Friday, July 09, 2004

London City might have what it takes

By MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

It became a predictable mantra.
Every year before the start of the season, London City soccer club coach and GM Harry Gauss would talk about how good his club could be.
For whatever reason, his club would fail to fulfil his expectations during the regular season. Every once in a while there would be a big victory, such as last year's $10,000 win in the Canada Cup.
But as the host team, London City earned its way into the tournament thanks to a bye.
No doubt Gauss would love to make a lot of noise in the regular season and not have to get anywhere via a bye.
Once again, this year, Gauss thought he had a good team before the season began. And so far, his players have given him plenty of reason to believe they are the real deal.
Gauss's team has three wins in four games. They play tonight at Cove Road against Border Stars of Windsor.
City's early success has not gone unnoticed. They are drawing better crowds than last year.
"But we should," Gauss said. "For the quality that's out there. They're exciting and they are electric."
For years, City has always boasted a number of good players but often suffered from lack of depth. Before this season began, Gauss knew he had a solid starting 11.
"Our 11 could play with anybody in the league," he said "Could we pick up the others to get us through injuries? We lost our leading goal scorer this year, we lost our Canada Cup MVP with a broken collarbone. They've been replaced. Our young players have sucked it up and are looking so good."
There's a reason for this depth. For the first time, London City has a reserve team in the Premier Division of the Western Ontario Soccer League. The experience of playing in that league has allowed players to move onto the Canadian Professional Soccer League team.
Improved conditioning has also played a role in City's success. On any given night at practice you'll see soccer players tied to fence posts pulling giant elastic bands or pulling a couple of car tires to improve their strength and speed.
"We're the fittest team," Gauss said, praising Steve Bozso, the 52-year-old speed trainer out of Otterville.
"He does so many different things.
"The very first time my team saw him, I had him put his legs behind his head. My team said, 'Harry, there's no way we're doing that.' "
But fitness and depth mean little if a team can't score. And in the past City didn't do a lot of scoring. But this season things have been different.
"We don't have rose-coloured glasses here," Gauss said. "Paul Munster has been a godsend. He's the real deal. I can't see us having him the whole season. He's just too good. I can see him playing in Europe."
Munster, 22, is from Ireland. He missed the last two years because of a knee injury. Since his return, he's scored six goals in the CPSL and 12 in the Premier League.
"All you ever heard around here was, 'You guys played a great game, but you didn't bury your chances,' " Gauss said. "Now we bury our chances. We're very comfortable defending because we know Munster will score. It's a credo here, 'Munster will score,' and he does."
Which, no doubt, will go a long way in helping Gauss finally fulfil his preseason mantra.


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