© Guardian Photo By Jason Malloy
Rob Aiken, left, cashes in a rebound past a diving Brett MacDonald during SoccerStop P.E.I. F.C.’s practice on Thursday.
Prince Edward Island’s top soccer team is looking for a better start to the season this year.
SoccerStop P.E.I. F.C. host Fundy United today in the season-opening game of the 2014 McCain New Brunswick Premier Soccer League. They lost 3-0 to Fundy United in 2013.
“I think the boys are fired up to get out there and redeem themselves a bit,” said Matt Thomson, a Long Creek native. “I’d expect nothing less than to come out with a hard-fought effort.”
P.E.I. F.C. will be playing all its home games this season at UPEI. Today’s game kicks off at 2 p.m. while the teams meet Sunday at
A slow start in the six-team New Brunswick league can be unforgiving with the championship based on regular season points.
“If you lose a game or two to the wrong club . . . you’re looking at finding yourself in the middle of the pack from there on out,” Thomson said. “We want to try and avoid that and start at the top and stay at the top.”
P.E.I. F.C. won the league title two seasons ago, but the slow start hurt them a year ago when they finished third with a 10-5-1 record.
They were ninth at nationals in 2013 in Halifax and last won the Canadian club championship in 2010.
P.E.I. F.C. finished fifth in last weekend’s Maritime Champions League tournament, losing its opening game 1-0 in a shootout to Dartmouth F.C., putting them in the consolation bracket. It defeated FDSA Wanderers 3-1 and Valley United 3-2.
Dartmouth lost 5-1 to Codiac in the final while Fundy placed fourth.
“There’s never a good time to lose, but if you’re going to do it, it might as well be in pre-season,” Thomson said.
The team was missing a pair of Atlantic University Sport (AUS) all-stars from last year in Cole MacMillan and Max Maund last weekend. Maund, a British Columbia native, has joined P.E.I. F.C. after playing five years at St. F.X. University.
Both will be available this weekend as P.E.I. F.C. is expecting a nearly full roster for today and Sunday.
Jared Murphy, a midfielder and Winsloe native, said the team is deep, talented and committed to a common goal.
“We’re going into the league trying to win it and trying to win a national gold medal in the end,” he said.
“Playing time is going to be determined by how well the players are playing and what systems that we’re going to play.”
It’s a big year for soccer on the Island. The UPEI Panthers will host the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championships in November and 13 of the Panthers are playing this summer with P.E.I. F.C.
A couple of players sat out the 2013 AUS season to retain their final year of eligibility for this fall.
Murphy was one of those players.
“It was really tough to take the year off from AUS and watch the Panthers play. You’d be itching to get out there on the field,” he said.
It made last weekend’s action a welcome return.
“To get back into the competitive atmosphere, to not just be training all the time, was excellent,” he said.
P.E.I. F.C. has gone through numerous changes since January. New sponsorship deals were reached, a logo created, a rebranding program started and a seven-player management committee formed.
Murphy said it has created a stronger bond within the team, knowing how much work has been done behind the scenes.
Now it’s time to hit the pitch.
“A lot of work went into it and we’re very excited for the season finally to start,” Thomson said.
A look at the P.E.I. F.C. roster for the upcoming soccer season in the N.B. Premier Soccer League:
A look at the SoccerStop P.E.I. F.C. schedule in the McCain New Brunswick Premier Soccer League:
Fundy United at P.E.I. F.C., 2 p.m.
Fundy United at P.E.I. F.C., 1 p.m.
Saturday, May 24
Fredericton Wanderers at P.E.I. F.C., 2 p.m.
Sunday, May 25
Fredericton Wanderers at P.E.I. F.C., 1 p.m.
Saturday, May 31
P.E.I. F.C. at Fundy United, 1 p.m.
Saturday, June 7
P.E.I. F.C. at F.C. Chaleur, 2 p.m.
Sunday, June 8
P.E.I. F.C. at F.C. Chaleur, noon
Saturday, June 14
P.E.I. F.C. at Fredericton Reds, 6 p.m.
Sunday, June 15
P.E.I. F.C. at Fredericton Wanderers, 1 p.m.
Friday, June 20
Codiack First Touch at P.E.I. F.C., 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 21
F.C. Chaleur at P.E.I. F.C., 2 p.m.
Saturday, July 12
Fredericton Reds at P.E.I. F.C., 2 p.m.
Sunday, July 13
Fredericton Reds at P.E.I. F.C., 1 p.m.
Friday, July 18
P.E.I. F.C. at Codiack First Touch, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 26
P.E.I. F.C. at Codiack First Touch, 1 p.m.
(All home games are at UPEI)