We are wishing the best of luck this week to Ahmed Alghamdi (#23 – far left of the photo) of our Rino’s Tigers Premier team who is currently taking part in the training camp of the Saudi Arabia youth national team.
There’s a new name on the Vancouver Metro Soccer League (VMSL) Imperial Cup.
Rino’s Tigers lifted the famous 105-year-old trophy for the first time in their history following a 2-0 victory of Croatia SC at Coquitlam’s Percy Perry Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
For a match between two high scoring teams, that had produced 13 goals in their two league meetings this season, the anticipated goalfest didn’t come, with both defences standing strong again some dangerous attackers. That said, both teams had chances to make this a far more high scoring game, but they were unable to bury them.
Rino’s came out strong from the off and dominated the first half.
The opening ten minutes were marked by some fierce tackles flying in from Croatia, and you started to worry that TSS Rovers may be missing some of their Rino’s players for the new PDL season the way things were shaping up, but things soon settled down and both teams concentrated on getting the first goal.
Rino’s were looking the more dangerous, with Croatia find themselves caught offside several times from a high Tigers backline.
The best of the early chances fell to Whitecaps Residency alumni Declan Rodriguez in the 20th minute, after a spell of concerted Rino’s pressure. Connor Glennon went on a nice run up the right, playing the ball back to Erik Edwardson at the top of the box. The Portland Pilot midfielder played a neat ball to Rodriguez in front of goal and his cheeky back heel from the edge of the six yard box was blocked by the legs of Croatia’s keeper, Ante Boskovic.
Rino’s squandered another couple of good chances, with Rodriquez firing into the side netting and another Whitecaps Residency alumni, Daniel Sagno, blasting over, but Tigers weren’t to be denied and they finally got the go-ahead goal when Rodriguez finished at the near post from a tight angle in the 36th minute.
Rino’s were well deserving of their one goal lead at the half, but Croatia came out to make a game of it in the second.
The game became end to end, with both teams having a number of chances to grab the next goal. Tigers’ Matteo Polisi came close twice, with a free kick and then drilled a low one to Boskovic’s near post.
Croatia responded with a Johnny Sulentic free kick of their own that just zipped over, before Sulentic just failed to connect an outstretched leg to a great ball to the back post.
As Croatia pushed hard for the equaliser, they left themselves short at the back and Rino’s smelt blood.
Edwardson fired over from a good position, before crashing one off the bar. Boskovic had to come up big to keep Croatia in the match, saving from Rodriguez at the near post and then turning a Glennon chance just past the post, when it looked certain he’d score in the 66th minute.
Tigers thought they’d finally doubled their lead two minutes later when Matteo Polisi turned in a deflected Rodriguez cross, but he was deemed to have been in an offside position when the pass was made.
Both teams had a couple of close calls, before Edwardson wrapped it up for Rino’s in the closing minutes, picking his spot to finish a Glennon pass after a quick breakaway.
And that was that. Rino’s Tigers were the 2018 Imperial Cup champions.
You can see our highlights video from the match, as well as the trophy presentation, below.
After achieving promotion back to the VMSL Premier from Division 1 last season, it’s been a great year back in the top flight for Rino’s and a great achievement for the players and personally for head coach Blaise Nkufo.
“I’m very glad,” Nkufo told AFTN after Saturday’s win. “I think we deserve it. The first half we played very good football. The second half, we were not in control, but I think we created a lot of chances. We could have won by a big score, but at the end of the day, we managed to win. I’m very happy for the team and also for myself as a coach.”
The 2017/2018 VMSL Season wrapped up with a strong showing from all Rino’s Vancouver SC teams. The premier division Tiger’s team were in the title hunt all season long but were unable to find late season form and ended with a 6th place finish. A slow start from the 2017 3rd place finishing Division 1 side Fury put early doubts of promotion into their minds as they ended up in mid-table at 6th as well. The Division 2 Bulldogs had lots of promising results but carried on in the same style with a 6th place finish. The O35’s captured 3rd with a strong showing in Masters division 1 but it ended up being the old boys in the O45 Masters division, winning their respective league. Congrats to them!
The Tiger’s and Fury will now play in the VMSL Imperial Cup and hope to qualify for the BC Provincial Cup.
Over the summer months, the club’s management has been hard at work behind the scenes, and we now have two exciting announcements to make regarding the upcoming Vancouver Metro Soccer League season:
Rino’s Vancouver SC and FC Tigers Vancouver have merged operations to field a team in the VMSL Premier Division
For the past several years, Rino’s Vancouver SC has fielded a Division 1 side in the VMSL which has been a perennial contender for promotion, but has never quite been able to achieve that goal. In the last two years, a new challenger has emerged, FC Tigers Vancouver, and in the 2014-15 season the Tigers successfully earned promotion to Premier by virtue of a 2nd place finish. Since the end of the winter season Tigers management came to realise the difficulty of the task at hand, and an idea sparked that if they combined forces with another well-established club they would be better suited to challenge the VMSL Premier division. A number of clubs were considered, with Rino’s being one of them.
While the two clubs have competed across multiple fronts in VMSL Div 1 League and Imperial Cup play in winters, as well as Division 1 of the RRSL in the summers, they have also shared a lot in common. The two clubs have shared the same training facilities, numerous players have pulled on both the blue jersey of Rino’s and the red of Tigers, and of course they have a shared passion for football. Finally, an approach was made, and after weeks of hard negotiations an agreement was reached, resulting in the combined club being the only one in the city set to field teams in the top three divisions of the VMSL (Premier, Div 1, and Div 2), the pinnacle of which will be the premier team playing as FC Tigers Vancouver Rino.
Former Swiss International Footballer, Blaise Nkufo, has been appointed Head Coach of the FC Tigers Vancouver Rino Premier Team
Once the ink dried on the Tigers/Rino’s agreement, the next task at hand was to find a suitable coach to lead the team in its first year of VMSL Premier play. Having a third party was preferred so as to not bring any biases into the equation with regards to player selection, and the leading candidate emerged as Blaise Nkfuo. Blaise should need no introduction, but for the uninitiated here is a rundown on his playing career highlights:
US Open Cup Champion in 2010 (Seattle Sounders, Major League Soccer, USA)
Honored with a bronze statue in 2010 (FC Twente, Eredivisie, Holland)
FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa (Swiss National Team)
Eredivisie Champion in 2009-2010 (FC Twente, Eredivisie, Holland)
All time top scorer (FC Twente, Eredivisie, Holland)
UEFA Champions League and Europa League Games (FC Twente, Eredivisie, Holland)
Swiss Cup Champion in 1998 (FC Lausanne-Sport, Super League, Switzerland)
Since retiring as a professional player, Blaise earned a UEFA coaching license and founded two centres for the development of young footballers, N.K.U.F.O. Academy Sports in Yaoundé (Cameroon), and BlaiseSoccer Elite Training in Vancouver (Canada). Blaise is passionate about developing players into professionals, and with his expertise has already shown great results in a short period of time. In Yaoundé, N.K.U.F.O. Academy pupil Olivier Simo Kingue was selected earlier this year for the Cameroon U-23 National Team! Meanwhile in Vancouver, BlaiseSoccer Elite trainee David Genet attended open tryouts with 130 top local players, and was 1 of just 5 who earned an invitation to join the Whitecaps FC 2 in their inaugural pre-season preparations.
More recently, Blaise coached the Saudia Arabia team at the Nations Cup tournament in Richmond, BC. The team finished 2nd in their group, with their only loss coming to an eventual tournament finalist. What stood out most to the hundreds of spectators in attendance was the impressive style the team played, as well as the young age of many of the players, the youngest of which was just 15. For more information on BlaiseSoccer Elite Training visit www.blaisesoccer.com
We are extremely fortunate to have the privilege to work with Blaise this season, and we hope that our current and prospective players are ready to rise to the challenge and have a great Premier season under his direction. If you are interested in opportunities to tryout, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org