Caps fans may be looking forward to some Cascadia Cup action on Saturday against Seattle, but they can get some top Pacific Northwest rivalry a few days early by heading up to Simon Fraser University tonight to see the SFU Clan take on Seattle Pacific.
It’s not just Cascadian pride at stake, the result of this evening’s match will have a lot of implications at Conference, Regional and National level, and at the moment, it’s BC’s finest that have the edge.
Now my knowledge of the ins and outs of NCAA football was slim to none before this season. After watching several of the Clan games in recent weeks, I still find it all very confusing!
My knowledge has been limited to whatever I quickly read up on before the last two SuperDrafts.
With a number of the Whitecaps Residency talent going down the college route this year, we decided we wanted to take a lot more interest and add some coverage on AFTN, especially with our local NCAA side up at SFU.
I’d planned to head up and take in some games last season, but never made it along. But who can resist the lure of live football for too long?
All I hear from reading comments here and on other football forums is that NCAA does nothing to help football, especially here in Canada.
The players don’t develop, it ruins them for the future, they’d be better getting minutes in Europe than getting an education, the level of football is terrible, etc, etc.
I really don’t know how much, if any of that, is true. But what I do know, is that the three SFU Clan games I’ve been to so far this season have been a hell of a lot more entertaining than a lot of the MLS fare I’ve seen dished up by the Whitecaps. The fast paced action has been excellent.
Once you get used to the little things like rolling substitutions, the game clock counting down and not up and it stopping at various points, there’s some pretty fine football on display up Burnaby mountain and there’s a few players that hopefully the Whitecaps are keeping a close eye on.
If they’re not, then their Cascadian rivals certainly are, as scouts from both Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers are regularly attending the Clan games and liking a lot of what they see.
There are two freshman in the Clan squad that the Caps will at least be keeping track of – Residency graduates Jason van Blerk and Alex Rowley.
Defender van Blerk has seen action in every game this season, starting three, whilst midfielder Rowley has started all but one game and has notched two goals, two assists and is third in the team in shots.
Rowley is certainly a player that Caps fans should keep an eye on. He is highly thought of by SFU coach Alan Koch and amongst those in the Caps Residency program.
He’s one of those players that graduated from the Residency, but wasn’t quite ready to make the jump to the MLS Caps. He needed to develop his game and SFU is giving him the perfect opportunity to do that.
He clearly has the skills and now he can hone them in a much faster paced environment against some good competition. It’s the next level a player like Rowley requires.
We genuinely can see him lining up in the midfield for the Whitecaps one day in MLS action, hopefully alongside Ben McKinley and Ben Fisk once again. All three have the potential for that to happen.
Another local lad to keep an eye on is Coquitlam striker Carlo Basso, who leads the team with nine goals and three assists so far this season.
We saw Basso in Provincial Cup action with Metro-Ford Wolves earlier this year and he impressed then. After a spell with PDL side Ottawa Fury in the summer, he is back for his second year at SFU and is continuing to develop into a major goalscoring threat.
First placed SFU have a one point advantage over Seattle going into the game, which kicks off at Terry Fox Field at 7.30.
Seattle are ranked first in Regional polls and third in the National polls. SFU are fourth. And I have no idea what any of that really means!!
With eight games played, SFU have won seven and suffered just one loss, a surprising 2-1 defeat at home to Northwest Nazarene on September 15th.
It was surprising on a number of counts. SFU had been banging in the goals in their previous games and the Idaho University were not a strong team. SFU seemed to make the mistake of playing a slightly weaker side for most of the match and they paid the penalty.
Not just with the loss of the game, but gone was their chance to make NCAA history by setting the new Great Northwest Athletic Conference record for longest unbeaten streak.
Instead they have to settle for the joint record of 24 games unbeaten, a record which dated back to November 21, 2010.
The last couple of years have seen a meteoric rise for the program at SFU, going from NAIA level to probation in NCAA to now being accepted as fully-accredited NCAA members with all the Championship privileges that come with it.
Having been unable to compete beyond Conference level for the last two years, SFU can now look not just at the Regionals, but the Nationals and that has been a goal for the program from day one this season.
With the talent that Koch and the program have put together, this is not just wild dreams.
This is a group that will continue to grow. There is not one senior on the 25 man roster and 17 of the group are Canadians, with 14 of them being BC boys.
As far as I’m concerned, they’re in great developmental hands and that can only bode well for the Caps and Canadian football.
Let’s just hope that the Whitecaps are paying proper attention.
If you want to see for yourself, and make your own minds up about the quality of NCAA football locally, then get along to the game tonight and the match up on Sunday against Saint Martin’s (3pm kick off).
We don’t think you’ll be disappointed and if you need any further incentive, there’s a lot of very hot college girls in attendance!
So, see you there!