Battle of BC: UBC Thunderbirds emphasis on writing new history

Battle of BC: UBC Thunderbirds emphasis on writing new history

An unbeaten season and a CIS Championship. Can it get much better for UBC? Everyone in the program believes very much so.

UBC Thunderbirds were dominant in winning the Canada West Conference with an 11-0-3 record. Five wins in the postseason, including a 1-0 win over Cape Breton in the Championship game, saw the Thunderbirds end the season 16-0-3, outscoring their opponents 58 to 10 in the process.

Whilst much has been made of their attacking strength, the Thunderbirds defence was equally dominant, recording 12 clean sheets, four of them in the playoffs.

So after the near perfection of 2012, what does head coach Mike Mosher see as the key motivation going into the new season?

“I think one of the key things is really just emphasising that last season is exactly that, it’s last season. What’s done is done. It was a great accomplishment. It was a great season, but what happened last year is going to do nothing for us this year. This is a new chapter and we’re trying to emphasise that to the group.”

Having had that taste of success, the storied history of UBC in Canadian college soccer is another factor to drive the current squad on.

“They were present at a banquet when they were recognised amongst all their peers and what not for their accomplishment of winning a 2012 Championship. Fortunately I was also there, not only as a coach but as an inductee for Hall of Fame, with all my peers, and we were fortunate to win three national championships in a row.

“Our group saw that and the emphasis now is can they write their own history and go down as legends and future Hall of Fame if they can go back to back?”

With motivation clearly as strong as ever, there will be no resting on their laurels. And they can’t afford to with the CanWest Conference continuing to be strong.

UBC have lost some quality players from their Championship side, none more so than their leading goalscorer Gagan Dosanjh, who racked up 12 goals and 9 assists in his impressive 15 games.

Dosanjh was the CIS tournament MVP last year and also picked up the Canada West Male Athlete of the Year plaudits. The Whitecaps U23 player’s reward for his great season was joining former youth coach Colin Miller in the pro ranks at Edmonton and it will be very interesting to see how he develops there and how close attention the Whitecaps pay to him.

Mosher knows the departure of Dosanjh will be felt.

“A player like Gagan Dosanjh doesn’t come along every day. As a top player in the CIS for the past three years, he has made a significant contribution to the UBC men’s soccer program and is ready for this opportunity. We wish him all the very best and will be following his progress with much interest.”

But it’s not just Dosanjh that has moved on, UBC will also be without the services of Steve Johnson, Caps PDL player Marco Visintin and a few others moving forward. The challenge for the squad now is who will step up and be the next stand out stars.

A new crop of talent has come in to join the squad, many of whom are young themselves, and the new veterans have already shown these past few months that they’re still firing on all cylinders.

It feels like there hasn’t been too much of a break for the Thunderbirds since winning the 2012 Championship, with spring season friendlies and Provincial Cup and PCSL action under their Vancouver Thunderbirds incarnation.

It was a hugely successful summer season for the team.

They started by knocking off VMSL Champions Columbus FC in the Provincial Cup quarter finals, before narrowly losing out 1-0 to eventual winners Surrey United in a hard fought semi final game where they held their own even after going down to ten men in the first half.

They finished third in the PCSL regular season table before hitting 11 unanswered goals in their playoff semi final and final demolitions of Bellingham United and Khalsa SC to lift back to back Sheila Anderson Memorial trophies.

The busy summer may be tiring but it is also ideal preparation each year for the new CIS season, with the team having a chance to stay at their sharpest, bond early with any new additions and give the fringe guys some vital minutes.

How much does Mosher see these games as giving the Thunderbirds a competitive advantage over their CIS rivals?

“It’s something we’ve incorporated into our program for many years now. I think playing in the Pacific Coast League has done a lot of good things. I mean just look at the record since we started doing that. It was probably round about 2003, 2004, somewhere in there that we started to do it and we’ve been in four finals in eight years and won three of them.

“That’s more than just a coincidence. So we’ve been keeping our players in a good environment. Good training environment, good development environment for that time period. Going through different experiences and different scenarios. You’re playing in a league for points, you play in playoffs, you’ve got to win games, win or go home type of situations, but it’s more than that.

“For example, this past summer we had a really young team where we got an opportunity for a lot of our younger guys to play and to see what they’ve got. With the team that we had last year it was difficult for some of the younger guys to get any playing time.

“So the PCSL has provided us that opportunity for a long time to develop our players, both on and off the field. To create that culture and the camaraderie that we’ve really created within the program. Our guys a pretty tight knit group off the field and I think that bodes well and that carries through. They’re willing to go to the wall for each other on the field and that’s really important.”

That commitment to the cause is very evident whenever you watch them play and the result has been some enjoyable free flowing football that wouldn’t look out of place at a higher level and they’ll need to keep producing it if they want to go back to back.

So let’s have a look at some of the key additions, departures and ones to watch at UBC for the coming season.


Paul Clerc

Defender. 4th Year.

Clerc is a big 6″1 stopper who was second on the team in minutes last year with his 13 appearances. He was a big reason for UBC’s league low goals against total, but he also added 5 goals at the other end of the park to be the Thunderbird’s second top goalscorer behind Dosanjh.

A lot will be expected of Clerc again this season in both defence and attack and the good PCSL season he’s just got behind him will bode well, as will the experience he got representing Canada at this summer’s University Games in Russia.

Niall Cousens

Forward. 1st Year. 22 years old.

Unusual to highlight one of the new boys to the side but at 22, the experienced 6’4″ striker is no noob.

Was playing in the Czech Republic for the past three years, first with top flight team Slavia Prague and then on loan with Second Division side FC Hlucin. He returned to Canada and played for the Thunderbirds in the Provincial Cup and PCSL, along with Vancouver Whitecaps U23s in the PDL. He scored 8 goals and had 4 assists in his 13 games for the Caps and was named to the All-Western Conference team.

He’s a big, strong striker that can certainly finish well, but his discipline may need to improve a little. I’ve already seen him sent off twice in the few times that I’ve seen him play!

William Hyde

Defender. 5th Year. 22 years old.

The Whitecaps Residency product captained the Vancouver Thunderbirds side to a summer of success and will be looking to do the same in CIS when he shares the armband with Greg Smith.

Was the minute leader on the team last year by a considerable way, racking up 1338 minutes in 15 games and he was named to the CIS All Canadian second team along with recent Caps trialist Brett Levis.

No goals or assists last season but he was looking a much more dangerous attacker in the recently finished PCSL season, scoring a wonder goal in the playoffs final and taking home the ‘man of the match’ honours to go with his PCSL All-Star team nod.

Navid Mashinchi

Midfielder. 4th Year. 24 years old.

With the huge void left in the midfield with the departure of the senior players mentioned below, this season will be Mashinchi’s chance to really shine. He has already shown his potential last season scoring 3 goals and contributing 4 assists in his 12 games, earning him a place on the Canada West All-Star first team.

He continued this fine form in the recent PCSL season grabbing 6 goals and earning PCSL All-Star team honours and he scored the opening goal in UBC’s 3-0 win over the Whitecaps back in March.

Along with Clerc, he was one of two UBC players to go and represent Canada at the 2013 University games in Russia.

Mashinchi came through the Whitecaps Residency program, playing two season with the PDL team. He also made a six minute appearance for the Caps first team in a USL match in July 2008.

Reynold Stewart

Midfielder. 5th Year.

Stewart was joint second in points for UBC last season with 4 goals and 5 assists, which was excellent considering he only started 7 of his 14 games.

With the departures of key players in the midfield, this season will be Stewart’s real chance to shine and from what we’ve seen of his play, we fully expect him to grab that and end the season with All-Star honours.

Stewart had a good 2012 season for the Whitecaps U23s in the PDL but for whatever reasons he wasn’t back with the team this year and played his summer football for Vancouver Thunderbirds in the PCSL where he grabbed 5 goals, including a hat-trick against Coquitlam Metro Ford in May, and was named to the League’s All-Star team.


Adriano Clemente

Defender. 1st Year. From Burnaby.

6 foot centre back who has been playing with Mountain United. Represented the Province at U15 and U16 levels and played with Team BC at the recent Canada Summer Games and the 2011 Western Canada Summer Games. Mosher describes him as ”a strong kid who can play a lot of different positions” and ”Physically, he is ready to play at this level”.

Niall Cousens

Forward. 1st Year. 22 years old. From Vancouver.

A familiar face to Caps fans who followed the PDL team this season. Cousens is profiled in more detail in the ‘Ones To Watch’ section above. Mosher describes Cousens as a player who ”should come in and have an immediate impact as he’s a little bit older”.

Andrew Grange

Defender. 1st Year. From Surrey.

5’11” left back who played locally with Fusion FC but has spent a lot of this year with SC Furstenfeldbruck’s under 19 team in Germany.

Otis Sandhu

Forward. 1st Year. From Surrey.

Another who Played with Team BC at the recent Canada Summer Games, Sandhu has come through the youth ranks at Coquitlam Metro Ford where he was a member of the U18 team that won this year’s BC Soccer Provincial Premier Cup in June. Sandhu has also spent some time overseas in the youth systems of Stevenage FC in England and Vicenza Calcio in Italy.


Brandon Bonifacio

The Vancouver midfielder finished his five years at UBC with his first CIS Championship ring and graduated in the spring. He was fifth on the team with minutes last season, contributing 2 assists in his 14 games, and was named to the Canada West Second Team All-Star team. A former Canadian U20 international, Bonifacio was one of three senior midfielders appointed team captain for the season and wore the armband in the final against Cape Breton.

Gagan Dosanjh

Well known name to Caps fans and AFTN readers. As detailed above, Dosanjh was last year’s CIS tournament MVP and Canada West Male Athlete of the year after an outstanding season of 12 goals and 9 assists in 15 games. He still had two year’s eligibility left but has now at FC Edmonton in the NASL, but has yet to feature as he continue to rehab the knee injury he picked up playing for the Caps in the PDL. Small in stature but big boots to fill at UBC.

Devin Gunenc

Another 5th year veteran to graduate in the spring and another midfielder to leave the Thunderbirds. Gunenc made 14 appearances last season and was another of the three midfielders to share the captaining duties. The North Vancouver native is a former original Whitecaps Residency product who made 10 appearances and contributed 2 assists to the Caps 2008 PDL season and was selected to go on a one month trial to Energie Cottbus U19s that summer.

Steve Johnson

Defender Johnson moves on after four years at UBC. A strong presence on the backline, he played 12 games and added 3 goals last season. Scored the only goal of the game in the CIS Championship win over Cape Breton so a great way to leave the program.

Marco Visintin

The final 5th year veteran to graduate in the spring and the third of the trio of midfielders to sharing captaining duties on the team. Visintin could play both defence and in midfield and was fourth in minutes on the team last year. The team will notice his absence as he was joint second in points earned with 4 goals and 5 assists. Those stats earned him a spot on the Canada West All-Star First team. Visintin played the summer with the Whitecaps in PDL action, playing 9 games and contributing 2 assists.


For Whitecaps fans, there’s a fair few Caps connections to keep your eye on up at UBC at the moment.

Niall Cousens

As mentioned above, Cousens played the past PDL season for the Whitecaps. 8 goals and 4 assists in his 13 games. It’s been a while since we had a decent, tall front man, so worth keeping an eye on him to see how he develops the next couple of years. Hopefully he’ll be back for more PDL action next year after his first season with the Thunderbirds.

Srdjan Djekanovic

The UBC assistant coach was with the Whitecaps in 2008 during their USL days but lost out on the starting spot to Jay Nolly and soon moved on after making only 7 appearances. Caps fans will not forget him being the keeper in goal during Montreal’s infamous 6-1 Voyageurs Cup defeat to Toronto in 2009 that cost the Vancouver the Cup and a place in the Champions League. Been coaching at UBC since January 2011.

William Hyde

The new UBC co-captain came through the ranks with the Whitecaps Residency program, playing PDL in the 2008 and 2009 season, where he made 9 appearances with no goals or assists. He is a former Canadian U17 international and was one of the original Residency recruits when he came to Vancouver from Oakville Soccer Club in Ontario. Hyde was one of five Caps players who went to Germany in 2008 for a month long trial with Energie Cottbus’ U19s, having been on the Caps tour of the country the year before. The team leader in minutes last season, if he has a standout 5th and final year with the Thunderbirds I’d like to see the Caps take a look at him in the PDL next summer.

Harry Lakhan

Now in his 3rd year at UBC, Lakhan impressed many with his performances for the Whitecaps U23s in the PDL this season. He grabbed 6 goals and 3 assists in his 11 appearances and there were a couple of real crackers in amongst them. The UBC website has him down as a defender but he was playing in a midfield role for the Caps and this will be where he will really thrive for the Thunderbirds this season. An exciting talent that will be well worth watching this season.

Navid Mashinchi

The only current Thunderbird to have appeared for the Whitecaps first team. German born Mashinchi was another original Residency recruit and went on the German tour in 2007 before moving up to play for the Caps in both the PDL and with the first team in the USL. He was second on the team in minutes during the 2008 PDL season, making 14 appearances and grabbing one goal, and made 4 more appearances the following season. He made his first team debut in 2008 in the July 23rd game against Charleston Battery, playing the final six minutes in the 1-1 draw, in what was to be his first and only first team appearance. He looked sharp in the recent PCSL season, making the All-Star team, and will be good to improve on his impressive 2012 season. Expect more than his 3 goals and 4 assists

Greg Smith

UBC’s other co-captain for the season alongside Hyde. Smith was another who was an original Residency recruit and was one of the five taking part in the Energie Cottbus trial. He was on the Caps German tour in 2007 and made 11 appearances for the Caps 2008 PDL team, with no goals or assists. Came on as sub in the Thunderbirds 3-0 defeat of the Whitecaps in March and scored the third goal in the final minute. He’s in his 5th and final year with UBC.

Reynold Stewart

Stewart will be a familiar face to those of you who watch the Caps in PDL action in 2012. As mentioned above, he played this summer with the Thunderbirds in the PCSL. We were hoping to see him back with the Caps after he impressed us the previous season and clocked up the fourth leading minutes on the team with 1122 in his 15 appearances. He will definitely be a key player for the Thunderbirds in the midfield this season and we may yet see him back playing for the Caps in PDL action.


UBC will play 14 CanWest Conference games between September 6th and October 27th, kicking their season off with a trip to UVic Vikes.

They will play seven home games at Thunderbird Stadium. Tickets cost $10 and are available in advance online or at the box office on the day.

The home dates are:

Sep 08: v Fraser Valley (Kick off: 2.00pm)

Sep 13: v Trinity Western (Kick off: 7.00pm)

Sep 20: v Fraser Valley (Kick off: 7.00pm)

Sep 27: v Saskatchewan (Kick off: 7.00pm)

Sep 28: v Alberta (Kick off: 7.00pm)

Oct 11: v Winnipeg (Kick off: 7.00pm)

Oct 12: v Mount Royal (Kick off: 7.00pm)

The Canada West quarter finals are scheduled to take place on the evening of Halloween, with the semi finals and final on November 2nd and 3rd.

This year’s CIS Championship tournament kicks off at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton on November 7th, with the final scheduled for Sunday November 10th.

Authored by: Michael McColl

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