–By Ottawa Sportspage, for Cumberland-Capital United Soccer Club
It wasn’t the first priority, but a bigger trophy case will be one investment required at the newly-merged Cumberland-Capital United Soccer Club thanks to a dominant 2018 season.
Cumberland and Capital United teams earned hardware at an unprecedented rate at the local, regional, provincial and national levels.
“We’re happy to win, but especially because of how they’re playing,” signals Pavel Cancura, who’s led Cumberland United for over a decade. “A lot of teams are playing a year up, so that certainly shows they’re not winning because of muscle or grit, it’s playing a certain way.
“It’s nice (to win) – the kids love it and it’s great for them, and it’s fun to watch that, though it’s totally not the focus. But hey, it’s the time of year to celebrate, and it’s great accomplishments for sure.”
Perhaps the club’s biggest prize was the Ontario Cup crown won by the Cumberland under-15 girls, who were perfect in regional league play (18-0) and in 6 matches provincially.
“It’s immense for them,” Cancura says of the club’s first team to compete in the national championships. “It’s something they’ll remember forever.”
The U15 girls placed 4th in Canada, while the Cumberland Masters Women won national bronze, and the Women’s Premier team won the local Cup.
East Region’s dominant club
At the youth regional level, Cumberland and Capital United sides combined to win a majority of all league titles this season. Cumberland’s U16 & U18 boys, U15 & U16 girls, and Cap U’s U14 & U15 boys captured East Region Soccer League championships.
Perfect in ERSL (18-0, outscoring opponents 111-7) and ER Cup play, the Cap U U15 boys went on to reach the finals of the Ontario regional league championships.
Raz El-Asmar, who worked with the Cumberland Cobras Academy girls this season along with the Cap U club he helped establish 20 years ago, says commitment is the core ingredient to success.
“Commitment to the game and the approach,” he explains. “I’ve had the privilege to see both programs, and it’s a very similar philosophy.
“When you have these values – respect, honour, discipline, and being thankful for what you’re given – kids don’t take anything for granted. Hard work has to come first, as with anything.
“When they’re committed, by the end of the year, (winning) becomes a byproduct of what we work on daily.”
Merged club offers ‘very exciting’ future
The home club was again dominant when CU hosted September’s ER Cup at Millennium Fields. The event provided an intriguing window into the future as Cumberland and Capital United played for the final time as separate entities (a new name is coming for the merged club in 2019).
Take, for instance, the U16 boys’ final. After placing 1-2 in league play – 2nd-place Cap U finishing an impressive 11 points clear of the next-closest challenger – Cumberland and Cap U proved to be equals as their ER Cup final went the distance after a 2-2 regulation tie. Next year, the best players from each club’s teams will be blended into one.
“Will this translate into more golds? I don’t necessarily know,” Cancura states. “But what I do know for sure is that there are a few players at every level, from both clubs, where it’s going to be very exciting to put them together.”
International play across Europe & N.A.
On top of the success domestically, club teams gained some international experience too, travelling abroad for tournaments in Austria, Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary, Florida and Ohio this season.
“It’s always an enriching experience,” El-Asmar notes. “When the kids get to another country, there are differences of culture, backgrounds, experiences, and ways of life – that’s a great byproduct of the trip.
“And then of course, there’s the soccer aspect. It gives them a taste of different levels of soccer. Most of the time, it’s a higher level and higher standards than we’d normally see across town, across the province or even the country, so it gives them information on where they’re at here, but it still shows them it’s a realistic goal to be able to play with the best.”
Newcomers no pushovers in OPDL debut
The club has quickly made its mark as one of the province’s best, with its inaugural Ontario Player Development League campaign nearly complete. Ontario Soccer has given great reviews to its new franchise in the top provincial youth high-performance league.
“This club has steadily taken massive steps forward,” highlights Cancura, including the implementation of its innovative after-school academy program. “I feel like the momentum is unbelievable. When you combine that with another club that’s already grown and been doing great things pretty quickly, it’s not hard to get excited about what we can do together, fast.”