FC Northwest is more than just a local success story — it may be one of the best soccer clubs in Canada.
The northwest Winnipeg organization was responsible for four of the six teams representing Manitoba at the male and female youth club nationals played across the country during the Thanksgiving Day long weekend.
The club’s under-18 boys won a gold medal in Sydney, N.S., defeating Ontario’s Erin Mills Eagles 2-1 in the final. The under-16 girls came up just short in Charlottetown, falling to a Burlington, Ont., club in the gold-medal match
If you’d rather measure the club’s success by the accomplishments of its players, look no further than Olympic bronze medalist Desiree Scott, a midfielder for the Canadian women’s national team. Or Dylan Carreiro, a member of the national under-20 men’s team and a prospect for the Queens Park Rangers of the English Premier League.
Head coach Larry Ladobruk is most proud of the players who have used their soccer talents to further their educations.
"It’s great that we’ve sent so many kids not just to national championships, but to colleges in the U.S.," said the Maples resident who’s been a full-time club employee for six years. "Eight got scholarships this year. That’s what it’s all about."
Ladobruk and club president Martino Vergata are proud of what the club has been able to accomplish despite having the fewest players to draw from of any of the city’s five districts.
Vergata, a Garden City resident, believes the implementation of the new Canadian Soccer Association model that called for the hiring of a club head coach played a huge role in FC Nortwest’s recent progress.
"It mirrors what’s being done worldwide," Vergata said. "The clubs are the ones that develop players, not the national programs."
Players at the premier level are on the pitch up to five days a week year-round, including three days at the club’s academy and twice with their own team.
"It used to be your team and that was it," Ladobruk said. "Now we have an opportunity to work with players and build their technical skills."
From the grassroots levels up until the players start competing for MSA Cups at the 14-and-under age group, winning isn’t nearly as important to the club as skill development, he said.
The club may have the smallest pool of players to draw from, but it does a great job of keeping kids in the program. By the time players are 12 or 13, most of them are willing to drop hockey and play indoor soccer in the winter.
And that’s where another one of the club’s advantages lies. Its indoor facility, with an artificial grass surface, provides a much better place to train than a school gym’s hardwood floor.
"It’s a much truer surface," Ladobruk said.
The next big step for the club is still in the works. FC Northwest is hoping to partner with a professional team to offer better exposure for its players and improved education for its coaches.