The Vancouver Metro Soccer League will kick off the new season with a bang Saturday with a special showcase day at Newton Athletic Park.
Hosted by Surrey's CCB-TU United, all 12 VMSL clubs will be on hand to play their opening games of the season while taking a look at potential improvements or setbacks of rivals that took place over the summer months.
The Delta United Hurricanes are no more, having moved their operation to Langley and leaving three clubs to battle for Surrey bragging rights.
One of the teams under the spotlight will be two-time defending champion Surrey United Firefighters. Surrey will represent the province at the national championships next month but the club's roster remains in a state of flux on the eve of the new campaign.
"We had kind of a crazy year last season but it ended in the best possible way for us," said Surrey coach Rob Reid. "Everything came together at the right time for us and now we're the two-time reigning B.C. champions. We're certainly not going to sneak up on anybody this year and we've also got some issues with our roster.
"Between college, injuries and guys who are trying to get on with the fire department, we're going to be missing six players who started for us in the Provincial Cup final in May. " Reid added United will be relying heavily on players from the club's Under-18 ranks this season with a trio of youngsters expected to join the big club for the national championships in Halifax on the Thanksgiving weekend.
Saturday's host club is looking for more stability after a roller-coaster 2012-13 season. CCB-TU United started last year on a tear and topped the league standing at the end of November only to take a precipitous plunge down the table in the final three months of the season.
"It's very important to have a good start in this league," said CCB-RT United manager Garry Sangha. "We know the points you get in September can be very important so we have to make the most of our opportunities now. Inter (United's opponent Saturday) just got brought up from first division, but they've been in premier before so we have to be ready for them."
ICST Pegasus has a new coach and will look to rebound from an up and down season in 2012-13.
"It's the start of the season so everybody wants to get off on the right foot," said new Horseman bench boss Sipho Sibiya. "The games are important because you want the three points for the win, but at the same time, you want to check out the other teams and do some scouting. This is a tight league and everybody knows each other so there aren't many secrets. There are some players who have moved around to other teams so it's a good chance to see who is where and how they are fitting in with their new teams."
Surrey United Firefighters open play Saturday when they take on Estrella de Chile at noon. Host CCB-RT United hit the field at 2 p.m. against Inter while ICST Pegasus kick off their season at 4 p.m. against Columbus.
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