The C.B.S. That Pro Look Strikers, who didn’t record a single win in league play the last two years, pulled off a shocker on Saturday, the first day of the 2017 season, downing perennial powerhouse and 17-time Challenge Cup champion Holy Cross Kirby Group Crusaders 2-1 at King George V Park in St. John’s. And as if to reinforce the notion that they’re for real as contenders, the Strikers battled Mount Pearl First Choice to a scoreless draw in their home-opener Sunday evening at the Topsail Turf Complex.
“It feels good. It’s been a rough two years, so to get these results feels good,” said C.B.S. coach Gary Forsyth. “This just shows the hard work and dedication these guys have put into this.”
Mount Pearl also won its opener, blanking the defending champion St. Lawrence Labatt Laurentians 1-0 at the Gushue Complex on Saturday, while Feildians Ernst and Young posted two road wins on the province’s west coast, downing Corner Brook Steers Insurance 4-1 on Saturday and 1-0 Sunday.
Of course it’s early, but the weekend results bring a much different look to the top of the Challenge Cup standings, with Feildians — fourth-place finishers last year — in first, followed by Mount Pearl and C.B.S., both with four points.
That’s as many as the Strikers had in 42 games over the past two seasons,
C.B.S. went 0-19-3 in 2016. In 2015, the Strikers were 0-1-19.
Forsyth says the core of his team has remained pretty much the same as last season, with 15 or 15 returnees, but noted the addition of international players Erick Mathiasen and Fouad Matar to the weekend lineups. Mathiasen who is from Argentina, and Matar, from the United Arab Emirates, are students at Memorial University and have joined C.B.S. as the result of a change in Soccer Canada guidelines that now allow three non-Canadians on each senior-level club.
Mathiasen, who played for the Memorial Sea-Hawks last season and who is not brand-new to the Strikers — he’s trained with them the last couple of years — scored both goals in the win over Holy Cross.
While the team didn’t gain much in the way of points the last couple of years. It did gain experience in its losing seasons and Forsyth also noted improved conditioning.
“It contributes to making us a team that’s hard to defend for long periods of time,” he said, “and because we aren’t as physically tired, we don’t get as mentally tired as the game goes on.”
Forsyth agrees the win and tie should provide a confidence boost to start the season as the Strikers begin to work towards the goal of making the Challenge Cup playoffs for the first time. But he is reserving judgement on his team until after he sees how they deal with what he calls “a tricky game on Wednesday.” That’s when the Strikers take on the Canada Games Gerry O’Brien Financial team at Topsail.
Forsyth notes the Games team is coming off a win at the Atlantic pre-Games showcase tourney in Halifax over the weekend, winning all three of its matches.
“They are very well coached and that is a potential banana peel for us,” said Forsyth of the young Games team, which is entered in the Challenge Cup league on an exhibition basis.
At Corner Brook
Feildians 1, Corner Brook 0
GS: Aaron Buckingham; SO: Braedon Sheppard
C.B.S, 0 Mount Pearl
SO: Corner Brook — D'Arcy Bennett, Mount Pearl — Nick Power
At Corner Brook
Feildians 4, Corner Brook
GS: Feildians — Aaron Buckingham (2) Zach Hynes, Daniel Godden; Corner Brook — Tiuri Lomond
C.B.S. 2, Holy Cross 1
GS: C.B.S. — Erick Matiasen (2); Holy Cross — Michael Dunne
At Gushue Complex
Mount Pearl 1, St. Lawrence 0
GS: Tyler Forsey