Men's soccer hopes to repeat 2006 title

Mustangs vets Al-Shaibani and Washington key players

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Western men's soccer

Craig Glover

CHASING ANOTHER TITLE. Western's soccer team looks to repeat last season's Ontario University Athletics championship.

With a perfect pre-season record, a confident goalkeeper and a new home base in TD Waterhouse Stadium, the Western men’s soccer team looks to be off to a solid start.

After years of playing at the Brescia Flats, the team will kick off its 2007 season from the field it now shares with the Western football team. The Brescia Flats will remain the team’s practice site.

With the move, the team hopes to generate more fan support than it has in previous years.

“Hopefully, we are going to generate a little more fan interest for the guys’ and the girls’ [soccer teams],” head coach Rock Basacco said. “It is a great product they put on the field.”

Over the past few seasons, that product has been good enough to capture Ontario University Athletics gold.

“The men’s soccer team are defending OUA champions,” Basacco said. “They’ve won three out of the last four OUA Championships. Last year, we finished fifth at nationals. They put on a great game and it would be great to have fans come out and support them at TD Waterhouse.”

The team hopes that the change of venue won’t just influence fan support, but quality of play as well.

“If anything, I think playing on a consistent surface is going to benefit us more than anyone else in Ontario,” midfielder Kyle Washington said. “We play a free flowing style of soccer and I don’t think anyone can really match that with their own style of play.

“We hold defence really well and the fact that a bad bounce isn’t going to affect us anymore is a huge asset.”

The move to TD Waterhouse isn’t the only thing the men’s soccer squad has on their side. The team also has a stellar pre-season record, having won their first five games.

“We started with high hopes and we’ve continued forward with that,” Washington said. “We haven’t given up a goal in five games. We really haven’t been broken down. That’s a promising sign.”

“So far, we’ve had a really strong start,” teammate Dante Biscaro added. “We’ve had some returning players who have really stepped up to the plate. [Goalkeeper Haidar Al-Shaibani] has done well and some of the rookies have really stepped it up.”

Indeed, Al-Shaibani, who represented Canada at the 2007 Summer Universiade in Bangkok, Thailand, will be an asset to Western this season.

“Haidar is an exceptional goalkeeper,” Basacco said. “I would probably rate him as the best in Canada, at the university level.

“Going over and playing in Bangkok... he ended up getting a little more confidence in terms of what he can do as a goalkeeper.

And what can soccer fans expect from a Mustangs game?

“There is always quality play. Lots of hard work on our part, and usually a win,” Washington said. “On a nice day, why not come watch us? It’s free and we appreciate the support.”

The men’s soccer home opener is Saturday afternoon at TD Waterhouse Stadium at 3:15 pm.

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