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No wins but plenty of learning on pitch

WSA Winnipeg battle nerves in series

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THE two-match exhibition series didn't produce any wins for WSA Winnipeg over the weekend, but all was not lost for the local soccer outfit.

In fact, if the two outings against FC Edmonton -- a club playing in two divisions ahead of WSA -- held any value, it was how they helped erase some of the nervousness from the young Winnipeg squad.

Saturday night, the second-year Professional Development League (PDL) entry dropped a 7-0 decision to Edmonton, a club that plays in the higher-level North America Soccer League.

Sunday brought another loss for WSA, a 3-1 score, but a much better result overall.

"There were some nerves the first game, that was apparent," head coach Eduardo Badescu said after the match at the Winnipeg Indoor Soccer Complex Sunday. "We never relaxed in that game and made some poor decisions."

So rattled were the WSA players that Badescu's staff came up with an idea after the game: They wrote the final score on a soccer ball -- Edmonton 7, Winnipeg 0 -- and cut the ball up into little pieces, rendering it completely worthless, and tossed it into the garbage.

"We threw that game away," Badescu said.

The rematch was a much closer affair. Edmonton jumped out to a 2-0 lead 22 minutes in (one of the scores coming on a WSA own goal) before Moses Danto charged in on a free-kick rebound to get Winnipeg on the board in the 24th minute.

Edmonton struck again before the first half wrapped up to close out the scoring.

But at this point, it's not about the wins and losses for the WSA. This season is only its second venture into PDL competition, players understand, so it's more about exposure to heightened opposition and time on the pitch than anything else.

"To be honest, I really feel like the talent is here," said 19-year-old midfielder Greg Kulczycki, who has been with the program for a decade. "We were an older team against these guys last year (Edmonton won 5-0), and this year, our young guys are getting their first taste.

"We made some mistakes this weekend, but that's to be expected. Two of their goals (Sunday), I don't know if that would happen if we played them again."

The WSA will take a few days off now and begin training for the start of the PDL season. The club will start outdoor practices April 2, working out every day, Badescu said, right up until the regular-season opener May 12 against Real Colorado.

"The team is coming along," the manager said. "We've only had four, five practices before this weekend, so we have only seen a glimpse of what we can do. Hopefully, by May we'll be ready."

WSA Winnipeg, which finished with a 4-10-2 record last summer, opens its regular-season home schedule against St. Louis May 19-20 at the Winnipeg Indoor Soccer Complex.

Those two games are the only ones scheduled for under the roof this season: The six other home dates -- June 1-2 (vs. Des Moines), June 16-17 (Thunder Bay), July 13-14 (Springfield) -- will be played at the Winnipeg Outdoor Soccer Complex.

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 26, 2012 C5

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