What started as the never-ending quest for meaningful development opportunities for Canadian footballers – and beer – the second meeting of the Winnipeg CanPL supporters group ended up being the realization of our very encouraging current reality.
While we gathered to discuss the future of the Canadian Premiere League and our part to play as the supporters of the hopefully awarded Winnipeg team, we paid attention to the developmental team that we can support today. We were happy to be joined by Eduardo Badescu the head coach and president of WSA Winnipeg.
The 2016 season was similar to recent campaigns, a lot of good development minutes for local players, but not may positive results for the team. The team went 1 win, 2 draws and 11 losses on the season, one that saw some very strong performances that weren’t rewarded with wins.
The Heartland division was made up of Chicago Fire U23, Des Moines Menace, Kokomo Mantis FC, St. Louis Lions, and Thunder Bay Chill. Des Moines, Thunder Bay, and Chicago were the strong teams last season – which is no surprise as Des Moines and Thunder Bay rosters are historically made up of import players and the Chicago Fire is an academy team for and MLS team.
The season started on the road with heavy road losses in St. Louis, Kokomo and Chicago. The season opened at home as usual in early June with the Mantario Derby (that’s a good one, maybe I should trademark it?) against Thunder Bay. An opening 5-1 loss wasn’t indicative of the play that day. A bright spot on the day was a wonder strike free kick taken by Moses Danto. The team performed much better in the second game and was unlucky to be on the losing end of a 2-1 score line.
The middle of the schedule saw an exciting home win against Chicago and more heavy defeats to Des Moines. The rest of the games were competitive including 2 close losses in Thunder Bay, and 2 home ties to St. Louis and Kokomo. The final game of the year ended in a 3-3 tie with Kokomo with WSA Winnipeg conceding in the dying moments of the game and disappointingly sharing the points. It felt like a loss as they battled well all game and produced some exciting moments in the attack only to be let down by some sloppy defending in the end.
While the team results were poor during the 2016 season, there were many individual performances that translated into a strong off-season.
Some notable highlights of the year include:
Goalkeeper Evan Barker started his 1st year with the University of New Brunswick and went on to claim the Atlantic University Sports Rookie of the Year award. His game stats were: 12 games, 6 wins with 9 clean sheets. Evan was named to the 1st Team All-Conference and 2nd Team All-Canadian
Midfielder Caelan Budhoo started his 1st year with Cape Breton University and helped the Capers become the Atlantic University Sports Champion, and finish 4th in U Sports national championship. His game stats were: 11 games, 9 starts, 2 goals, 1 assist, 1 GWG. He scored 1 goal in U Sports National Championship 2-1 semi-final loss to eventual champion University of Alberta Golden Bears.
Defender Kyle Hiebert was named the Manitoba Soccer Association Male player of the year after a strong season anchoring the WSA Winnipeg backline.
And the most exciting development for a WSA Winnipeg player is Forward Moses Danto signing a professional contract with Phoenix Rising FC of the USL. After an excellent career at WSA Winnipeg which ended with a spot on the USL PDL Team of the Week, Moses showed his worth to Canadian coach Frank Yallop and earned a contract with the Phoenix team. He also visited Sporting KC during the summer to trial with the team. He’ll have some world class tutors on the field this year with Shawn Wright-Phillips, Omar Bravo, and if the rumours are true, the Legend Didier Drogba. It will be difficult to find the pitch behind those quality striker but he will learn a great deal to continue his development in the professional game.
The 2017 season will be exciting with many of the important players returning and some new local experienced signings making up the squad so far. WSA Winnipeg kicks off the season away to Des Moines Menace on May 20th. Stay tuned for the season preview.