Western United competing on a full-time basis in 2010

John
John Browne
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Challen Cup Soccer

Western United FC is returning to the provincial Challenge Cup soccer league on a full-time basis this season.

"We're ready for a full schedule, " said Garland Oram, coach of the Corner Brook-based team.

"Last season, the players showed solid commitment for their first year back and they are ready to play a full season again.

"It will be a big challenge, but the young players are ready to step up."

Western United FC is returning to the provincial Challenge Cup soccer league on a full-time basis this season.

"We're ready for a full schedule, " said Garland Oram, coach of the Corner Brook-based team.

"Last season, the players showed solid commitment for their first year back and they are ready to play a full season again.

"It will be a big challenge, but the young players are ready to step up."

United competed for the first time in five years in 2009, but only on a limited basis, playing 10 games compared to 18 for the league's other teams - Holy Cross, St. Lawrence Labatt Laurentians, Mount Pearl That Pro Look/Molson and Feildians Ernst and Young Orenda. The Canada Games team played the full schedule, but on an exhibition basis only.

Playing full-time means extra expenses, but Oram noted Western United's executive has started major fundraising projects and corporate sponsors are being lined up.

He said finding more offence and getting the team in top shape are key factors for the coming season if the team is going to compete with the league's big guns like defending champion Holy Cross and St. Lawrence.

"Like most teams in the league, we could use more goals," he said.

"Our defence was as good as most of the teams (last season), but we struggled putting the ball in the net.

"We also lost or tied six games in the last five minutes due to our lack of conditioning early in the year."

The United coach said most of last year's players have been playing indoor soccer since November and the players will start practising as a group within the next two weeks. The team hopes to get on Corner Brook's outdoor artificial turf at the Wellington Street Complex sometime next month.

Fourth-place United finished with one win, four ties and five losses in 2009, but gave third-place Mount Pearl everything it could handle in the playoffs. The teams were tied 3-3 in overtime before Mount Pearl pulled it out penalty kicks.

Oram said the team was encouraged by its playoff performance.

"It went to about nine or 10 penalty kicks against Mount Pearl," he noted.

Oram said the team expects to see a few new players who are from the Western region and who have indicated an interest in playing. He also hinted United may add a few "east coast" players, although he would not divulge any names.

Oram said the team has depth and that area should continue to be a future strength as United draws players from the local intermediate league, which includes teams in Deer Lake, Corner Brook, Pasadena and Stephenville, along with youth division.

"Last year's under-16 team was certainly very talented. Four players from that team played some of our Challenge Cup games and eight of them worked out with the team all season," he said.

United drew 200 to 300 fans per game at home last season and Oram expects similar interest this season.

"Last year, the fans here were anxious to see teams like Holy Cross, St. Lawrence and Mount Pearl. There was lots of interest."

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Molson, Canada Games, Wellington Street Complex

Geographic location: Mount Pearl, Corner Brook, Deer Lake Pasadena Stephenville

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