On August 22 at 7 pm, the Pandas soccer team will hit the Foote Field pitch to battle many familiar faces, in the Pandas vs. Alumni exhibition match. If we were to tell you that this game is meaningful, then we’d be lying. This is for bragging rights, more than anything else. But the match-up does give fans an initial glimpse at the Pandas squad of 2012.
Last year, the Pandas rode a 9-4-1 Canada West record to the CIS National Championships, where they lost to the Queen’s Golden Gaels in the opening match. The Pandas then dispatched of Dalhousie and rivals Trinity Western in the subsequent games, but due to the opening loss, any shot at a CIS title had disintegrated. Queen’s went on to win the CIS, and the Pandas came as close as anyone to topping them.
Though some players from 2011 have graduated to alumni status, it’s safe to assume that the Pandas will once again vie for a CIS title. Edmonton (and Alberta, more generally) is a hot-bed for soccer talent, and with many of those players heading to the University of Alberta, the Pandas tend to out-class the majority of their opponents. UBC, TWU and maybe even Calgary will present tough competition, but apart from that, the road is smooth and freshly-paved, the scent of tar still in the air.
Still, there are major questions to be answered. Particularly, will it be the Pandas or Bears that advances the furthest in CIS Nationals, provided that each side qualifies for the tournament? In 2011, the Bears advanced to the semi-finals, claiming victory in this tussle.
For now, however, the focus is on Wednesday night’s evening affair at Foote. Take a break from the Fringe to see some of the best soccer Edmonton has to offer.
Pandas and Bears soccer previews soon to come.