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VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Daily Hive for my story on who is expected to return next season for Vancouver Whitecaps FC, and who’s likely to headed in another direction.

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2019 UBC Thunderbirds captain, Mathea Fischer. Photo: Har Journalist

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds have named a new captain for the 2019-2020 season. It takes a special kind of person to lead by example on and off the ice. Leadership plays a huge role in hockey. You need someone who is going to motive, encourage, and support their teammates through all the ups and downs of a season.

“Mathea Fischer is our captain,” UBC Coach Graham Thomas told Har Journalist.

“She just does everything,” Thomas continued. “Leads by example, loves hockey, love the team, and program. She’s just a great person and has a really good internal gauge on right, and wrong, and does the right things. She really works hard, and is a smart hockey player. She’s a leader, reliable, consistent, and dedicated. She’s great.”

Fischer who celebrates her 22nd birthday today, takes over the captaincy from Celine Tardif, who graduated last season.

“The team did a vote in the summer, and then I got the call from Graham, and Mike (Assistant Coach Sommer). I’m very honoured, and very lucky. There’s a lot of good leaders on this team. I think it’s more than just a one person thing, it’s the whole team.

It’s very special the captains that have been here before me,” Fischer continued. “Great people, great players. For sure, big shoes to fill. There’s lot of people that lead in this locker room. I think there’s many people that could have been chosen. It’s a team effort for sure.”

Fischer enters her fifth season with UBC on the top line as the teams number one centre. While she looks to provide offence alongside, Hannah Clayton-Carroll, and Chanreet Bassi, Fischer wants to make sure the Thunderbirds are in a positive mind frame away from the rink. Mental health can take a toll, and Fischer wants to be there to help.

“I think the biggest thing is just consistency,” Fischer said. “Making sure that everyone is alright on the team, both physically and mentally. Being a student athlete is definitely a lot to take in.”

If you’re expecting Fischer to provide a big motivational speech, and a pumped up pre-game talk, that’s not quite what she’s about. She wants to do everything the right way, and lead via her play on the ice. The vocal aspect of being a captain, is something that she is working on.

“I think I’m more of a lead by example kind of player,” Fischer explained. “I’m definitely trying to work on being more vocal. Everyone leads in their own way from first year to fifth year. Some people speak up, some people show their effort on the ice and come to work everyday. I try and do a little bit of both.”

Growing up in Oslo, Fischer, never dreamed of being captain of a university hockey program.

Her family in Norway, was thrilled to learn of the news.

“It’s special for sure, a little kid from Norway coming here,” Fischer reminisced. “They’re really proud. I’m really honoured to have this position, and I’m excited for the year.

I think just being here playing is just a dream. I’m so lucky to be in this environment everyday. Just being out here playing with my best friends everyday, I think that was a dream itself.”

Spoken like a true leader, Fischer would prefer the spotlight be on her teammates. The Thunderbirds will be looking to make some noise this season. The captain has already set high team goals that she believes UBC is ready to battle for.

“Our goal for the season is to get to that national championship. Canada West first, but trying to get back to nationals, and hopefully take home some hardware.”

Mathea Fischer, and the 0-2-0, UBC Thunderbirds open the home portion of their schedule on Friday night at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre against the 2-0-0, Calgary Dinos.

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The 2019 UBC Thunderbirds practicing at Father David Bauer Arena. Photo: Har Journalist 

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds will be back in action on Friday night when they drop the puck on their first home game of the season. UBC will be looking to earn their first win of the season after a pair of losses to the Alberta Pandas. The defending Canada West champions earned 7-1 and 7-0 wins over UBC.

UBC will be in tough as they battle a Dinos team that’s full of confidence and momentum.

The visitors, come into the weekend series riding a perfect 2-0-0 record.

In order for UBC to earn a result, they’re going to have stay out of the penalty box. Good teams make you pay with the player advantage, and that’s exactly what Alberta did. The parade to the box helped the Pandas score 7 power play goals.

UBC will also have to be solid defensivly, and locked in offensively, but that’s easier said than done. The Thunderbirds will be taking on a scoring by committee approach. UBC wants to have four quality scoring lines that can contribute regularly.

UBC Thunderbirds Coach Graham Thomas, is excited to have his top two scorers back this season.

“We’re returning Fish, (Mathea Fischer), and Hannah Clayton-Carroll, and they like to play together. We have them playing together. I think they’ll be good again. We’ve added Bassi, (Chanreet Bassi) a rookie to add to that. I think they complement each other well. Hallzy’s, (Emma Hall) always good for some dangles. The other three lines are going to be scoring by committee.”

UBC’s second line could be in line for a breakout season. Ireland Perrott, Shay-Lee McConnell, and Mackenzie Kordic have the skill and talent to surprise opponents. If they can get on a roll early, UBC could have two number one scoring lines.

“Shay, and Ireland had a nice little thing going last year, some chemistry,” Thomas revealed. “We’re going to add Kordic, a freshman with some size, and a shot on that line. I think we’re going to be good.”

In her third season with UBC, Perrott, wants to continue developing by working hard at both ends of the rink. The Calahoo, Alberta native, is delighted to be on a line with McConnell and Kordic.

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UBC Thunderbirds forward, Ireland Perrott. Photo: Har Journalist

“Shay is one of our best two-hundred foot players,” Perrott explained. “Really smart, defensively sound, has a scoring touch. Mackenzie Kordic, big power forward, good shot, big body, and can win puck battles, and really be a force out there. I’m really luck to be playing with them.”

The Thunderbirds trio of Tiffany Chiu, Ashley McFadden, and Emma Hall, all have speed to burn. They have a quick first step that should help them catch opposition teams in transition. They can stick handle in a phone booth, and should create some magic.

Vancouver native, Tiffany Chiu, knows that this is a deep Thunderbirds team.

“I think this year, we have really good depth on our lines, and I think that will really help. Every line can contribute, whether that’s scoring goals, or being super defensive. It’ll definitely be a team effort to get points on the board.

There’s not really a mega superstar, but there’s definitely those out there who have good talent to get the puck in the back of the net.”

Top teams are measured by how they bounce back after a tough loss. The Thunderbirds experienced that in Edmonton, and it should make them stronger. The Dinos present a new challenge that UBC will have to be ready for on Friday.

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Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs Real Salt Lake on Sunday, October 6, 2019. Photo: Har Journalist

VANCOUVER, B.C – Whitecaps FC’s three-match unbeaten streak has come to an end, just like their season. Needing a win to try and secure a home playoff date, Real Salt Lake came into Vancouver and earned a convincing 1-0 victory over Whitecaps FC. A B.C. Place crowd of 18,378 was on hand to watch Whitecaps FC close out the season.

Real Salt Lake will head home with a 16-13-5 record, and 53 points. Coach Freddy Juarez will prepare his side for a winner take all playoff match against the Portland Timbers.

Whitecaps FC conclude the 2019 season with a 8-16-10 record and 34 points.

Vancouver solidifies last spot in the MLS western conference, and 23rd overall in the MLS table.

“Salt Lake played a playoff game.” Whitecaps FC Coach Marc Dos Santos said post-match. “They were deep and dangerous in the counter. We deserved a goal, we deserved at least a point. We did enough for that in the second half. We didn’t have the spark, a little bit of luck especially some balls that Yordy got in the box and could’ve laid it faster. Erik Godoy, big chance. Michaell Chirinos, big chance, so that’s the game.”

Whitecaps FC’s longest tenured player, hopes to be back next season.

“We all know statistically how this season went,” Russell Teibert explained. “If you dig deeper and you look deeper, this was a season of ups and downs. But, we’re building something here. This was always a rebuild year, and we’re going to continue to grow. That’s the message with this team, we will continue to grow. We know we have stuff to work on, and we’re going to do that. We’re going to address those things in the offseason.”

Damir Kreilach put the visitors in front in the 28th minute and they never looked back. In his final MLS regular season match, Nick Rimando made five saves to earn his 154th MLS clean sheet.

The 40-year-old, Rimando finishes his MLS career with a record of 223-174-117.

Poor defensive coverage from Whitecaps FC helped Real Salt Lake set the tone with a first half goal. In his second start at right-back, Erik Godoy was late to close down Corey Baird. The U.S. national team product, sent in a cross. Kreilach was able to get in behind skipper Doneil Henry, and he converted a header off the pitch to make it 1-0 Real Salt Lake.

Whitecaps FC were pressing early in the second half as they looked to secure an equalizer. Michaell Chirinos was by far the most dangerous Whitecap. The 24-year-old was a lively spark on the wing, and he created a pair of quality scoring opportunities.

The Honduran product forced Rimando into a spectacular diving save in the 55′ minute. Moments later, Chirinos darted into the Real Salt Lake box, and hammered the ball off the far post. Chirinos was a man on a mission, but Rimando was up for the task.

Whitecaps FC Academy player, Georges Mukumbilwa, made his MLS debut as a second half substitute. The 20-year-old, Winnipeg native, has been a pleasant surprise this season with Vancouver’s Development Squad team. Mukumbilwa injected some pace into Whitecaps FC’s lineup, as they mounted an effort to square the match at one apiece.

Vancouver’s dismal season came to an end with a lacklustre performance at home. Real Salt Lake was a hungry side, in search of a home playoff date. They came into B.C. Place and got the job done.

Whitecaps FC will head into the offseason facing several questions.

“Next season,” Dos Santos said. “After a year like that, just imagine the work and the commitment happening right now in the back scenes. The commitment, the work, the pieces that are happening in the back scene, the thought process, the moves are huge right now. As the coach, I’m with the GM, the owners, the staff. The only thing in my head right now, from the bottom of my heart, is the people that are coming to the stadium every day and support this team. We have to give back.”

Vancouver Whitecaps FC Starting XI: Max Crepeau; Ali Adnan, Derek Cornelius, Doneil Henry(C), Erik Godoy; Russell Teibert, Andy Rose, 80 (Georges Mukumbilwa), InBeom Hwang; Michaell Chirinos, Theo Bair, 60 (Yordy Reyna), Tosaint Ricketts, 60 (Fredy Montero). 4-3-3

Real Salt Lake Starting XI: Nick Rimando; Donny Toia, Nedum Onuoha, Justen Glad, Aaron Herrera; Kyle Beckerman(C), Everton Luiz; Corey Baird, 88 (Marcelo Silva), Albert Rusnak, 83 (Kelyn Rowe), Jefferson Savarino, 83 (Jefferson Savarino); Damir Kreilach. 4-2-3-1

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Whitecaps FC Development Squad Centre-Back, Gianfranco Facchineri on Friday, October 4, 2019. Photo: Har Journalist.

VANCOUVER, B.C – You can never have enough defenders, especially at the centre-back position. Every top football club needs a commanding, confident anchor at the back. Finding that type of defender is easier said, than done. Vancouver Whitecaps FC could be on the verge of developing a rising superstar centre-back with the brightest of futures.

Gianfranco Facchineri has been training with Whitecaps FC’s first team on and off since mid-August. The 17-year-old Whitecaps FC Development Squad player hasn’t put a foot wrong since earning minutes with Vancouver’s top group.

“It’s been an experience I’ll never forget,” Facchineri explained to Har Journalist. “I’ve loved every second of it, I’ve learned more training with them in the past last little bit, than in years of not training with the first team. It’s been a great experience, and I’m really really thankful for it. Hopefully they’ll be more experiences to come with them.”

While some teenagers might be worried about making a mistake, or getting beat one on one, that’s not the case with Facchineri. He has exceptional instincts, composure, and an astute mentality that you simply can’t teach. He’s not at all rattled by sharing the training pitch with names like Fredy Montero, Yordy Reyna, and Ali Adnan.

“There’s always a little bit of nerves training with older guys,” Facchineri admitted. “Especially these guys, you grow up watching some of these guys on TV. There’s obviously nerves, but the thing is, when you’re out there playing football, it doesn’t really matter. If you’re doing what you love to do, there’s no nerves whatsoever.”

The Windsor, Ontario native, isn’t being treated with kid gloves. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough. Facchineri is starting to get some ribbing from Whitecaps FC veterans. He views any advice as positive encouragement that will help.

“Obviously, there’s going to be some difficulty playing with these guys. If you make a mistake, they’re going to let you know that you’ve made a mistake. It’s not Sunday league, they’re going to let you know that you messed up, but that’s what you want. They’ve all welcomed me with open arms. They’ve all been really really helpful.”

Earlier this week, Facchineri was named to Canada’s U-17 World Cup squad. While that alone is a great feat, he will also wear the captains armband. Canada will train in Argentina from October 11 – 22.

Canada will kickoff Group A action on Saturday, October 26 against the hosts, Brazil.

“He’s developing nicely.” Vancouver Whitecaps FC Development Squad Head Coach, Nick Dasovic said.

“First and foremost, he’s a great character, good kid, honest, works hard.” Dasovic added. “A team leader, and he’s growing as a player. Marc’s (Dos Santos) had him in with the first team, and he’s liking some of the components he has. He’s somebody that’s willing to grow with the football club. He’s still got a long way to go. The biggest thing for him is his humility. He’ll train with Marc, and he’ll thank him for training. It’s small little details that show he’s a good person.”

Might there be a future first team MLS contract on the table for Gianfranco Facchineri?

Whitecaps FC Coach Marc Dos Santos wasn’t about to spill any tea.

“He has a physical presence about him,” Dos Santos explained. “He has a very good mentality. He’s a good kid, wants to learn. It’s still early to asses him in an MLS reality. It’s going to be a good experience for him at the World Cup playing in such a tough group. Brazil, Angola, and New Zealand, it’s not going to be easy. We want to see how he goes about things there. Hopefully it will push him up to be one of the kids that joins us in preseason.”

In his first full year with the Whitecaps FC Academy, Facchineri has already taken home an award. On September 24, he was named 2019 BMO RESP Academy Male Player of the Year. His father, Antonio, flew in from Ontario to see his son take home the honour.

Whether he’s in Vancouver or elsewhere, Facchineri’s goal is to be a professional footballer.

“My goal in soccer, in general is to have a career in the game that I love,” Facchineri explained. “If that career can come with the Vancouver Whitecaps, I’d love it. I watch Doneil Henry, Derek Cornelius, (Erik) Godoy, play. Watching all those guys play, it’s great. I hope to be one of those guys one of these days.”

Growing up in an Italian household, Facchineri looked up to football greats like Gennaro Gattuso, and Giorgio Chiellini.

His favourite player is a Napoli born legend.

“I watched the 2006 World Cup with my family,” Facchineri said. “They had Fabio Cannavaro. He’s always been an idol for me. I have a couple of posters up in my room.”

Gianfranco Facchineri is a Whitecaps FC prospect to keep an eye on. He could be MLS bound, delivering crosses, marking opponents, and dishing out meaty tackles before you know it.

In the mean time, he will be loading up on his favourite Italian pasta dish.

“My Nonna’s penne, if I’m being honest.”

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VANCOUVER, B.C – Whitecaps FC will be looking to end the season on a high note when they host Real Salt Lake on Sunday at B.C. Place. Vancouver comes into the season finale riding a three-match unbeaten streak thanks to a wins over the LA Galaxy, Houston, and a draw vs Columbus Crew SC. If Whitecaps FC can earn a result against playoff bound, Real Salt Lake they will have reached a season high, four-match unbeaten streak.

Over the course of the final month of the season, Whitecaps FC have taken on a spoiler role.

In that process, Vancouver may have found a hidden gem on the back-line.

Jasser Khmiri, made his MLS debut on Sunday against the Galaxy, and he did not look out of place. The ‘Towering Tunisian’ played with poise, pace, and power. Khmiri had his timing down, and his instincts looked terrific.

Whitecaps FC Coach Marc Dos Santos was not at all surprised by Khmiri’s performance.

“Guys, look, we watch players,” Dos Santos started to explain. “It would unprofessional on my part to watch a player and then bring him here, and say ‘Oh, I’m surprised that he’s good’. It would be very unprofessional. We watched him, we watched games. We sent a staff member to Tunisia. We knew that there was a lot of interest from French clubs, and Belgium clubs. He had a problem in his knee, when we brought him here. We took that risk, other clubs didn’t want to take that risk. Our performance group did a fantastic job with him. We know his qualities, the qualities of Jasser, he has very good height. He’s very good in the air, both attacking and defending. He’s comfortable on the ball. He’s a fast player for his position. He’s very aggressive, so positionally he could still grow. He’s an aggressive player, he’s young, and it’s his first game with the club.”

The 22-year-old, Khmiri, was paired with MLS veteran, Doneil Henry. The Canadian international could sense the hunger, and anticipation from his defensive partner. Henry helped make sure Khmiri, kept his composure, and stayed focused.

“It was good,” Henry said. “I know when a player has been out for that long, he’s hungry. I was kind of nervous going into the game. When you’ve been out that long and you haven’t played in any warm-up games, and you go against a front-line like the one we played against, it’s not easy.

I just wanted to coach him throughout the game, and make sure he wasn’t overly excited to go into tackles. You can get burnt or do something wrong. Jasser was excellent for the game, I’m happy. I read that he had nineteen clearances, that’s amazing. It’s a good start for Jasser and there’s a lot to continue to do, and I just want to help him.”

The Galaxy boast one of the top attacking squads in all of MLS. Anytime you can pencil Zlatan Ibrahimovic into your lineup, you have a chance to win, and win big. Khmiri wasn’t fazed by the bright lights, and big names at the other end of the pitch.

He battled with Zlatan, and managed to frustrate the Swedish striker. As close as the Galaxy came, they were never able to take control of the match. Vancouver won 4-3 thanks to a stoppage time winner from Michaell Chirinos. The play that sprung Chirinos, and In-Beom Hwang was setup by Khmiri, who won the ball in his own defensive half.

“We wanted his first game, for him to feel right away what MLS was about,” Dos Santos explained. “I think he was a player in the ninety minutes that understood his role, helped, jumped a lot with Ibra. Challenged a lot with him in the box. We knew a lot of the things from the game against the Galaxy would be crosses in the box, that’s why we wanted to make sure, Doneil, and Jasser would be there to cope with that, and I think they did a good job overall.”

Have Whitecaps FC found a new top centre-back duo for next season?

“Yeah, that’s down to the coaches,” Henry said. “Like I said, while I’m playing, I just want to help the boys out, and be a leader. Just leave the rest to the coaches, and the club.”

Marc Dos Santos wasn’t willing to discuss his centre-back duo for the 2020 campaign.

“I don’t know, no, I don’t know. I don’t know, let’s see how things develop.”

Fans might see Henry and Khmiri in action when Vancouver takes on Real Salt Lake on Sunday. The visitors will be looking to lock up a home playoff date, while Whitecaps FC will look to ‘screw’ another MLS opponent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Pro Soccer USA for my Concacaf Nations League story on Canada Soccer.

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