A Voyageurs Bus Trip – Canada vs. Jamaica

When word first broke that Canada would be coming back to BMO, the response was immediate; Grand River Union would be there! We knew we need a bus for this one. With the CNE and so much else going on, it seemed the perfect match.

We worked with the The Voyageurs – Grand River group to see how many could go and gathered a couple of different options. In the end, on September 2nd, we had about thirty of us meet at Fairview Park Mall to take the bus down. We picked up 6 more at the Guelph stop and everything was running smoothly until we hit typical TO traffic.

We still arrived around 3PM with the end of the Canadian Exhibition Airshow flying overhead. It was a family friendly crew as many kids had come along to take in the festivities. Seeing the Snowbirds swoop above Lake Ontario was a great way to start the day off!

After that, our band of soccer supporters separated to take in different events and activities going on in the city. Some went and hit up the midway, others jetted down to catch the Voyageurs at Shoeless Joes.

At 6:30 we all piled into our section. Our numbers had increased, as those GRU members who couldn’t take the bus were able to join us for the game. There were over 54 of us squeezing our way to our seats. We handed out 75 GRU Voyageurs shirts, spreading the excitement that we all feel for the CPL and the Canadian National Team.  At halftime, we had a good group of locals who came down from other sections to say hi. Seeing our region represented in two solid rows of support was fantastic! We ended up in section 114 and although there was a large crowd in front of us that mostly stayed seated, our area kept on our feet joining any chants from Eli Zeldin and his crew that we could.

The whole thing felt like a family gathering, with supporters from all across the country mingling and joining in the fun. GRU was the largest canPL SG present, but there were representatives from Hamilton, Halifax, Mississauga, and even Saskatchewan! Many of us are drawn into the soccer culture because of the sense of togetherness, and this was felt strongly as our Canadian men put their best out on the pitch. Of course, watching Canada come away with the solid 2-0 win was another huge plus for all in attendance!

Sadly, the ride home turned out to be extremely difficult! Lakeshore was packed with vehicles and lots of sections were blocked off. We ended up not getting on the bus until close to 10:30; after a hardy CANADA chant, most of us slumped into our seats to fall asleep on the ride home. Yet, despite the late night, it had been a fantastic day for everyone involved! The day was beautiful and it was great to see Canada in Toronto again. It was great to be with the The Voyageurs – Grand River and hopefully we can have many more bus trips in the future.

A note on KW United from Jeff Hughes

Editors note:
This letter is from the venerable Jeff Hughes. We had heard he gave a great speech to some coaches at Kitchener Soccer Club and we had asked him to write it up for us. Jeff’s support of KW United goes back to the first meeting of supporters when many of us chose the name “Forsyth’s Machine”. He was influential then in helping to build community support. So much so that United ended up appointing him Community Liaison for the team. This is a voluntary position that Jeff occupies and really is just a title for much of the work he was already doing and continues to do to build a soccer culture in this community.

The Premier Development League was created to help expand the game into more urban areas of USA and Canada, and to provide a league for NCAA and CIS players to play in their summer breaks without losing their college eligibility. For 2017 there are 75 teams in 10 divisions.

By supporting KW United, you are not just supporting one team, you are helping to grow the soccer culture in our region. We have opportunities for youth to be involved on games days as ball kids and player escorts, and we take bookings to bring a player or two out to one of your practice sessions to help out or just demonstrate and participate.

Every player (and coach, and parent) that we have had the pleasure of being involved with enjoyed the experience. I am sure we have helped inspire players to continue in the game and move to the next level and challenge themselves in their own development. For every fan of the sport that has been concerned about what we have – or do not have in our national programmes, we need to understand that the basic youth game and overall soccer culture is what needs to be developed and expanded to drive change upward. KW United has been helping this grow when they brought this team here. This is a high level of play that is tangible and realistic for our youth. There have been players from various countries playing here, and each year there are more local players involved. This is great to see. This is real.

In four seasons, KW United has seen over 20 of its players move on to professional contracts in MLS, NASL, USL and leagues overseas. KW did not create these players in the short PDL seasons, but this is sure a testament to the quality and level of player and league in our own back yard.

KW United FC is heading into their 5th season in our region, and now, more than ever, needs your help. KW United has been in talks with the ownership group for the coming Canadian premier league and has some large investors keeping an eye on the 2017 season. Fan, community, and corporate support will be key in helping KW United FC move to the next level. The CanPL would not only take us from high level amateur sport to a pro league, it will allow for a longer season for us to enjoy. Soccer is the most played sport in our region based on youth registrants, but unfortunately seems to be the least supported. Let’s get together to help change this.

Thank you,

Jeff Hughes
Community Liaison
2015 USL PDL Champions

Four in a row

Despite the constant threat of rain all week, it turned out to be a beautiful day down on Seagram Drive with the sun shining brightly on the stands and the United players showing even brighter lights on the field. The scoreline flattered Dayton, who could barely cross the half way line without being intercepted, tackled, and generally haggled off the ball. It lead to our Hamilton supporting visitor, James Hutton, to remark that the whole thing looked like a training match.

This game marked the return of Mathieu Laurent, and showcased the incredible depth that United has this year in the back line. Justin Springer has been arguably one our best defenders all season, but he was dropped for the returning Laurent. Mathieu didn’t put a foot wrong for most of the match. He was equally matched by the impeccable Tomlinson, Miller and Callahan (who recorded another assist).

Dayton stuck 5 players on the backline and they often lined up right on the edge of the 18, looking like an impenetrable wall. But that was broken by the acrobatic Wesley Cain. Liam Callahan and Sameer Fathazada hooked up on the left hand side, with Liam delivering a fantastic ball that was just asking to be knocked in, two United players were waiting but it was Cain who lept highest to open the scoring. Dayton was shocked and 14 minutes later, Wes would repeat the trick. peeling off the back of his defender just as Sameer Fathazada, again looking extremely tidy on the ball, delivered a fantastic cross to the back post. More back flips ensued.

The rest of the game was about damage control for Dayton and seeing if Wes could get this hat trick. Both Callahan and Sameer continued to deliver teasing balls to Cain with a couple of shots flashed just wide and Dayton starting to ensure they had two people covering at all times. The game didn’t, thankfully, dissolve into the sort of battle that transpired against West Virginia.

Cain picked up yet another well deserved Man of the Match award. He is tied for third in the league for assists while now adding in two league goals. Although a quieter game than against Virginia, Kitchener’s Saleh was again a destroyer in midfield, breaking up attacks and covering expertly. Jiro Barriga, a native of Japan whose father is from Colombia, also slotted in and showed some incredible feet throughout the game and looks like a solid addition to the midfield.

All in all, it was hard to see how the Bucks lost to Dayton. In K-W’s only loss, the Bucks looked like the clear champions, yet somehow they lost to this same Dayton side that United, quite frankly, handled expertly. There is still the nagging issue, despite all of the goals, of needing a truly great striker but with depth in midfield and their shutdown defense United should go far. That loss to the Bucks on opening day may prove crucial but coming out of this week with two more wins will set United up nicely for their home game against Michigan on July 2nd.

Roadtrip to Michigan!

It was a weekend to remember for the seven KW United fans that went down to Michigan to cheer on our beloved boys in blue! Leaving on Friday morning, the small band of supporters made their way down across the border, through Detroit, and on to the Addison Oaks campground. Scrambling to set up the tents and campsite, the intrepid band of fans quickly jumped back into

their trusty van to make their way to the first big event of the weekend; joining the Northern Guard SG in watching Detroit City FC play against one of their biter rivals, the Milwaukee Torrent. The Northern Guard has become famous for their raucous and wild support of their local fourth division team; the same division (although a different league) that KW United currently plays in. GRU was hoping to learn some tricks of the trade from an SG that has achieved great success in creating a fantastic atmosphere for their local community of soccer fans. They were not disappointed in the experience; there is nothing quite like joining in with the Northern Guard in their singing and smoke!

After the game, GRU was able to spend some time talking to Drew Gentry while helping to clean up the stadium. Drew adamantly believes that we can will something to happen if we push hard enough; he encouraged us to keep pushing on in building something great in KW. Feeling inspired, GRU visited the local pub The Painted Lady to toast to the future of soccer in Canada!

On Saturday, the crew was able to relax and spend time at the campground talking about soccer and bonding over a shared appreciation for breakfast beer and bacon. At around 2pm, the fans headed over to Red Oaks Golf Course to play some foot golf before heading to the “Ultimate Soccer Arena” where KW United was preparing to face off against the Michigan Bucks.

Grand River Union, although a small tribe, was by far the loudest bunch in the place; their voices echoing throughout the indoor stadium and encouraging KW United to achieve more. This game was not an easy one, and very few expected a positive result from the young players given the odds stacked against them: not all KW’s players have arrived yet; not all papers are completed which meant a limited amount of subs; almost no training time compared to Michigan’s; and an away game. Yet despite the negative result, everyone in attendance was happy with what happened, including Grand River Union. The players fought hard, and did not give up victory easily. GRU was able to play some mind games with the opposing players, including contributing to a penalty kick that flew high after GRU belted out the famous soccer chorus: “when the ball hits your head, and you’re up in row zed: that’s the Bucks”! The first “goal” was cleared by Justin Springer, who played fantastically and was GRU’s second choice for Man of the Match. Unfortunately, despite the linesman pointing for a corner; the ref was swayed by the Bucks’ premature celebration and counted the missed Bucks opportunity as a goal. This took a lot out of our courageous blues, making it hard for them to return to the fight. A second goal was not too far behind, placing the nails in the coffin for this particular game. But-the play was solid, and optimism for the season was high at the end of the game!

GRU picked Sameer Fathazada as their Man of the Match-presenting him with the very first Grand River Union MotM paddle, created by our own David Scaplin. Fathazada played quick and fast, demonstrating a strength on the ball and the ability to make quick decisions and some excellent passes. While he was unable to create any scoring opportunities that ended up in the net, he gave it his best shot!

After the game, GRU spent some time kicking the ball around in the stadium before heading back to the campsite to relax around the campfire and dive deep into an alcohol-inspired discussion on the many possibilities for soccer in KW and Canada as a whole. All in all, it was a fantastic weekend, and the drive back to Canada the next day was done by exhausted but happy fans. Everyone involved looks forward to the next road trip, hoping that we will soon have a reason for some Canadian road trips against other teams in the Canadian Premier League!