High hopes for LMG once again as training begins

With a roster as strong as ever, Cowichan LMG is aiming at another strong season.

With a roster as strong as ever, Cowichan LMG is aiming at another strong season.

“We want to defend our two titles, the Jackson Cup and Garrison Cup,” head coach Glen Martin said. “Hopefully, when provincials come around we’re healthy and we can keep training the way we’ve been doing.”

LMG has dominated senior men’s soccer on Vancouver Island for the last six years, but hasn’t been able to reach the provincial final. In previous years, Martin has set the goal at the start of the season of winning a provincial championship, but this time around, he’s focusing on taking things one title at a time.

“We’ve got to get [to the provincial final first before we say we want to win it,” he said. “We have to train as hard as we can and prepare as best we can. If we do that all year, it will take care of itself.”

The team that won both the Garrison Cup as Vancouver Island Soccer League Div. 1 champions and Jackson Cup as Island champs last season has returned almost all its veterans: 2016 B.C. Soccer Player of the Year Paddy Nelson is back, along with Cooper Barry, Steve Scott, Tyler Hughes, Govinda Innes, Mason Chang, Kevan Brown and Dan Citra. Brad Archibald, the longest-serving member of the squad, and Jesse Winters, the team captain, will start the season on the injured list, but are expected back soon. Craig Gorman and Jordan De Graf, who have joined the team midway through the last two seasons after their collegiate campaigns ended, will be around from the start. Familiar faces Tanner Dobson and Luca Klotz and newcomer Farley Cannon will add some youth to the mix and will play key roles from the beginning. And after a bit of a revolving door scenario last year, Scott Brown will start the season as the team’s No.1 goalkeeper.

Archibald is back for his 12th consecutive year in Div. 1, preceded by one season under Martin in Div. 2, and he’s looking forward to another competitive season.

“We’ve had a shot at the Provincial Cup every year,” he noted.

The atmosphere that surrounds the team — “It’s always fun. It’s a good group of guys.” — is what has kept Archibald coming back year after year, even if it has meant commuting from Nanaimo or Victoria to play.

“A lot of guys commute because the training is so good,” he said.

Nelson, another Victoria import, is also part of that group. Last year, in his second season with Cowichan, he scored a team-record 27 goals in league play on his way to being named the top player in the province.

“I just have to score,” he laughed. “The team generates a lot of chances.”

Like Archibald, the training, led by Hughes, has been a big factor in keeping him on the squad.

“Ty is awesome,” he said. “I’d never say it to his face, but the team is very fortunate to have Ty running sessions. There’s nowhere else where it’s like this. I’d rather drive 40 minutes for a great session than 10 minutes for a mediocre session.”

The only true newcomer who has never previously suited up for Cowichan at all, Farley is taking a year off from school at Quest University in Squamish, where he played last season. Brown, a buddy of his from Saltspring Island, persuaded him to come out.

“He said it’s a good bunch of guys,” Cannon said. “He likes it a lot.”

Cannon already knew a lot of the Cowichan players, or at least knew who they were, from having played against the team when Saltspring had a Div. 1 team a few years ago. After just a couple of training sessions, he already knows he’s in the right place.

“It’s a good place to play,” he said.

Cowichan will open the VISL Div. 1 season on Sept. 16, at home against Gorge at 7:30 p.m.