Northstars look on the bright side

Imagine working all year for something only to find that when you get there, you aren’t able to fully experience it.

That was the sad reality this week for the WSA Northstars at the BMO National Championships

WSA is short for World Soccer Academy and the impressive name is not just for show. The club have been one of the premier women’s soccer teams in Manitoba for years are capped off a strong showing this season with a league title and provincial championship to add to the trophy cabinet.

The club is based out of a world-class soccer academy in the city and their status allows them to attract top quality players from all around. Club representative Jim Rurak said this is one of the key reasons for their success, and lead to them going into provincials full of confidence.

“I don’t want to say we were expecting to win, but we certainly went there feeling like we had a good chance. We were one of the two or three teams who really had a shot at winning,” he said.

The Northstars were able to live up to expectations as they got an extra time winner from Aliana Foderaro to beat rival Team United 1-0 in a very tight final.

The win was made all the more impressive by how the team were only able to dress 11 players for the match and, when Cathy Butler went down with an ACL injury, had to play the latter part of the game a girl down.

This was brought about by a problem that affects the club nearly every year as their attraction of top quality players acts as a double-edged sword. The club recruits players from national programs and schools in the states to fill the roster. Players join the club for the summer, but have to return to their American university or Canadian training program teams towards the end of August.

Rurak said this was something that was just part of the fabric of the club.

“We are fortunate to be associated with a number of high quality players so it is a balancing act in having those players but knowing they are eventually going to leave but if we have injuries to it can make it tough,”

“I wont say it’s not frustrating but at the same time, it’s those strong players who make us successful and so we want to keep them involved but we can’t always do that,” he added.

The decimated roster left Rurak needing to call up players as the club prepared for nationals. Strict Canadian Soccer Association rules state that you can only call up players who are younger and from a lower level of play. This left the club forced to call up a 15 and 16-year-old player before going to compete for a national championship.

The Northstars ultimately had a disappointing showing in Charlottetown as they went 0-3 in the round robin. They did bounce back well to win their consolation game and finished in seventh overall.

While Rurak admitted the situation was not ideal, he said the club was pleased with their players showing under the circumstances.

“In the final analysis, we felt that our players gave us absolutely everything they could and we were really proud of their effort.”

Rurak did say that he felt the club could have won the title had they had their full roster, but was quick to compliment the young call-ups on their play.

“The two young ones contributed both on and off the field in a big way for our team. They even scored a couple goals in our last game so they had a fantastic experience.”

In the final analysis, Rurak said some of the blame had to be placed on the system. He said there simply was not enough depth in women’s soccer here to allow their clubs to call up players and still compete.

“When the bottom half of the teams in our league simply don’t compete with the top half, and then we still can’t call of players from those teams, it makes it hard,” he said.

Rurak said the problem existed across the country and agreed that there was no simple fix but that it had to start with coaching.

“We have to get these kids at a young age and work on developing them so that we can stock our women’s teams and give them a chance to really compete at the top level.”

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