SOCCER: UBC men’s team rebuilds with lots of Surrey United talent (video, photos)

11 players from Cloverdale-based soccer club with Thunderbirds this season

Pictured from left

Mike Mosher began counting.

“One, two, three, four, five… six of them last year,” the UBC men’s soccer team coach said as he scanned his roster from 2015.

“And now we’re adding in one, two, three, four, five this year – so that’s 11 players from Surrey United this season, on a roster of between 25 and 30 (players).”

Yes, an impressive number of recruits from the Surrey-based soccer club will be with the Thunderbirds this year, and Mosher has a bit of a plan for the university team’s current training camp.

“They could form our roster, yeah,” he said with a laugh, “and we joke that we could do an inter-squad game and have Surrey United players as one team against the rest. Maybe for fun we will make that happen at some point here very soon. That makes for fun, healthy competition for training as well.”

Mosher said he’s never seen a team involve so many players from a single soccer association in his 21 years of coaching the team at the Point Grey-area university.

“It’s just the way it’s shaken down over the last three years,” he elaborated. “They (at Surrey United) have had very strong under-17 and under-18 teams, with players who we recruited, and it’s been a good fit for some of them, both athletically and academically. We’re pretty thrilled with the recruiting classes we’ve had, especially the kids coming out of Surrey United the past three years.”

Last season, an undefeated UBC team went to the national championships only to lose to host York University in the semifinal, 5-4 on penalty kicks.

York has won the CIS men’s soccer title the last couple years in a row, following two straight years of UBC winning it all.

The challenge for UBC coaches this year is working with a relatively new, inexperienced roster of players.

“It’s a massive transition season for us from last year, so we have some of the players in-house, so to speak, who need to step up and take the spots,” Mosher explained.

“We’ve lost eight starters, basically, from the previous year. It’s the biggest turnover I’ve had here in 21 years. It’s definitely a significant challenge, but again, that’s where a lot of the young guys who’ve come in over the past year or so, these kids from Surrey included, they’re going to get a ton of opportunity and we’re counting on them to be big pieces for us in the coming season.”

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For UBC, training camp began on Aug. 7, and league games will start this coming weekend (Aug. 27 and 28) in Kamloops and Kelowna, respectively, against Thompson Rivers and UBCO. The team’s home opener is on Saturday, Sept. 3 versus UNBC Timberwolves.

CLICK HERE for UBC schedule and other team details.

CLICK HERE to be taken to the Surrey United website.

For recruiting purposes, Mosher has frequently made the trip from his UBC-area home to Cloverdale Athletic Park, which Surrey United calls home.

“It’s a bit of a haul sometimes in traffic but you know, hey, that’s the nature of the business,” the coach said. “You’ve got to go where the players are, and other times we’re going to the Island or the Interior, and that’s the nature of the HPL league. That league is where we focus a big part of our recruiting. It’s supposed to be the best young players in the province playing in there, so it makes it better for university coaches like myself to really focus in on those games, those teams, those players.”

This season, Mosher named several former Surrey United players he’s counting on to step up, including Kerman Pannu, Karn Phagura, Kyle Sohi, Zach Verhoven and Manpal Brar. The tentative UBC roster also includes Surrey-area soccer talents such as Eric Swanson, Darren Rulofs, Omar Rostant, Manraj Bains and Matteo Bordignon.

“We’re looking to Kerman Pannu to be a guy to produce offense for us and score goals. He’s going into only his second year,” Mosher said.

“Karn Phagura is another one, and we’ve really seen improvements in his game over the past year. We’re hoping he’s a key player for us this coming year.

“Everybody here is hopeful that Kyle Sohi can get healthy,” Mosher continued. “He was one of the top players in his recruiting class, and he’s a third-year player (who) had some knee issues that we’re hopeful he can put behind him and, if he can, he can be a top player in this league.

“And we have a couple of first-year players who just graduated (from high school) who we feel can make a difference, as they make the transition and get more accustomed to playing against older guys and in a more physical environment, a quicker pace,” Mosher added. “Two first-year guys from Surrey United can contribute right away, and they are Manpal Brar and Zach Verhoven. They’re both going to get chances to get minutes this year and, in fact, Manpal scored in his first (exhibition) game in Oregon State (on Aug. 12).”

With so many Surrey United-trained players on the UBC pitch, Mosher raves about a “very good system” the club has had in place for many years.

“That’s credit to the late Martin Foden, who was the architect along with bringing in Jeff Clarke as the technical director, and then Jeff bringing in lots of good coaches,” Mosher said. “All of this doesn’t happen by accident, you know, it happens because there’s good people running the show. Surrey United has been one of the best clubs in the country in terms of producing and developing players, not only for university programs but also for the Whitecaps and their residency program.”

tom.zillich@thenownewspaper.com