Whitecaps beat CIS champs, but more links are needed

Craig Gorman

The Vancouver Whitecaps certainly scored well in the PR department Sunday, as it beat the reigning CIS champion University of Victoria Vikes Sunday, in front of 2,831 fans in the B.C capital.

The Whitecaps left most of the star power at home, as the likes of Eric Hassli, Sebastien Le Toux and Camilo still left the field. But, a team of what you’d predict to be mainly the depth players had enough to beat UVic by a 2-1 count.

Davide Chiumiento scored on a penalty, while former Carolina RailHawk Matt Watson raced onto a ball that had bounced around in the box, then slammed one in off the keeper.

Another former RailHawk, Jun Marques Davidson, was sent off in the 65th minute, and UVic’s Craig Gorman got a consolation goal from the penalty spot.

UVic’s lineup also featured Cam Hundal, who was named MVP of the CIS Championship, scoring twice in the final, which saw UVic beat Elvir Gigolaj and St. Mary’s University by a 3-1 count.

And that’s the thing. No doubt it’s fantastic to see the Whitecaps renew a tradition by playing the Vikes in a preseason match. But, the Whitecaps needed to have a presence at that very same stadium last autumn, when UVic beat St. Mary’s in the final. The only team exec to knock on any locker-room doors during the CIS finals was FC Edmonton’s Director of Soccer Operations, Joe Petrone. Gigolaj, who matched Hundal goal for goal through the championship weekend, would later get a pro contract, and has enjoyed a very good run in the early days of FCE’s 2012 training camp.

We will know that MLS teams are truly reaching out to CIS teams when top CIS talent actually gets invites to camps in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver. The Whitecaps, though, are the best candidates, as Canada West tends to be the strongest of the CIS conferences — and so many good soccer schools, from UVic to Trinity Western, are within the Pacific time zone.

Sure, there are always the naysayers, who will go on and on that MLS teams can’t afford to take chances on CIS players. But, the rampant need to be apologists is one of the worst cancers that Canadian soccer fans have. And, think of this. On Saturday, the Whitecaps cut ties with defender Chris Estridge and goalkeeper Andrew Fontein.

Estridge was a second-round draft pick from Indiana, while Fontein was taken in the Supplemental Draft from University of California, Irvine. And they are prime examples of what happens to most draft picks taken outside of the first round; longshots to make an MLS roster. If Canadian teams are to take along some expendable crew members, why not at least have them come from the Canadian system? And maybe, just maybe, one breaks through and becomes a gem. If not, no harm done – after all, teams are already spending time and effort on bringing late-round NCAA picks to camp. Why not make room at the inn for a CIS product?

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About Steven Sandor

I'm currently the colour commentator for FC Edmonton broadcasts on Sportsnet, NASL.com and TEAM 1260. I've covered the Toronto FC beat for four years, worked for the Edmonton Aviators of the USL for a season, covered the Edmonton Drillers of the NPSL and started covering Canadian World Cup qualifiers in 1996. I've covered the CONCACAF Champions League and the U-20 World Cup. I'm passionate about soccer in North America.