey season now in swing, tired legs, pulled muscles and a broken collarbone compounded the mountain that coach Nigel Croome and company had to ascend in September.
“Ian Burnett played in goal, he’s usually our striker, and did a good job for us because our goalie was at hockey,” said Croome. “And Mohammad Alramadan, Boston Ranger and London Croome all stepped up, because there were no subs for them.”
Deadlocked with both East York and Pickering in fourth place in a division that features no less than 18 teams, the U14 Sudbury crew have done a better job than most at merging together a core of talented soccer-first athletes with a supporting cast who might bring more athleticism than finely tuned soccer skills to the party.
“Realistically, it’s just a matter of identifying what their actual skill set is and not trying to convert hockey players into soccer players,” said Croome. “You see where their strengths lie and that determines their position. Adam Urso is a big, strong guy who is pretty decent on the ball, but he lends himself perfectly to defense.”
“Ian Burnett is extremely fast, very slight with quick changes of direction – a perfect striker. Let’s see where their best position lies and then give them jobs and tasks to do, and not try and teach them the entire game of soccer within just a few months,” said Croome.
Though the coach could see rays of hope in summers gone by, there was a more substantial benefit to be gained once this snowball really started to roll. “Honestly, all of us, myself included, we put a lot of hard work in as early as we possibly could, expecting a massive amount of competition,” said Croome.
“That competition was there, but what happened was once the players all bought in to what we were trying to achieve and we went out and got results, then it was a lot easier to coach a team that sees that what you are trying to do can be effective.”
Understandably, the passionate coach is looking at the next step in this evolution. “We set up our team as a counter attacking team to take full advantage of our athleticism,” said Croome. “Where we have fallen a bit short this year is against teams that really pass the ball well. Their inter-play is a little quicker and a little more technical than ours.”
“That’s a very specific area that I would really like to work on. If we can add that to our game, there’s nobody that we can’t beat in this division.”
Walker would like to see similar progress with his squad, a realistic goal if things come together as he hopes.
“I would like to be able to play full field soccer with 11 players on the field before we can get on our outdoor fields in the spring,” said Walker. “Having that opportunity with the bubble will allow us to be that much more prepared.”
Ideally, it will all add up to a slightly less challenging summer, come 2022.