City faces summer of changes

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

The Open Canada Cup final weekend stays put at Cove Road Field this year, but that's about the only mainstay in a season of rampant change for the 34-year-old London City soccer program.

With a heavy heart, star midfielder Gentjan Dervishi takes over as interim head coach from longtime field boss Harry Gauss, who is recovering from surgery on a brain tumour. The 28-year-old native Albanian, also an assistant coach at Western, will continue to play and try to maintain his all-star form while mapping out the on-field strategy for another young team that will likely be in a season-long battle to make the playoffs.

"It's tough and it was unexpected because Harry is usually here and we're used to him taking care of pretty much everything when it comes to the team," Dervishi said. "But we'll keep this going. I like up-tempo soccer and I'm an offensive player, so I like the offensive part of the game.

"I will keep playing because I think that's what my strength is right now. The roster isn't completely set as of yet and we'll see where it goes. This all happened pretty late but I'm hoping to use my contacts and get some players in here who haven't already committed to other teams.

"We have a lot of young guys here and some real talent to work with."

Ryan Gauss takes over acting GM duties for his father and leads the franchise at a time of aggressive Canadian Soccer League expansion and the relaunch of a women's program -- the renamed London City Galaxy -- featuring three teams and big dreams of starting the long-awaited CSL women's division in 2008.

To show City's serious about women's soccer, Gauss announced the signing of former Western star Cristina Bonasia, who had played the previous two seasons with the London Gryphons of the W-League, where she had been team captain.

Geoff Painter, the driving force behind the five-time Ontario and two-time national champion Supernova girls' outfit, will oversee the Galaxy's on-field development. He called out the Gryphons for not agreeing to an exhibition match.

The two programs are in a clash over players and ideologies -- the Gryphons expose London players to U.S.-based competition while the Galaxy sees the national system as the more prudent and long-term development model.

"We have our top Galaxy team playing in the Ontario Women's Soccer League's South Region right now and the statement we want to make is to go in and win the Ontario Cup and go on to a national championship," Painter said.

"We have the talent in London and will win our league easily this year. When the CSL starts its women's league, we think that's the way to go, not to travel to the U.S. and drive 800 miles away for games, because the money's not there."

The Open Canada Cup sees 24 British Columbia teams added this year. The B.C. winner will travel to London during the Labour Day weekend to play for the big prize.

For now, City will contend with new league opponents and longer bus trips with the Trois-Rivieres Attak joining them in the CSL's five-team National Division this year.

City plays its CSL home opener Friday against Toronto Croatia at Cove Road at 8:38 p.m. City lost its season opener 2-0 in Windsor last week.


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