Welcome aboard!

This is a blog for soccer in Halifax and Atlantic Canada. In six months or so, we’ll have a Canadian Premier League team set to kick off its inaugural season.

In many ways, this changes everything in Halifax–we’re a small city, a university town. The Canadian Premier League is arguably the biggest sports gig in town, particularly in the summers. For the first time in my lifetime, young players in Atlantic Canada have a place to aspire to play.

It won’t be without challenges, but neither will it be without successes, and this blog is here to document both. Stories are already developing–Ottawa Fury are out of the league, the Wanderer’s Grounds stadium is finally hosting a competitive match–and we’ll get to that along with a healthy portion of analysis and commentary about the new league and local soccer in general.

Who am I?

I don’t like profiles, that’s what you need to know about me.

I started covering soccer–became a soccer fan, really–back in 2007, right around when TFC began playing in Major League Soccer. I turned on the TV one afternoon and Danny Dichio scored. My heart was hooked.

Halifax, though, is a long way from Toronto: I’ve seen TFC play once, live, while I was in Vancouver for grad school. It was great, but far more enjoyable–and more important for the average soccer fan in this country–is having a local team they can support week to week to week.

For me, that was the Dalhousie Tigers. I was a journalism student at King’s in 2007 and started covering AUS soccer for The Dalhousie Gazette. I’ve watched games in knee-deep snow, I’ve survived the old SMU press box, I’ve made the pilgrimage out to Clayton Park to watch ACAA games. That’s what local soccer is about. If you see a guy with a beard and a soggy notebook at the top of a metal bleacher, it’s probably me.

University soccer

This blog will focus on the top, on the professional game, because that’s the end-point–it’s what we’ve always lacked. Wanderers, though, will rely on the existing soccer community for talent and that, in turn, is what grows soccer in the community and in the country as a whole.

That’s why AUS matters. It matters now in a way it didn’t before. That’s why I’m starting tonight, with the (badly-named, in my opinion) “Halifax derby” between SMU and Dal. It’s a battle of two mid-table teams, and it will not be the best match of soccer played in Canada tonight, but it matters.

It matters because it’s a dry run: for the stadium, for the fans, for this blog. It also matters because AUS soccer is fast, intense, and physical–exactly the kind of soccer that has always defined the Canadian playing identity, sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

There is a long way for AUS to go even as a university conference, but that’s part of the growth and it’s part of what I’ll be covering in the coming weeks. Last year, Cape Breton won the Sam Davidson trophy as national champions, and they could easily repeat. Some of those players are candidates for Wanderers FC trials, at least. Now that the opportunity is so immediate, other players, too, will step up in hopes of nabbing something they couldn’t have before: a professional contract.

(Though let’s give a shout-out to the several former AUS players who have played professionally at various points in their careers.)

What will be here

I’m still in the process and figuring out what kind of content will and won’t work for me and for this blog, and that’ll probably be something that evolves a fair bit over the coming months.

When I covered university soccer, and particularly when I covered women’s nationals in 2010, I focused heavily on live-blogging games. I still think it’s a neat way to cover a match, combining real-time analysis and reporting with a kind of community that Twitter doesn’t quite allow. Facilities permitting, I may resuscitate my old Dal Soccer Live blog, or something like it.

There will be a weekly summary of AUS results and trends, along with whatever national coverage I can squeeze in. I want to use these to focus on tactics and broader storylines as much as facts from the game–I don’t think this blog will aim to replace going to the games, but I hope it can supplement it.

Oh yeah, I go long on occasion. I’m a big fan of the deep-dive pieces on larger topics. Still not sure if or how often these will happen, but I’d like nothing more than to really pull a subject apart… and I could be talked into requests.

What won’t be here

I think it’s really important to be up front about where this project’s scope ends, in part because, at least at first, focusing on the Wanderers pyramid means there will be less coverage of women’s soccer than I’d like.

I’m passionate about the women’s game. I’ve long enjoyed watching it, and my old blogs and Gazette coverage used to go deep into AUS and CIS/USports  women’s soccer.

It’s an interesting time for women’s soccer, too, and I’m hopeful the Canadian Premier League will eventually add a women’s division. That, however, remains further off.

If I can, and time permits, I’m hoping to explore some of these issues in more depth, and I will do match reports for some of the AUS women’s games this season, but a lot of the analysis will necessarily focus a little more on the immediate arrival of a men’s professional team.

The other thing this blog won’t do, by necessity, is a great deal of criticism of refereeing. Partly that’s my principle: I believe journalism (and by extension, blogging) is there to inform, not inflame. But moreover, I referee local youth soccer. We desperately need more people to do it (clinics are in April, if you take the hint), and while I don’t referee in AUS, the people who do are my friends and colleagues. I’ll endeavour to explain how the Laws work, but I won’t be commenting on their decisions.

If there’s a topic you’d like to read about–or even like to write about, particularly with the women’s game–please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

In closing

There is a huge amount still to come, and it’s a great time for soccer in Halifax.

It’s a pleasure to have you; welcome aboard!

 

About Dylan Matthias 119 Articles
Captain of this motley crew. Formerly editor-in-chief at The Dalhousie Gazette, covering university soccer and Halifax news from a student perspective. Once a Vancouverite, always a Haligonian.

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