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  1. The action in the A Cup kicked off in Surrey on a wet Friday night with Steve attending AFTN's featured match of the round (and providing the report below) in the all VMSL battle between ICST Pegasus and Inter FC. Pegasus were distant runners-up to VMSL champions West Van this season, with Inter finishing four points further back in 4th place. Inter survived a couple of comebacks before securing a 3-2 win over Pegasus to advance to the Provincial A Cup semi-final. It took less than ten minutes for them to open the scoring as former Whitecaps trialist, and one time FC Utrecht player, Jacob Lensky converted on an early chance. Pegasus would reply before the half and even the score when former PDL Whitecap Reynold Stewart converted a cross into the box with a volley past Inter keeper Andrew Fink. Inter re-took the lead soon after the break when Sebastian Crema took a pass into the box and chipped the ball over Pegasus keeper Amarjit Dhinsa. The lead only lasted a few minutes as Chetan Jhooty replied for Pegasus, collecting the ball, after firing a free kick into the wall, and sending it inside the far post. With only minutes remaining, Inter grabbed the winner off a corner, with Colin Streckmann heading the ball into the net to send the VMSL side to the next round. Both semi-finals will now take place on Saturday, so if you're not heading down to Portland to cheer on the 'Caps, try and get yourself along to one and support local soccer. Inter's reward for their win over Pegasus is a home tie against FVSL Premier Champions North Delta Lions, who battled to a 3-2 extra time win over VISL side Bays United in their quarter final tie. The game kicks off at 4pm at Memorial South Park in Vancouver. The other semi final kicks off at 3pm at Burnaby Lake West, with 8th placed VMSL side EDC Burnaby taking on island Champions Cowichan FC. EDC Burnaby earned their spot with comprehensive 4-1 win at fellow VMSL side Richmond Hibernians, with Mohammed Habib grabbing a hat-trick and Richmond going down to ten men while trailing 2-1. Cowichan saw off VMSL's Langley FC Hurricanes 2-0 in Ladysmith on Sunday. Leading by a 9th minute goal, the islanders saw their opponents reduced to ten men when Langley's goalkeeper was sent off with 20 minutes remaining and added a second late on for the win. AFTN's featured B Cup match of the round also took place on Friday evening, with Michael heading out to Minoru Park as Richmond Athletics hosted Langley Utd Sparta in a battle of champions in Keith Millar Provincial B Cup quarter final action. Richmond Athletics have had a banner year being crowned RASA Premier Division champs and claiming both the League and Challenge Cups, but their stellar season came to a sudden end with a 4-1 loss to FVSL Division 2 champs and President Cup winners, Langley Utd Sparta. It had been a close match throughout the 90 minutes, with Richmond having the better chances to win it but neither side were able to find the back of the net in normal time. Tied at 0-0, the match was turned on it's head with Langley hitting four unanswered goals in the first half of extra time, with Richmond's consolation coming with almost the last kick of the game. Possession was pretty equal in the first half, but Richmond came the closest to opening the scoring in the 24th minute when Brad Caldwell shot his goalbound shot deflected for a corner and Simon Plath saw his shot off the resultant kick headed off the line. Richmond's John Lawrence was played in for a one-on-one with Langley keeper Lance Verhoeff eight minutes later, but the goalie was quick off his line to block the danger. Both sides had half chances in the second half, with the best being when Richmond's Mike Henniger shot straight at the Langley keeper with 15 minutes remaining when in a good position 12 yards out. Langley pushed hard in the closing minutes and Mike Peters shot over with four minutes of normal time left. Richmond responded with a Cameron Burr floated free kick from just inside in their half, which crashed off the crossbar with Verhoeff scrambling. Sparta had a chance to win it in the 90th minute when Nico Versevelt was played in but Athletics keeper Rhys Verde Rios was out quick to smother the ball at the feet of the Langley player. So into a crazy period of extra time we went and after the closeness of what went before, from out of nowhere, Langley killed the game off in clinical fashion with four goals in the first 12 minutes of the first half. Versevelt made amends for not finishing things off in regulation when he grabbed the game's opening goal in the 92nd minute, racing in on goal and scoring off the post. With Richmond pushing forward for the equaliser, and leaving themselves short at the back, Langley scored three goals in a four minute spell to make it game over. Lee Ellis made it 2-0 in the 99th minute when Peters was played in and a Verde Rios came out to narrow the angle, the striker played the ball across to Ellis who slotted home into an empty net. Peters himself then made it three a minute later after some fancy footwork from Riley Dornian, who picked the ball up on the sideline, cut inside and went past three Richmond defenders before playing the ball in to the near post for Peters to slip it past the Richmond keeper from two yards out. It was 4-0 in the 102nd minutes as Richmond went gung ho and were caught on the break and Peters got on to a long ball forward and outpaced the home defence and easily chipped the ball over the diving Verde Rios. Richmond pushed for some consolation and had some half chances before getting their reward in the 120th minute with a looping 40 yard golazo by Chris Rowley. You can see video of three of Langley's goals (second, third and fourth), and some other chances from both teams, in the video below [note - we're not properly filming these games, it's just a case of switching our point and shoot camera on at certain times and hoping for the best, hence the dodgy quality! Also, the battery in our main camera died which is the why the picture quality in extra time takes a dip! Hopefully you enjoy the action anyway]. Langley's reward is a trip to the island on Sunday to face VISL Division 3B side Port Alberni Athletics, who shocked BMSA champions Persia FC 1-0 in their quarter final match-up. The other semi-final will be between VMSL double winners Guildford FC, who ran away unbeaten with the Division 2A title and the Division 2 Cup this season, and RASA side Jugadores CF. Guildford headed to the island and beat Saanich Fusion Campus Honda 5-2 in their quarter final, while Jugadores beat the team that finished runners-up to Guildford, Meraloma FC, 2-0. A Guildford v Langley Utd Sparta final certainly looks like it would be a tasty battle, so we're hoping for that. We're not sure if we'll have anyone out at any games this weekend due to the Portland trip, but we'll bring you full details of all the semi-final action next week. You can find the full schedule, venues and kick-off times on BC Soccer's website HERE.
  2. Ambleside's Friday night lights just add to the feel and atmosphere of the Provincial Cup action and we've seen some cracking ties played on the turf these past few years. Friday night's encounter between VMSL champs West Van and a Richmond Hibernians side that finished 18 points, and five places, behind them in league play this past season, wasn't one of those thrilling games. But the Hibs pulled off the shock with a controlled performance that saw them untroubled for most of the match and deserving 1-0 winners in the end. Despite their midtable finish, Richmond were the third highest scorers in VMSL this season with 47 goals, and they took the game to West Van from the start and had some close calls, without being too threatening. It was West Van who came the closest to opening the scoring in the first half when they had a headed effort tipped over from six yards out. Goalless at the half, Richmond came out strong at the start of the second and after seeing a goalbound shot deflected for a corner, Gavin Barrett headed the resulting corner narrowly over. West Van enjoyed the better of the possession but Richmond were enjoying the better of the chances and they took a deserved lead, with what proved to be the only and winning goal of the game, in the 78th minute with a lovely finish from Lucas Barrett. A great win for the Hibs and a shock that throws the A Cup wide open. Richmond's reward is a home tie against fellow VMSL side EDC Burnaby on Saturday evening. The full A Cup first round results were as follows: West Van (VMSL) 0 - 1 Richmond Hibernians (VMSL)North Delta Lions (VMSL) 1 - 0 Nanaimo United (VISL) Vic West (VISL) 0 - 3 EDC Burnaby (VMSL) Port Moody Lordco Gunners (FVSL) 1 - 4 Bays Utd (VISL) ICST Pegasus (VMSL) 4 - 2 Saanich Fusion (VISL) Metro-Ford Wolves (VMSL) 0 - 1 Inter FC (VMSL) Westcoast Selects (FVSL) 1 - 5 Langley Hurricanes (VMSL) Cowichan (VISL) 3 - 3 Abbotsford Utd (FVSL) [Cowichan win on pens] With the eight B Cup Preliminary Round matches in the books last weekend, the First Round proper kicked off with a further eight games and some early shocks. Our featured tie of the round took us to Burnaby Lake on Saturday afternoon to watch the defending champions, South Burnaby Fighting Irish, take on VISL side Saanich Fusion Campus Honda. The Irish came in to this year's competition having finished 5th in the BMSL First Division, 14 points behind the champions, Persia FC. Fusion finished their league campaign as runners up in VISL Division 3A. South Burnaby dominated the game in terms of possession, but Saanich were clinical in front of goal, happy to play on the counter and finishing off pretty much every chance that was presented to them on the way to a 4-2 victory. The Islanders took the lead in the 14th minute on a quick breakaway and with their first chance of the match. Nick Takeda, who stepped up from the Fusion U18 side for the game and was a problem for the Irish throughout, raced in on goal and hit a superb finish over the South Burnaby keeper, who was left rooted to the spot. The defending champs continued to take the game to the visitors but the final ball was lacking and Saanich were bending but not breaking. George Diaconu came closest to levelling things in the 25th minute but his run and shot to the near post was kept out by the legs of Fusion keeper Michael McCue. Despite their pressure, South Burnaby fell further behind in the 32nd minute when they were caught with another quick counter and Jan Wandel got past the Irish keeper and slotted the ball home into the empty net. The Fighting Irish were given a lifeline just before half time when Diaconu looped the ball over McCue from 45 yards out and when the same player was brought down for a penalty five minutes into the second half, which was converted by Derek Patrao, it looked like the only team that were going to win the game would be the defending champs. But credit to the Fusion. They didn't folder under the increasing pressure and were looking dangerous on the times they did get forward, as South Burnaby left gaps at the back as they looked for a winner. Two goals in a five minute spell were to prove to be the eventual undoing for South Burnaby. Takeda grabbed his second of the game, and the Fusion's third, in the 72nd minute when he finished off a nice run with a 25 yard lob which gave the Fighting Irish keeper no chance. Saanich then sealed their victory with 14 minutes remaining when Paul Moroney pounced on a poor clearance by the Burnaby keeper. He headed into the box and slipped the ball past the keeper but his first effort was blocked by a lunging Adam Chitticks. The rebound came straight back to Moroney who made no mistake in firing home and it was lights out for the defending champs. You can find some (very hit and miss) highlights of the game below. We managed to switch the camera to video mode just in time to capture some of the goals, but we've got all the celebrations! AFTN photographer Tom Ewasiuk (www.residualimagephotography.com) was there with us covering the game, and here's his Flickr slideshow: Saanich Fusion Campus Honda will now host a quarter final against the B Cup favourites, Guildford FC, who beat Aldergrove Red Devils 3-0 in their first round match up on Saturday night. Guildford won a VMSL Division 2A and Division 2 Cup double this season, going undefeated along the way. The full B Cup first round results were as follow: Richmond Athletics (RASA) 4 - 2 Mundiavocat (BMSA)South Burnaby Fighting Irish (BMSL) 2 - 4 Saanich Fusion Campus Honda (VISL) Langley Utd Dynamo (FVSL) 1 - 2 Meralomas (VMSL) Langley Utd Sparta (FVSL) 1 - 0 Burnaby Hotspur (BMSL) Guildford FC (VMSL) 3 - 0 Aldergrove Red Devils (FVSL) Powell River Villa (VISL) 0 - 1 Port Alberni Athletics (VISL) Persia FC (VMSL) 1 - 0 Richmond All Blacks (RASA) Jugadores (RASA) 3 - 2 South Delta Royals (VMSL) The quarter finals in all the Cups will be played over Friday, Saturday and Sunday this weekend. You can find the complete schedule HERE. Try and get out to a game if you can and #SupportLocalSoccer.
  3. One sure fire way to get us to cover a large selection of matches is to play them ten minutes from my house! What that meant for the kickoff weekend was that we were able to cover three of the Sunday games played at Vancouver's Trillium Park. Kicking things off was an intriguing clash between Vancouver Metro Soccer League Division 2B runners up Gastown FC and the Richmond Adult Soccer Association (RASA) Premier Division runners up, Richmond All Blacks. Richmond won the B Cup in 2013 and lost last year's final to South Burnaby Fighting Irish, and they were fairly untroubled in their quest to regain the trophy in a 2-0 victory. Gastown made most of the early running, with Jeroen Bart having the first real chance of the game seven minutes in when he fired wide right from just outside the box. Oscar Salvador was next to have a go for Gastown, but his low shot was saved by the All Blacks keeper Peter Proctor. It was to be Richmond who opened the scoring though in the 16th minute when Ming Choy rose unchallenged to head home an Alan Tso free kick from six yards out. When Nan Yang was played in and beat the onrushing Gastown keeper, Carl Ostridge, in the 33rd minute to make it 2-0, it looked like a tough ask for the VMSL side to get back in to things, and so it proved. Craig Shirra had a chance to pull one back for Gastown two minutes before half time but Proctor was out quick to smother the chance and when Mike Roger's fierce shot flew past the right post just past the hour mark, you got the feeling it wasn't going to be Gastown's day and the former champs held on quite comfortably in the end without pushing too hard to increase their tally. One interesting side note to come out of the game was that the officials had incorrectly told the coaches that there were to be only five subs in the game instead of unlimited. The assistant referee was corrected on this by Richmond coach Kyle Shury during the first half but the information wasn't relayed to Gastown coach Owen Parrott until later in the half and after the All Blacks had made four subs to their none. Richmond All Blacks now advance to face Burnaby Mens Soccer League (BMSL) Persia FC at Burnaby Lake West on Sunday afternoon at 2.30pm. You can see highlights of Richmond's first goal and most of their second in the video below: While Gastown FC and Richmond All Blacks were battling it out on the Trillium West pitch, there was a VMSL v FVSL (Fraser Valley Soccer League) match-up going on at the same time on Trillium East, as Twin Arrows hosted Aldergrove Red Devils. We tried to keep track of both matches as best we could and in the end it would appear that we chose the wrong one to primarily follow, as Twin Arrows fought back from being down 3-0 to set up a frantic finish against Aldergrove before losing out 3-2. Twins Arrows were runners up in Division 3A of VMSL, but qualified for the Provincials on the back of being beaten finalists in the VMSL Division 2 Cup, with winners Guildford FC having already qualified as Division 2A champs. Aldergrove finished third in FVSL Division 2. It was Twin Arrows who came out of the traps fast, however, and they had a great chance to open the scoring in the first minute when Ali Pickett raced clear on goal but Aldergrove keeper Atilla Davalovsky rushed out and came up with a massive save. A super early game changer? Perhaps. But Aldergrove settled and took the lead through Eric Vanderhoek in the 11th minute, with their first chance of the game. Hard to tell how the rest of the half went as I was mostly watching the other game, but most of the time I looked over the ball was in the Aldergrove half. This may not be a fair reflection! The Red Devils doubled their lead though in the 55th minute when Anthony Fragoso fired home from the spot, sending Twin Arrows keeper Brennan Baker the wrong way. Aldergrove made it 3-0 in the 70th minute through Ryan Miller and it looked game over before Twin Arrows made a storming comeback in the closing minutes of the game. The VMSL side pulled one back in the 85th minute through Daniel Jansson, with Aldergrove looking for the offside, and then a stunning goal made it 3-2 in the 90th minute, when the ball bounced around the box before it broke to Monir Pejgaleh and he back flicked the ball over his head and into the top corner. Just wish we'd caught it on camera. Twin Arrows had pushed hard but just couldn't force extra time and Aldergrove now advance to face Guildford FC. You can see Aldergrove's second goal in the video below: Our feature match of the weekend was our good friends at Rino's Fury FC as they hosted BMSL side Burnaby Hotspur. Well I say friends, we're expecting a banning order now since we've watched them in their first Provincial Cup match for the past three years now and they haven't won one yet so we're clearly a jinx and apologise! Rino's Fury finished third in the VMSL Division 2A standings this year, while Burnaby Hotspur finished 7th in the BMSL First Division but qualified for the Provincials on the back of winning the BMSL League Cup at the end of March. It was a pretty uneventful first half, with both teams feeling each other out. Rino's had the first real chance of the game in the 29th minute when Alessandro Pace forced a save out of the Hotspur keeper. The rebound fell to Yuda Shih but he blasted over from inside the box. Burnaby's best chance of the half came two minutes later when Ahmad Al-Ashkar cut the ball back to David Kliewer, but his flighted shot landed on the roof of the Fury net. So goalless at the half, but the game was to liven up pretty quickly in the second. Hotspur thought they had taken the lead in the 53rd minute when Ibrahim Al-Ashkar fired home after latching onto a rebound after his brother Ahmad's shot had been parried by Fury keeper Patrick Hayward, but the goal was ruled out for offside. It was just to be a temporary reprieve for Rino's and Burnaby opened the scoring three minutes later, and it was the same players who were involved, with Ibrahim heading home Ahmad's free kick. The Hotpsur lead was to be short lived and Fury equalised in the 59th minute later when Guy Packham poked the ball home from close range after a scramble in the box. The game was pretty open now and Fury hit the post in the 67th minute as they pushed for the go-ahead goal. That was to come for Hotspur five minutes later and it was to be Ibrahim Al-Ashkar in the thick of the action once again, sending a brilliant pass through to Corey Sanford who slotted what was to prove to be the winning goal past Hayward. Fury went forward looking to tie things up once more and had a couple of chances and forced several corners, but Sanford nearly gave Hotspur some breathing room with an effort from outside the box that flew wide right with 12 minutes remaining, before Nathan Kung brought a good save out of Hayward a minute later. The Burnaby side saw out the remainder of the match fairly comfortably and now move on and travel to face FVSL side Langley United Sparta on Saturday evening, kicking off at 8pm at Willoughby Turf. You can both of Burnaby Hotspur's goals and some other highlights in the video below: The full results of the B Cup Preliminary Round were as follows: Port Alberni Athletics (VISL) 4 - 0 PMO Titans (FVSL)Meralomas FC (VMSL) 5 - 1 Westcoast FC Milan (FVSL) Campbell River Cermaq City FC (VISL) 0 - 1 South Delta Royals (VMSL) Gastown FC (VMSL) 0 - 2 Richmond All Blacks (RASA) Twin Arrows (VMSL) 2 - 3 Aldergrove Red Devils (FVSL) Mundiavocat FC (BMSA) 3- 0 Graduates (RASA) Saanich Fusion Campus Honda (VISL) 4 - 1 Bacardi FC (BMSL) Rino's Fury FC (VMSL) 1 - 2 Burnaby Hotspur (BMSL) You can find the schedule for all of this weekend's matches in all of the Cups over at the BC Soccer website HERE. Try and get out and see some matches if you can and #SupportLocalSoccer. Here's our Flickr slideshow for all of our photos from the three games:
  4. Having graduated in the fall after studying molecular biology biochemistry at SFU, Blagojevic's plan was always to attend medical school, as he told us when we spoke to him back in December 2013. But as he also told us in that interview, playing professional football was always his "childhood dream" and one he was prepared to put a guaranteed career on hold to chase. Blagojevic's move to MLS comes after another stellar personal season with the Clan last year in NCAA Division 2. He decided to head back to SFU for his senior year and although the Clan may have struggled overall as a team compared to their previous heroics, Blagojevic was the standout star, averaging a goal a game in his 18 appearances. Those numbers placed him seventh overall in goals in North America and he was unanimously voted the Great Northwest Athletic Conference's (GNAC) Player of the Year and also took home the West Region Player of the Year award. "All the goals that I set out for myself at the beginning of the season, I accomplished," Blagojevic told us. "I was very happy from a personal standpoint that I was able to achieve that. I feel that I'm continually growing as a player, so I'm excited to see how much I can now grow being in a professional atmosphere." Despite the numbers and the plaudits, a professional career in football was still something of a pipe dream for the 23-year-old. It was always at the back of his mind, but at the forefront was going out with the Clan with a bang. Blagojevic had no idea that the Whitecaps were following his progress and were likely to draft him until today. "I didn't know if they were keeping tabs on me or if they had interest in me. I was just enjoying my time with SFU and all I set out to do was to end on a good note in my senior season with SFU. That was it. I never really thought that this would be possible, that there would be a professional chance for me, an opportunity for me in the future." Today's news that the 'Caps had selected him with their first pick in the third round came as a stunning surprise to the striker. So where was he when he got the news. "I was at home, sitting in my living room. I watched the first and second round live, just because I was interested in what was going on. I knew the third and fourth round was occurring on the internet through the live draft tracker, so I was just looking at that screen. I didn't know anything about any team or anything that I was being chosen. I just wanted to see what happens." You can understand why Blagojevic thus describes the whole experience as surreal, but also as one of the best days of his life so far. Med school is still in his long-term plans, but having a chance to make it a pro footballer was just too much of an opportunity for Blagojevic to pass up. "Right now, my first priority is soccer. In the future I can always try and attempt medical school so I guess long, long term, it is medical school for sure but at the moment my main priority is doing whatever I can to succeed at this level." Blagojevic's family have always been big supporters of Jovan throughout his career and his dad is a familiar face at games up the mountain at SFU. They're also fully supportive of him putting his medical career on hold at the moment to try and make it as a professional footballer and were obviously delighted at Jovan being drafted today. "They were all very happy for me. My dad was at work, my mum was upstairs and we were all talking in a group message and they were just all so happy. My mum gave me a big hug and then the next time I saw my dad, he gave me a big hug, my mum was crying. Everybody's just super super happy and ecstatic about everything that's occurring. "The advice that they gave me about medical school and soccer is exactly as I said. That there's always time for this. Right now this is my goal and my dream and I have to take every opportunity as it comes, so that's essentially what I'm doing." The striker has clearly been drafted primarily to feature in the 'Caps new USL PRO team (which will have a 50% Canadian roster requirement), but the chance is now there for him to impress and get into the first team reckoning as well. With MLS roster spots already at a premium, Robinson has previously said that he was more looking at these third and fourth round draft picks for the USL team. But he's also said that every player will get a chance to show they deserve a crack at the MLS squad and to be in the first team mix. "I guess we'll see. I'm not really sure what the future has but if he sees me that I'm more of a USL player, then that's what I am. If he gives me the opportunity for the MLS first team, then you better believe I'm going to take it and give the best I can to show him that he was correct in choosing me for that position. Whatever it is, I'm excited either way." Robinson's message to all of his young players has been clear. He'll give them the tools and the pathway, it's then up to each player individually to take it. Some will and some won't. Blagojevic is determined to fall into the former category but he knows there are aspects of his game that he will need to work on and also what needs to do as a rookie to get him there. "I just have to try and listen to his tactics and what he likes in players and what he sees in players and I just have to try and mould myself as a player to what he wants from his players. I feel that if I can do that as much as I can, hopefully I will get that opportunity." The Whitecaps mantra under Robinson is to give youth a chance and that talent is what matters, not age. Knowing that opportunity and those chances exist is already a key motivational tool for Blagojevic. "That's exciting. It's for sure something that you want to hear. It's very encouraging to hear that from your coach that he has faith in his young players. Hopefully I can prove that faith correct." For those that haven't seen him play yet (we'll put his highlight reel video at the end of this article), how would Jovan describe his style of play and what qualities will he be adding to the Whitecaps? "I feel that I'm very forward with my type of play. [Depending on the situation] I have one mission in mind when I get the ball - either beat my player, going down the line and cross it or go to goal after I've beat my player. I like to score goals. I'm a goalscorer. If I can do that for the Whitecaps, that would be a dream come true." When Jovan first went to study at SFU he wasn't even part of the soccer team, choosing to focus on his education for his first two years at university, before being convinced that he could juggle both. "My first two years I decided not to play, then I finally talked to my parents about whether I should join or not and how it was going to affect my school, but deciding to choose to play on the team was by far a great experience for me as a player, as a person." Blagojevic told us when we chatted just over a year ago. "It's definitely the best thing I've done for my career as a soccer player. It was the best decision for me to do, join the team. It's the closest I've got to that professional environment, which is nice, and I've always wanted that in my life as a soccer player." Now Blagojevic has the opportunity to take it that one stage further and to be in an actual professional training and development environment, and he's excited as to what that will mean for his game. "It's going to obviously help me grow as a player, which I'm really excited about. I'm really excited to see what the future has for me. I want to continue to get better and I want to work as hard as I can to try to get the most that I can out of this opportunity. The fact that now I'm actually living in a pro environment and not what it was before, although SFU had a similar feeling, now it's actually happening for real. It's exciting and I just think it will help me grow as a player." We've been watching Blagojevic play for a few years now. We've seen him as a winger, as an out and out striker and even as a midfielder. The Whitecaps are certainly getting a versatile player, and Jovan is comfortable in any forward and attacking role that the Caps will see fit to give him. "I guess I prefer being a winger. I've grown to be most comfortable in that position. I can play other positions, but I don't feel I'm as strong at them as I am as a winger, but whatever position Carl Robinson has in mind for me, I'll do my best at making the most out of it and do the best that I can at it." The 'Caps have still to name their new coach for the USL PRO side, although an announcement is expected later this week. One name in the mix is current SFU Clan head coach Alan Koch. Blagojevic has spent the last four season under Koch's tutelage and credits the South African with fine tuning his skills and making him the player he is today. "His coaching has got me to become the goalscoring threat that I am. I'm very forward with the way I play and I've definitely built that attribute because of him. He's always focussed with going forward toward the goal and that's helped me become who I am." Koch has been working as a scout of the college ranks with the Whitecaps and acted as part of the 'Caps management team at training over the summer months. He knows Blagojevic's game inside and out and the qualities and attributes that he can bring to the squad. Koch will have had strong input in Vancouver's decision to draft the striker. He's delighted to see Blagojevic now get his chance in the pro game and is confident he has what it takes to succeed. "Jovan is a competitor and he is willing to work hard and absorb information," Koch told AFTN. "I think it is his willingness to address his limitations that has made him the player he is today. He has a winners mentality and is a natural goalscorer. He has not reached his peak yet and in the Whitecaps professional environment I think he will continue to get better and better." While drafting Blagojevic is great news for player and coach alike, it is also good for the soccer program itself at SFU and will only bring more added attention to what is already one of the best set ups in the country. "I am very happy for Jovan to be our first MLS draftee,". Koch continued. "SFU has had lots of players drafted [uSL and A-League], but not into Major League Soccer. Sporting KC had a lot of interest in Chris Bargholz and Alex Kleefeldt last year, but unfortunately nothing came out of that interest. Jovan's selection will only add to the exposure that our team continues to receive, and hopefully make it easier for the next player to get drafted in the near future.' That's a view also echoed by Blagojevic. "SFU's built me into the player that I am, so I'm very respectful of that program," Jovan told us. "It would be great for them to be able to bring in extra talent or to have them have extra spotlight now would be exciting for them and it would be exciting for me as an alumni now." Born in Belgrade, Serbia in 1991 and moving to Canada two years later, Blagojevic grew up in Burnaby and Coquitlam and played his youth football with Burnaby Selects before moving on to the Coquitlam Metro-Ford Wolves U18 side. BC boys on the Whitecaps roster are something of a rarity these days. Following a string of top players coming out of the province and the Whitecaps sides years ago, Richmond's Caleb Clarke is the only other BC homegrown on the Caps senior roster right now. So what does it mean to Jovan to have the chance to play for his hometown club? "It's amazing," Blagojevic admitted. "To even see my name pop up on that draft and then to see it pop up for Vancouver is crazy. To be able to stay at home with my family and to be with my girlfriend as well, it's quite something that I don't have to leave. It definitely helps. "Playing for Vancouver is awesome. It's something that you dream about. It's a fairytale coming true essentially." School, work and his footballing career with SFU and Metro-Ford have somewhat curtailed Jovan's opportunities to go and see the Whitecaps play live. He's only been able to get to a couple of 'Caps MLS games so far but regularly watches at home when he can. Having the chance to play for his local club, also brings with it, it's own little bit of pressure of course. Family and friends will be there and they will all want success. Not that Jovan feels under any extra or undue pressure as a result. "I'd feel the same way if I went anywhere. What I'm feeling, I'd feel anywhere I'd go. It's an amazing opportunity to have. The fact that it's local, yeah it's pretty cool. It's definitely nice, but it doesn't add much extra pressure on me that I'm one of the only local boys on the team." Blagojevic comes to the Caps in an unusual situation for a local lad. He didn't come through the Whitecaps' Residency program. As someone outwith the 'Caps system how does he view the experience of coming through the youth ranks locally but not with the Whitecaps and does he see himself as someone who can give hope to other players in that situation? "I don't know if exactly I feel that way but if it is that I'm giving other local kids that extra encouragement then that's great. I love to support local soccer. That's all I've had as a Coquitlam boy and a Burnaby boy. It was a nice experience playing my youth soccer and my men's soccer with local teams here." There is no doubt that there is still a very hard and tough road ahead if Blagojevic is to make it in the professional game, whether with the Whitecaps or someone else. As draft picks are always told, you've not made it, your journey actually starts now. Having watched him develop these past few years at SFU, there is no doubt in my mind that he has many of the skills needed to make it in the game but taking that next step up the ladder is always tricky. He'll be given all the tools and pathways to get there though and it's up to him now to keep developing and take them. The first step starts this weekend. Blagojevic will now join up with the 'Caps for the start of preseason training camp. The current players report back for their medicals on Saturday before the first on the field session on Monday, and Jovan is already pumped up and raring to go with his new team. "As for what's next training wise, I'm not sure yet. I was told that they'll give me a call to let me know what the gameplan is, so I'll be looking forward to that phone call." Here's is Jovan Blagojevic's highlight reel video:
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