The Simon Fraser University men’s soccer team is ranked no. 13 heading into the 2017 season, but expectations for the team as it opens training camp are much higher.
“Our goal is always to win a national championship — always,” Clan head coach Clint Schneider said.
“There is a lot of pressure that comes with that expectation but I think that we have a group of guys and a coaching staff that embraces this.”
A large contingent of that group comes from the Tri-Cities.
Of the six starters returning from last year’s team that won its fifth Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) regular season championship, two key returnees are Coquitlam’s Adam Jones and Port Moody’s Kyle Jones.
Adam, a graduate of Dr. Charles Best secondary school, combined with mid-fielder Mamadi Camara for 19 goals last season and was named GNAC and West Region player of the year as well as an NCAA All-American.
Kyle, who’s also a graduate of Best, was the Clan’s busiest centre mid-fielder. He was also named to the GNAC’s second all-star team.
Another Charles Best grad, Marcello Polisi, was expected to be an impact defensive midfielder in his freshman season last year, but he missed the entire campaign because of injury. Back to full health, he’s expected to share duties with junior Brendan Shaw.
Coquitlam’s Michael North, a graduate of Archbishop Carney, is being shifted from the attacking position he played in 2016 to a more defensive role at left back.
“He’s kind of an athletic specimen and we want to take advantage of his skills,” Schneider said.
Of the new recruits that made their way up Burnaby Mountain from Coquitlam, Joey Mijalijevic, Christopher Guerreiro and Matteo Polisi are all competing for minutes on the pitch.
“Some of these guys are going to have to step up and play right away,” Schneider said. “They know that it’s very competitive and that’s why they came here. They didn’t come here just to have a walk in the park.”
Schneider said his team has the components to go farther than last year’s upset loss in the second round of the NCAA post-season tournament.
“I think we do have a group of guys who can do something special,” Schneider said.
The Clan open their regular season Aug. 31 at Terry Fox Field against the University of Mary.
Hakeem a key for women's team
Freshman defender Nadia Hakeem, a Gleneagle secondary grad, will be a key component of the SFU Clan women’s soccer team improving on its fourth-place finish last year in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. The team is ranked fourth again in the coaches’ preseason poll.
Hakeem has played for every BC Provincial team since 2012 and in 2015 she was named a Player of Distinction by her club team, Mountain United.
“She is a smart defender who provides a constant attacking threat,” said Clan head coach Annie Hamel of her new recruit. “I look forward to her making an impact right away.”
Archbishop Carney grad Mikaela Guerreiro will be looking to secure more playing time after she was on the pitch for only 185 minutes as a substitute last season. The senior had two shots on goal.
The team opens its season Sept. 2, against California State University East Bay, in Hayward, California.