Kamloops, BC—Two of the top players on the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack men’s soccer team are getting the chance to improve their skills at a high level this summer.
Justin Donaldson (3rd year, Kamloops, BC) and Mitchell Popadynetz (4th year, Nelson, BC) have made squads in the Premier Development Soccer League after tryouts. Donaldson is with the Victoria Highlanders while Popadynetz is playing for the TSS Rovers out of Vancouver, BC.
The PDL is a semi-pro league primarily consisting of players under the age of 23 on teams throughout North America. It is two leagues below the MLS (which the Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC are a part of).
“This is a great opportunity,” says Donaldson, who made the Highlanders after attending an open tryout and a two week training camp. “My role on the team is that I will play either wing or striker so my biggest role will be to attack and create goal scoring opportunities.”
“I’m looking forward to the challenge of playing with new players in a new place and really hope it will help me for the big season coming up with the WolfPack.” adds Popadynetz who played for the Highlanders last season before deciding to try his luck with T.S.S. He is on a squad with players who play university at SFU, UBC, Alberta along with some NCAA Div I schools.”
Donaldson’s teammates have a lot of international backgrounds: Northern Ireland, Japan and England along with Canada. “ I believe our strengths as a team are our core,” he adds. “From the keeper to the strikers, we are solid. I think our attack will be a good strength.”
“For guys like Mitch and Justin to make these teams and be able to play at this level is a fantastic opportunity. It shows that we have players in our program that are able to play at the ‘next level’. This is a great stepping stone. The guys could be seen by bigger clubs (MLS, USL, NASL),” says TRU head coach John Antulov who is hoping that the experience they garner this summer will help the WolfPack when the two return for the start of their Canada West training camp in August. “As far as our program is concerned, we will get players back who have performed at a really high level all summer. They will be able to hit the ground running.”
“To me, the PDL is a big step and has a lot of pace to the game,” adds Donaldson. “Returning to TRU in the fall will definitely have an impact on my pace and strength. I am happy to be playing at a high level and continue that momentum through the summer and into the national year (TRU hosting the 2017 USport Soccer Nationals in November).”
The two WolfPack teammates will face each other twice during the PDL season (June 23rd and 25th). “I love playing alongside Mitch for sure with TRU, we have a great team there. Playing against him will be a bit of a surreal experience. I am just going into it to have fun because we know each other’s game pretty well. Regardless of on or off the pitch, whether we play with or against each other, Mitch and I are still friends. That’ll never change.”
The PDL has a 14 game season and runs until the end of July. Some of the teams in the Pacific Division include Under 23 sides of the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers.
THROW INS: There are a number of WolfPack players playing at higher levels this summer. Ryan Glanville (5th year, Williams Lake, BC) is playing for Vancouver United in the Pacific Coast Soccer League Premiere Division. Finlay McPhie (4th year, Vernon, BC), Mike Bennett (4th year, Vernon, BC), Brady VanRyswyk (2nd year, Penticton, BC) and recruit Jordell Alfoso (1st year, Penticton, BC) are with the Penticton Pinnacles. Adam Swanson (3rd year, North Vancouver, BC) and Jason Staiger (2nd year, Chilliwack, BC) are playing U-21 soccer for West Vancouver in the PCSL .