Two champions and a runner-up represented South Burnaby Metro Youth Soccer well last week.
In a season that is both long – beginning officially last September – and marred with a rollercoaster-worth of dips and turns, including last winter’s cold weather toll, these three teams traversed a narrow road to get to their respective cup finals.
They’ll get to do it again in July – the spoils this time being a provincial championship.
The South Burnaby Metro boys soccer club did what none other could accomplish; it sent three into the breach of the Coastal B Cup finals last week, with the end result being titles for the SBM under-18 Strikers and the u13 Spartans, and a silver medal for the u14 United.
For the Strikers, it was very familiar territory, as the 3-1 decision over the Coquitlam Metro-Ford Apollo was just another feather in their cap, after capturing a league crown. It also clinched an incredible fourth trip to the provincials in the past five years.
“The (semifinal 1-0) win over West Coast was very tight and it was our toughest win,” remarked head coach Gordon Li. “In the final, Coquitlam worked very hard but we were the better team.”
South Burnaby never trailed, leading 2-0 before the Apollo landed their lone goal. Scoring for the Strikers werer Jeffroy Ojong, with two, and Frank Sikunzuri.
Delivering standout efforts from the backline and midfield were
Jimmy Chiou, Pat Falcone and Kurtis Li.
While coach Li has skippered this team since u6, the start of this season saw a transformation as the Strikers added a handful of players from the silver division due to attrition. What impressed him the most was how the veterans welcomed the newcomers, and how the newer players made a valuable contribution during a successful season.
“The (new) players made a big difference for our team, and at the same time the (veterans) really embraced the new boys. We saw these players grow into their new roles.”
The Strikers’ players come from various schools, including Burnaby South, Byrne Creek, Moscrop and New Westminster Secondary. But when they pull on the Strikers’ uniform, there are no cliques.
The cup playdowns began with a 2-0 victory over Vancouver United, and saw them trounce Richmond 5-0 in the quarterfinal.
Don't go tell the Spartans that small clubs can’t beat the big teams.
The club proved that saying wrong with an exclamation point, steamrolling the competition to a u13 Coastal B Cup title.
In the final against Chilliwack, South Burnaby sprinted ahead on two tallies by striker Lazar Skoro before the game was 10 minutes old. While Chilliwack ramped up its offence as the game wore on, the Spartan midfield and defence responded in kind.
With time a factor, the opposition loaded up on the front line only to be turned back by keeper Rocco Madden. Goals by Eric Ryu and Adam Tanguay capped the offence, with Ilia Afsarian counting four assists.
Also playing fearlessly were Justin Lee, Sulaiman Refat and Jimmy Zaborniak.
The best preparation for the final – and perhaps the challenges ahead – was their 1-0 showdown with a bigger, stronger Saanich squad in the semifinal.
“(Saanich was) physically taller and stronger than our kids, and they played very well, but our players are fighters and they fought bravely until they won that game,” coach Yaser Afsarian said.
Being from a smaller club has its advantages, said Afsarian.
“Most of our players have been with the team for many years and they are close friends. Sports, studying and friendship make great chemistry between these players,” he said. “I believe that is the characteristic of our team.”
The road to the final also included wins over North Coquitlam (3-1) and North Delta (3-0).
Although the u14 United fell short of a Coastal Cup crown, falling 2-0 to crosstown rival Wesburn Galaxy, they still advance to the provincials, which run the first week in July in Vernon.
They opened the playdowns with a 1-0 win over Central City and a 2-1 triumph over North Vancouver. In the semifinal they prevailed 3-0 over Surrey United.