Posted on: Sunday, December 21, 2008
Even before a stadium has been built for the all-weather field at City Centre Park in Langford, one soccer team is already calling it home.
The Victoria Highlanders FC soccer team isn’t fully formed yet, but one thing is certain — its home games will be played on the new turf field, said Drew Finerty, Highlanders general manager.
A goal for the team is to find the best players in the area before branching out the recruitment to other places, Finerty said.
So far six players from Greater Victoria have been added to the team roster, including Cole McFarlane, Dan Kilpatrick , Paul VandenBoomen, Jordie Hughes, Craig Robertson and Patrick Gawrys.
For the past 16 years Robertson’s passion has been soccer. He has played for university teams in both Victoria and Calgary.
|With Highlanders soccer GM Drew Finerty looking on, recently signed players Craig Robertson and Patrick Gawrys show off some balance skills under the lights of the artificial turf field at Langford’s City Centre Park, the team’s home base.
Charla Huber/News staff
“It’s a privilege and something special to be a part of,” said Robertson, 21.
Although Gawrys is only 23 he has spent the past two decades on the field kicking a soccer ball.
With a lifetime of experience on the field, Gawrys is no stranger to success. While playing for the University of Victoria Vikes, in 2004, he helped his team to win a national championship title.
“(Being on the team) is important for me and I am proud to be a part of it,” Gawrys said. “It’s another level of soccer.”
The Highlanders season starts in the spring. Gawrys anticipates fast pace games against other high-calibre teams.
By starting the season at City Centre Park, the Highlanders are excited to play on a new field and if construction goes to plan, in a new stadium.
“It’s an exciting atmosphere and it’s a good place to be,” Gawrys said. “People shouting and screaming is what you want (as a player).”
Making it on to the team is a feat of its own. Soccer players from as far away as Prince Edward Island are asking to try out for the team, Finerty said.
The Highlanders team has a system in place designed to help produce the best soccer players possible.
“We’ve looked at more than 200 players,” Finerty said. “Our whole program is about manufacturing soccer players.”
The main Highlanders U-23 team is playing in the Premier Development League, a division within the United Soccer Leagues. The Highlanders organization is also developing a U-21 reserve Highlanders team.
“Our objective is to get players from the reserve team to the (PDL) team,” Finerty said.
The Highlanders also sponsor a U-18 Lower Island Metro team and operate a development pool for players ages 16 to 21.
“There are currently 104 players on the prospect list, but that can always change. The list is a sliding scale,” Finerty said.
Players on Highlanders PDL squad aren’t paid, but Finerty hopes the team will eventually be promoted to the USL second division team, where salaries are permitted.
During the season the Highlanders will play in the Western Conference Northwest Division, facing teams from across B.C. and Washington State.
“It’s only four more months until we play a meaningful game,” Finerty said.
The Highlands season line-up is not finalized, but the team is scheduled to play its first game in May.
For more on the Victoria Highlanders FC, see www.victoriahighlandersfc.com. For more on the United Soccer Leagues and the PDL division, see www.uslsoccer.com.