Posted on: Friday, July 24, 2009
By: Ted Hill, Goldstream Gazette, July 24, 09
Victoria Highlanders FC is forging farm-team partnership with the top-tier Austin Aztex for exhibition matches and player development.
Highlanders veterans Jason Devenish, Tynan Diaz and Jordie Hughes are scheduled to head to Texas at the end of September for two week, for a chance to play with the Aztex, a professional squad in the United Soccer Leagues first division.
The Highlanders are in the USL Premier Development League, two leagues below the Aztex, which is in same division as the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Aztex season runs until mid September.
“(The Aztex) are bringing in three players that will give them depth on their run toward the playoffs,” said Drew Finerty, Highlanders general manager. “The Aztex are trying to create an opportunity to get a look at the most players they can.”
Finerty said this is the first player development program between a PDL and first division team, and has the go-ahead from the USL. Finerty said the agreement will give the Aztex the right of first refusal for Highlanders players if first division teams try to recruit players. It will also give Highlanders players, coaches and staff opportunity to move up in the USL.
Finerty noted Aztex owner Phil Rawlins is also a director of English Premier League team Stoke City FC, another invaluable link up the professional soccer chain.
“The intent is to recruit and identify young players that want to move up in a variety of ways. Players, coaches and staff can be part of the program. There are opportunities available for all in the organization,” he said. “This is something to take us to the next level in the USL.”
A friendly exhibition match between the Highlanders and the Aztex at Bear Mountain Stadium in September is in the works and is just waiting for a sanction from the Canadian Soccer Association.
“We’ll give them a good game and good competition,” Finerty said. “Our challenge is to get the best players available and keep the team’s fitness up.”