Story by Tom Berridge – Burnaby Now
April 8, 2013, Burnaby, BC – Estrella de Chile qualified both its premier and under-21 men’s soccer teams in the Provincial Cup draw held Tuesday in Victoria.
Chile’s presence in its first full season in Vancouver Metro Soccer League’s premier division was meteoric, taking the league by storm, while winning seven of its first eight matches against the best the league had to offer.
“We weren’t just winning, we were dominating,” said head coach and club president Claudio Ramirez. “There was a perception out there like, ‘Where did we come from?'”
The answer to that question was a simple one for Ramirez.
“We never stop,” he said.
Estrella de Chile club teams contest local leagues all year long, including summer and multicultural leagues, as well as the Lower Mainland metro league.
Last season, Chile just missed promotion to the premier, losing out by a single point due to changes in division alignments made last year.
But that extra year in Division 1 helped the team perfect its high-tempo possession-style of game for the season at hand, said Ramirez.
“We really lucked out,” Ramirez said. “We don’t play the long ball. We just don’t. I’d rather lose pretty than win ugly. We’re very different.”
The Burnaby-based club is bolstered by former Vancouver Whitecaps defender Narcisse Tchoumi, who played professionally in Japan and represented Cameroon at the 2002 World Cup.
Chile was also fortunate to sign former Kenyan league player Habil Otieno, who led the squad with nine goals in the regular season.
Admir Salihovic and Brian Dottin, two local former Burnaby Select products, also provided the firepower up front with eight and seven goals, respectively, this season.
After four seasons in Div. 1, Chile’s strong opening start calmed somewhat in the winter schedule with just one win and two draws in its next seven starts. At the restart, Chile did better but finished the regular season on even terms, with a record of 22-3 to finish its first season in the premier league in fifth place with a 10-7-5 record, just two points out of third spot and behind club heavyweights Columbus, West Van FC, Surrey United Firefighters and ICST Pegasus.
“What happened was teams adjusted properly in the second round. I believe teams were hanging back, and we had to adjust, and it cost us some points,” said Ramirez.
But Estrella de Chile has made those tactical adjustments and a recent 2-2 draw in a friendly against Surrey United, a good league indicator of how good a team is, may bear out Ramirez’s optimism heading into the provincials.
“I think we’re in a perfect spot to be a dark horse. I think we’re going to be motivated,” he said.
Chile will take on ICST Pegasus at the Newton Athletic Turf next weekend on a day and time to be determined later.