WSA Winnipeg kicks off the 2017 PDL season on the road Saturday night against the Des Moines Menace, looking to improve on a rough 2016 season.
The Wolfpack finished 1-11-2 in 2016, as a young roster battled injuries and showed late in the season they could compete with any team in the Heartland Division, tying their final two games.
“Last year we were missing key players early in the season and this year everyone was able to make the trip,” Head coach Eduardo Badescu said. “We also had several players that had not played university soccer and come back to us with a year of experience.”
A clean bill of health from 2016 Manitoba player of the year Kyle Hiebert means the team’s on-field leader will man the backline. Injuries limited Hiebert to just 8 appearances in 2016.
Hiebert (Missouri State University), is one of three players on the team with NCAA experience — joined by veteran midfielder Ivan Borka (Drury University) and rookie forward Daniel Sagno (San Diego State University).
Defender Tom Prazak(University of Winnipeg), midfielder Raphael Ohin and forward Tobias Hyrich-Krueger (University of Winnipeg) are all looking to build off strong showings in 2016.
“We have some great options in our team heading into the season and everyone will get an opportunity as we play several games in a short span,” Badescu said.
Winnipeg opens the season with five road matches over the next week with games against the St. Louis Lions on May 21, St. Louis FC U23 on May 23 and May 24 and Chicago FC United on May 26.
The WSA – Des Moines game will be broadcast live on the Central Iowa Sports Network starting at 7:30 p.m.
Final cuts made:
The roster was rounded out heading into the season-opening road trip with some familiar faces and new blood joining the team.
Defender Belmin Mackic returns after an impressive rookie campaign where he made 9 appearances and scored a goal. The 18-year-old defender held his own playing against much more experienced opposition.
Midfielder Ermin Mackic, twin brother of Belmin, joins the team after injuries kept him out in 2016.
Midfielder Stephan Melo returns to WSA Winnipeg after playing for Woodbridge Strikers in League One Ontario for the 2016 season. He last played for Winnipeg in 2015 and brings added PDL experience to the squad.
Forwards Oluwasegun Akinshipe and Louis Melendez will help bolster the Wolfpack attack. Akinshipe played for the University of Winnipeg last fall while Melendez hails from El Salvador.
Goalkeeper Joshua Dielmann will complete the goaltending duo with University of New Brunswick standout Evan Barker. Dielmann plays for the University of Winnipeg and at 6’5 brings an imposing presence between the posts.