MCAC Men’s Soccer  – 2021 Season Preview

For the first time, not only is a Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference (MCAC) men’s soccer championship on the line but the journey continues to the Nationals as being MCAC’s first representative at CCAA Men’s Soccer Nationals hosted by SAIT from Nov. 10-13, 2021 in Calgary.

After a year hiatus due to the COVID-19, the Brandon Bobcats will seek to defend their first-ever MCAC championship won in 2019. The other four MCAC men’s soccer teams are expected to challenge for the MCAC title in an exciting and competitive return to the pitch in 2021.

Assiniboine Community College Cougars (ACC)

Head coach: Chris McLachlan, 1st year as head coach

Keys for the team: 

Key Additions: (Jafet Sandoval (Midfield), Gerardo Chorro (Centre Back), Maikel Boxhorn (Midfield), Federico Vargas (Forward), Avy Moonesamy (Goalkeeper)

Key Returnee: Dawson Brooks (Goalkeeper)

Key Losses: Thomas Negiru (Midfield), Aaron Mair (Goalkeeper)

Number of total team members to start the season: 18 players

Record and MCAC championship history: 

2019 MCAC regular season record and placing: 0-0-10; 6th place

Last MCAC championship: none

Season Preview with head coach comments: 

  • How is team/coach dealing with transition back into play after a year of not playing at this level.  “Just having a flexible mindset that the team will have to adapt on the fly as players find their touch and we learn more about our opponents.” – Chris McLachlan
  • What games does the coach look forward to most. “Obviously with our closest geographic rival being Brandon University, we want to have a good showing in those games.”
  • What games does the coach feel will be a challenge and/or circled on the calendar.  “Again, the games with BU.”
  • What does the coach expect from the League this year (i.e. competition, teams to watch for, etc.).  “I expect there to be more parity than in past years.  With teams not getting to play last year and the uncertainty with COVID, most teams will have faced challenging recruiting seasons, and will have players that may not have competed at this level before.”
  • What are the challenges they expect with the season.  “Getting to know the players early in the season and determining where they are best suited on the field. With the short turn around between tryouts and the season, there has been limited time to get to know all players strengths and weaknesses.”
  • What are the team goals, expectations for the upcoming season /looking forward to.  “Our goal is to make the playoffs.  If you are one of the 4 teams making it, you are 2 games away from the championship.  We expect our team to continue to improve and become more difficult to play against as the season moves on.”
  • Please name a key performer for this upcoming year and why  David Castellanos – “Having an experienced player like David is like having an extra coach on the field. His teammates all listen to him and we will rely on David to keep our team organized on the field. David has excellent ball control and the ability to play a physical game.  We will look to David for leadership throughout the season.”
  • Who is your team captains this year David Castellanos (centre back), Jafet Sandoval (midfield)
  • A comment/quote from team captain  “We are excited to be able to play this year and represent ACC.  We will improve through hard work and dedication in practices.   Our team is highly motivated to have a great season.” – David Castellanos
  • Final comment/quote from the head coach.  “I like the group of guys that we have. Lots of players practiced together throughout July and August. I think the other teams will be surprised at the product that we can put on the field.”

Brandon University Bobcats (BU)

Head coach: Glen McNabb, 2nd year as head coach

Keys for the team:

Key Additions: Brett Switzer (Defence), Bryson Haywood (Midfield), Camilo Rodriguez (Midfield), Rodrigo Melgar (Midfield)

Key Returnee: Sam Wetstein (Midfield), Diego Rodriguez (Midfield), Jordan Dill (Defence), Kristen Bender (Midfield)

Key Losses: Travis Buick (Defence, 2019 MCAC Final Four MVP), William Tonning (2019 MCAC league MVP)

Number of total team members to start the season: 21

Record and MCAC championship history: 

2019 MCAC regular season record and placing: 8-1-1; 1st place

Last MCAC championship: 2019

Season Preview with head coach comments: 

  • How is team/coach dealing with transition back into play after a year of not playing at this level.  “It’s certainly going to be a bit of a mystery, just not having seen any of the other teams in our league, but moving forward with our team, which is all we really can control, is looking ahead after our training camp which went really well. We’re optimistic that our team is coming together fairly well, and that’s the one thing that we can control – the way that we play.” – Glen McNabb
  • What games does the coach look forward to most. “I’m really looking forward to all games that have that heat of the battle and playing for real this time. While I was the coach of the men’s team last year and an assistant with the women’s team before that, I’ve never really had this experience before so I’m just really looking forward to jumping in and getting my feet wet in those pressure situations. I’m optimistic that we’ve got a good team that’s going to do well, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
  • What games does the coach feel will be a challenge and/or circled on the calendar.  “These first two weekends are going to be a real big test. Obviously our first game Saturday against ACC sets the stage and of course there’s a bit of a rivalry. Sunday against CMU is going to be a real tough test, they’re usually a strong team, but then looking at the following weekend against St. Boniface and Providence, they’re both strong teams as well. Getting things started this Saturday will be exciting and these first two weeks will be fun.”
  • What does the coach expect from the League this year (i.e. competition, teams to watch for, etc.).  “It’s good to win our four exhibition games the way we did, but we know the league is going to be competitive this year. Our goal is to experience the wins throughout the course of the season, but really our goal is to make Final Four and win that last game of the season.”
  • Please name a key performer for this upcoming year and why  “We have a format on our team that we’re using a leadership group this year, and a few have really risen to that and brought their experience in their position. Nathan Chubaty is one, that being the youngest member of our leadership group, has really brought that experience to the back line. In the middle, it’s Diego Rodriguez, Zach Wood and Sam Wetstein. All three of those guys bring leadership and abilities to the middle of the pitch and Kristen Bender helps bring more experience and communication skills to the back line.”
  • “Ryder Anthony is someone that’s calm and cool as our goalkeeper, so we’re really excited to see what he’ll bring to the table. He’s knowledgeable and has lots of training experience for a young keeper.”

Canadian Mennonite University Blazers (CMU)

No information provided

Providence University College Pilots (PUC)

Head coach: Joey Passi, 6th year as head coach

Keys for the team:

Key Additions: 13 freshmen, so basically 75% of the roster are new. Couple key players are: Jai Virk: (Full Back), Lukas Kehler (Goalie), Garreth Rayner (Midfield)

Key Returnee: Giovanni Benitez (Midfield), Jordyn Calvert (Midfield), Kyle Fehr (Defence)

Key Losses: Leadership team from previous seasons: Braeden Owen, Jay Thiellman

Number of total team members to start the season: 18

Record and MCAC championship history: 

2019 MCAC regular season record and placing: 7-1-2; 2nd place

Last MCAC championship: 2013

Season Preview with head coach comments: 

  • How is team/coach dealing with transition back into play after a year of not playing at this level.  “Difficult transition due to having mostly rookies on this team. This is a re-build year for Providence. This will be a growing process for us as our rookies adapt to College and the level of MCAC.” – Joey Passi
  • What games does the coach look forward to most. “I look forward to most games this year as we’ve historically had great games with Brandon, CMU and Saint B. I expect the league to be very competitive this year.”
  • What games does the coach feel will be a challenge and/or circled on the calendar.  “This home opener against CMU is a classic game for both sides to kick off the year. I’m expecting a hard fought close game.”
  • What does the coach expect from the League this year (i.e. competition, teams to watch for, etc.).  “I expect Saint B to enter the year as the favourites.  They had a strong team during the 2020 campaign (that didn’t actually happen), and I expect most of those guys to be back. Everyone else has lost many key players and will be playing a little bit of catch up.”
  • What are the challenges they expect with the season.  “Like mentioned earlier, dealing with having a team mostly made up of rookies. We also don’t have a huge roster, so dealing with injuries and fatigue will be a huge factor. We also play in the USA (so we often have more games than other teams). And finally, playing each other MCAC team 3 times this year will add some serious challenges as team will become more familiar with each other.”
  • What are the team goals, expectations for the upcoming season /looking forward to.  “MCAC has traditionally been a league where a team with lots of freshmen can still challenge for the title. There’s lots of turnover, so continuity doesn’t play as huge a factor as it does in other leagues. This makes it hard to predict who will be favourites. We’re looking forward to being a contending team come October.”
  • Please name a key performer for this upcoming year and why Giovanni Benitez – “Our captain who is coming into his last year. The last year that we actually played a season, he was one of the best players in the league. In our American league he got All-American, All Regional, and All-tournament at nationals. We expect Gio to have another impactful season and contribute in a huge way to our success this year.”
  • Sean Kirkpatrick – “A third year player who is aggressive and athletic.  Knows our team culture, and knows how to win. Sean will play a huge part in how we play this year.”
  • Kyle Fehr – “Kyle is also in his third year and has lots of experience for us due to being a part of our team when we went to the MCAC final and National final for the NCCAA. He’s developed a lot as a player, and has learned to defend using his body and speed.”
  • Who is your team captains this year  Giovanni Benitez (midfield)
  • A comment/quote from returning players “I can’t wait to finally be able to play again for Providence and get this season started with a great group of guys.  I think this is going to be a really fun year.” – Kyle Fehr
  • “Wow! This up-coming season is definitely going to be exciting! Especially with these new bright young players coming into the league. And I believe this team this year can do big things this season.” – Israel Olukoju
  • Final comment/quote from the head coach.  “It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to play this league. Last year we got our hopes up just to have them dashed at the last second. I think the excitement for this season after waiting so long is going to make for a fantastic year. I expect it to be competitive, and playing each other 3 times is going to make it intense. I think nobody quite knows how everything will look until we finally face off, and that makes for an intriguing build up. I’m excited to see what my guys bring on the field.”

Université de Saint-Boniface Les Rouges (USB)

Head coach: Seif Dhaoui, 2nd year as head coach

Keys for the team:

Key Additions: Joseph Zarychta (Midfielder), Anthony Kaba (Midfielder)

Key Returnee: Imani Bujiriri, (Wing and former all-conference and MCAC champion), Ibrahim Bezzahou (Wing)

Key Losses: Derek Mains (2019 MVP, multiple MCAC champion)

Number of total team members to start the season: 21

Record and MCAC championship history: 

2019 MCAC regular season record and placing: 6-0-4; T-3rd place

Last MCAC championship: 2017

Season Preview with head coach comments: 

  • How is team/coach dealing with transition back into play after a year of not playing at this level.  “We’ve had great interest in the program and lots of new faces. Former MCAC champs Derek Mains and Yahia Chihab will join the coaching staff this season as the team has it’s sights on regaining the top spot in MCAC soccer.” – Seif Dhaoui
  • What games does the coach look forward to most. “First year of CCAA participation. It’s a definite motivator for all involved in the program!”
  • What are the challenges they expect with the season.  “It had been challenging engaging with players during the lockdowns and navigating changing return to play protocols. We had a shorter pre season than usual, but the team has put in lots of work to regain game shape.”