The ingredients of a championship season are often defined as thus: talent, execution and good luck.
Coquitlam Metro-Ford Sparta head coach Les Krivak wouldn’t argue.
The longtime soccer skipper saw his charges masterfully dominate all comers last week, with the end result a national under-18 boys club soccer title in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
It was a fitting wrap for the team, whose core had placed third at both the u-14 and u-16 nationals.
“I was shocked at how things unfolded,” said Krivak. “I would say the competition wasn’t ready for us. It seemed too easy for us and I had to wonder whether we were getting better and better, or were the other teams less prepared?”
When the dust cleared following the championship 2-0 triumph over Nova Scotia on Monday, that question became irrelevant.
“There’s no better feeling,” recalled Lucas Krivak, the team’s centre-mid. “After all the frustrations over the last couple of times at the nationals, this really made the journey worthwhile.”
Luke Griffin’s header at the 58-minute marker proved to be the winner. With just a few minutes left, Edi Nyigwo-Bogere locked up the gold medal. Netminder Hyun Jun Lee posted the team’s fourth shutout, making a huge save midway through the second half to protect the lead.
Coquitlam outscored the opposition 18-1 over five games, and set a tone in an 8-0 whitewashing of Saskatchewan’s Unidad in the opening game.
And coming in this crew’s third — and final — national title trip, coach Krivak said the whole experience was nearly surreal. Considering the obstacles thrown their way over the past few weeks, which included eight players unavailable due to commitments or injury, the club’s ease in achieving its goal was amazing.
“We were missing eight players from our roster due to college commitments and injuries... Because we had so many kids scattered around at colleges we haven’t played together since the provincials (in late June) and our first practice together since was (the day before the tournament started),” recalled coach Krivak.
Among the missing were three starters tied to the Whitecaps Residency program, while starting netminder Mario Gerges was away at the u-18 national team training camp in Guatemala.
With virtually half the team unavailable, the club went and brought up seven players from the Coquitlam Barca roster — who also play in the B.C. u-18 super league but are nearly all a year younger.
That they seamlessly stepped in and made major contributions was just another amazing part to the journey.
“It was definitely a tough situation, just getting use to how each other plays and learning our roles,” remarked Eric Dove, one of the Barca players. “For us younger guys it was a great opportunity to experience a national championship.”
In the round-robin, the club posted victories over Saskatchewan, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick — but also witnessed another hit when Ross Merton was knocked out of the tourney with a broken leg.
Beating Ontario 1-0 in the second game was huge accomplishment, setting the stage for the final.
“That was probably the best opponent we faced and we told the boys that this was our semifinal… While it was a one-goal game we had more chances but just seemed a little nervous,” the coach remarked. “We were the better team.”
The only goal was delivered by Nyigwo-Bogere.
Dove would lead all Metro-Ford scorers with five goals, while Griffin, another Barca addition, finished with four in four games.
For the younger Krivak, the championship was an appropriate bookend to an amazing minor career. Currently playing for the University of B.C.-Okanagan, he has shared a bevy of ups and downs with his Sparta teammates, including Giovanni Carida and Luigi Polisi since the age of five.
“We knew that it was going to be our last game together and last time playing as a team,” said Lucas Krivak, who collected nine assists during the five games. “We knew that nothing but first would matter.”
The Coquitlam lineup in Newfoundland included: Giordano Baldonero, Bryan Cadman, Giovanni Carida, Eric Dove, Luke Griffin, Lucas Krivak, Alex Lazazzera, Hyun Jun Lee, Ross Merton, Edi Nyigwo-Bogere, Shaun Pilcher, Luigi Polisi, Aria Sarhangpour, Paul Serres, Alex Skrzeta and Alejandro Varela, coaches Les Krivak and Domenic Carida, manager Rick Horvath and trainer Ken Robinson.
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