Younger, faster, and altogether fresher faced versions of kids named Allester, Berney, Dobie, Docherty, Hayward McClanaghan, Morrison and Whitaker took to the then grass, clad in Red and Black speaking no doubt of the conquests of the previous night’s gambit to score Olde English and Growers Peach Cider, and drink from the Chuggernaut. They couldn’t grow a beard to save their lives, none had ever kissed a girl (or a boy for that matter), and the concept of academic, professional, or social achievement was laughable, but good god could they guide DK, Mario, Boo, and DK Jr around a Composition Court. Those boys (and their tactically, motivationally, and audibly brilliant coach) played a style of soccer which could best be characterized by hard work, organization, team work, tough tackling, cheeky set pieces, and the odd turn of skill (no doubt claimed as intended, and observed as accidental). That group went on to win a Vancouver Cup in their final year of youth sport. Little did they know that on the backs of their (and many other’s) efforts, would stand a squad with all the determination of their youth with the skill, creativity, and genuine talent of others which they’d tricked into joining the fight with the Strikers. 15 years passed between that Vancouver Cup and their next major 11 a-side trophy and it was a major one. The Strikers lifted the Provincial Cup in 2018 and start 2019 with every opportunity to lift multiple chalices. However the Strikers have started the calendar with a clear alarm begging for them to remember just what makes them good when they’re good, bad when they’re bad, and unplayable when they absolutely commit to the cause.
On the pitch which the Westside Strikers and the Point Grey Strikers before them have called home since well before the Y2K disaster a midweek text set the tone for a match to be taken place on a sunny Saturday at the familiar turf of Jericho Beach. A message which has never in the history of scheduling yielded a good match to the tune of “would you kind gents be up for rearranging the fixture to another date?” laid out the script for what was convincing in final score and anything but in conviction and performance. One version of the WSS would leave a 4-0 victory with the feeling of perfection, this squad is different and they know that playing such an incomplete effort is not perfection.
The warmup was a decent one with Dobie getting to each and every endline until he didn’t, a respectable 2-touch (not a reference to Dobie’s handsy hellos at the bench), and some fine shooting and saving alike. The now solidly sky blue boys warmed up like they wanted a result. However the first half of the match saw a team play like they were just a few steps away from a title and an opposition play like they had little to play for. Unfortunately the effort of the former belonged to the away squad who chased every ball, covered every blade of plastic, and shouted for every throw-in like they could nearly clinch a historic title that day. The home team on the other hand were 2nd to balls, misplaced easy passes, chose the Hollywood ball when an easy one would do. Their first touch let them down in the middle of the park, their commitment to shape at the back was not of any geometrically recognizable shape, their wide players drifted narrow, and their front 3 looked like they’d just met for the first time at around 3:15 that day. The team took turns showing for the ball and calling for it, rather than all doing this every single play. It would be wrong to say that there weren’t good individual moments as Coop covered 80 yards on a number of efforts towards both ends of the pitch, Gav put home a tidy finish, McConville kept a clean sheet, Nate had a trademark foray, Dobie organized with every ounce of patience he owns, Joel hit some worldy longballs, Bryan hustled like a man who gets to every practice, Joe, Kyle, and Ryan put the hardwork in, and da Cruz was there too. There were good moments, and some qualities but they were largely individual and rarely well-coordinated. The teamwork which was once the key to Striker dominance had dissolved like Homer Simpson’s mountain of sugar and what remained were a few shiny parts, no doubt of some value, but nowhere near that which the sum of the parts would fetch on the dark web, or any web for that matter.
The 2nd half was another story and while the Saints worked valiantly they inevitably tired and space opened up for the I.E.V. boys. But it seemed to be space opening up for them caused by tired opposition legs rather than creating space through brave and complete runs. The Strikers were certainly better in the 2nd half. You might have even called them good. Okay they were good. But this site has seen enough words dedicated to what the Strikers have done well this season. If there’s one thing this bunch doesn’t need more of, it’s self-gratification. Okay maybe just a little. Archibald scored his 2nd of the year to draw level with his buddy Kyle in goals, Eggplant did Eggplant stuff, and our fitness coach scored a goal which reminded us that he’s not just a bulldog… and returned himself to one step ahead of his North Van man Bryan. Stu Allester put in a fine performance proving that he’s absolutely still got it and only needs an entire week free of his family to show it. Paul and Dan brought the geometry lesson to the back 3, and McCon lowered his GAA on the season to a silly 0.846.
The Westside Strikers are on the precipice of their most important games of the season and are positioned to achieve. But they won’t receive any more helpful warnings. The work off the pitch has already returned, and results and performances will come with it, but it takes the small things to guarantee that. Coincidentally ‘the small things’ happens to be the nicknames the Striker players were known by in highschool, and the current iteration could stand to learn something from those juniors.
Still, some things have not changed as the boys still party together, cabin together, and fight for a common goal like they did many years ago. Now they just need to put it all together again to go on the type of run they know exactly how to architect.
Iens Efficio Vos,