Soccer season begins

RELATED: 2014 GSL fixture

THE 2014 Gippsland Soccer League season begins this weekend.With the return of Morwell Pegasus to the central division, 11 teams will battle it out for silverware over 22 rounds before an expanded three-week final series featuring six teams.

´╗┐SALE UNITED

Coach: Ross McWhirter.Last season: fourth (11 wins, three losses, four draws); finals series:champion.

In: Daniel Ledonne, Valdez Chain, Sean Hurn, Slade Whitfield, Nick Buckhoreelall, David Simpson, Patrick Lawless (former Wolverhampton Wanders Youth Academy); out: nil.

SALE’S grand final win over Monash last year secured the club’s first silverware in 33 years, and the Swans will be looking for more in 2014.

The club has retained key midfielders Ash Ross and Tommy Nguyen along with a string of new signings, including former Wolverhampton Wanderers youth academy member Patrick Lawless.

“Our main aim will be to improve our away from home form and maintain the undefeated home record we had for the previous year,” coach Ross McWhirter said.

“Sale United is achieving record numbers for men’s training and is very excited about the 2014 year ahead.”

Having conceded just once in retaining the pre-season Kendall Cup, after winning it for the first time last year, the Swans will be eager to do the same during the finals series.

Sale United will begin the season this Sunday against Traralgon City.

TRARALGON CITY

Coach: Peter Lietzau.

Last season: eighth (four wins, four draws, 10 losses).

In: Max Lietzau (Moe), Manny Askew (Olympians), Paul Storey (Falcons), Andrew Bell; out: John Koul (Pegasus metro) Andrew Batt, (Newborough-Yallourn United) Adam Batt, (NYU), Dylan Fairbrother (Fortuna) Dylan DeHommel (Pegasus metro).

IN its 46th year, Traralgon City has been bolstered by the appointment of renowned Valley player and coach Peter Lietzau as senior coach.

Lietzau, who has assisted coaching many Gippsland and state youth squads over the last decade, inherits a young squad built up from the depth provided by two supporting under 16 squads.

“We are looking forward to this season after some close results and draws last year,” president Bill Van Der Staay said.

“Our club will be striving for a position in the top four with some new young inclusions into our team which is exciting.”

With a focus on controlled football and playing out from the back, Lietzau was excited about the year ahead.

“The players have taken on with enthusiasm a new approach to playing the game and with the player commitment through pre-season, Traralgon are going to be a team not to be taken lightly in  seasons to come,” he said.

MOE UNITED

Coach: Lee Dastey.

Last season: champion (13 wins, two draws, three losses); finals series: semi-finalist.

In: Ashley Birrell (Monash), Steve Birrell; out: Adrian Savage, Matthew Rock, Sam Lietzau.

MOE United stole the show in the last round of the season when it snared the league championship from under Churchill’s nose.

Returning coach Lee Dastey has lost three key players, who are now living in Melbourne, but picked up golden boot winner and Monash captain Ash Birrell in a major coup.

“Winning our first league championship in 24 years was a great achievement for the club and although retaining the title is always very difficult it remains our number one priority for 2014,” Dastey said.

“Other aims for 2014 is to break the club’s similar drought since it last won the Battle of Britain Cup as well as seeing some progress at youth level.

“While we have lost three players from last season we have made some very good additions that will make us competitive for the season ahead.”

Moe’s first assignment will be away to Monash on Sunday.

MONASH

Coach: Wally Noppert.

Last season: third (11 wins, three losses, four draws); finals series: runner-up.

In: Keiran Coltman (Fortuna), Chris Hall (NYU), Brendan Ruddell (NYU), Chad Shelley (NYU), Andres Nilo (Olympians), Jordan Clerks (returning); out: Ash Birrell (Moe), Steve Birrell (Moe), Coen Slaughter (Pegasus metro), Jamie Green (Pegasus metro), Chris Noppert (overseas).

LAST year’s goal scoring machine Monash has lost its the most potent prongs in golden boot winner Ash Birrell and Coen Slaughter.

With 34 goals between the two now lost to Moe and Pegasus’ state league side respectively, coach Wally Noppert has opted to focus on structure over style.

“It’s been massive to lose (them) … it’s a lot of experience has exited the club but I think the recruits I’ve got will hold us in good stead,” Noppert said.

“We were quite free-flowing in terms of scoring goals but I think we could have won a lot more games if we were structurally more sound in defence.”

Newborough-Yallourn best-and-fairest Chad Shelley is the big recruit for the Wolves, who have also lost Jamie Green to Pegs.

Ty Christy will be the main man up front.

CHURCHILL UNITED

Coach: Steve Riess.

Last season: second (13 wins, one draw, four losses); finals series: semi-finalist.

In: Luke Cheney (Pegasus); out: Chris Calabrese (Melbourne), Ben Skinner (Yinnar Football Club).

AFTER taking all before it in 2012, Churchill remained a competitive force last season and had one hand on the league championship right up until the final round.

The Rams finished second on the ladder and won the Battle of Britain Cup.

Churchill superstar Luke Cheney has indicated he may return to the line-up in addition to state league coaching duties at Morwell Pegasus, which would give a monumental boost to the nearly unchanged squad’s firepower.

“Pre-season has been patchy at best, but you can certainly see the hunger in the squad to recapture the league championship that was within our grasp last year,” coach Steve Riess said.

Churchill will head to Tyers for round one on Sunday.

TYERS

Coach: Con Nicolopoulos.

Last season: 10th (one win, 17 losses).

In: James Nicolopoulos (Oakleigh Cannons); out: nil.

A-LEAGUE referee and elite goalkeeping coach James Nicolopoulos joins Tyers between the sticks as the club looks to move a few spots up the ladder.

Incoming coach Con Nicolopoulos has designs on a top six finish in his first year at the helm with his squad of “Mighty Ducks”.

“We have got some good players and we’ve brought in a very professional goalkeeper,” Nicolopoulos said.

“We’re hoping to change things around a little bit, bring in some new players and we’re going to do okay this year.”

Tyers managed just the one win last year, and will be targeting a more competitive showing in 2014.

FORTUNA

Coach: Dominic Palermo.

Last season: fifth (11 wins, two draws, five losses).

In: Michael Fava (Olympians), Harley Broadbent (Falcons), Dylan Fairbrother (Traralgon City), Mauro De Luca (Falcons), Hayden Tanti (Fortuna youth) Robert Cusworth (Fortuna youth), Matt Ross (overseas); out: Keiran Coltman (Monash), John McEvoy (Cranbourne).

AFTER a troubled year on and off the park, long-serving former coach Dominic Palermo has returned with a renewed focus on club culture.

Fortuna missed out on finals for the first time since 1996 last season, and will be out to rectify that failure under Palermo.

“We’ve just got to try and instil some culture back in the club,” Palmero said.

“We had some off-field issues, so not only on the playing field, but overall as a club we need to be more disciplined and focused on what we’re trying to achieve.

“Last couple of weeks has been really strong on the track; hopefully we get back in finals and the main goal is to win the championship.”

Fortuna has picked up semi-professional English player Matt Ross, while Mauro De Luca has returned from Falcons.

Fortuna will host Traralgon Olympians on Sunday.

TRARALGON OLYMPIANS

Coach: Aaron Daniels.

Last season: sixth (seven wins, one draw, 10 losses).

In: Ben Johnstone (Pegasus), Declan Wilson (Traralgon City); out: Frank Albanese, Andres Nilo (Monash), Chris Alympic, Tony Pardo, George Fkiaris, George Demetrios, Bryce Ruthrven, Ivan Vekic, Nick Stevens.

ONE of the better sides on paper, Olympians managed just seven wins last year and finished sixth.

New coach Aaron Daniels, who led the club’s under 21 outfit last year, is searching for the perfect blend of youth and experience to push the senior team to greater heights.

The departure of striker Frank Albanese, who netted 20 times last year, will be hard-felt.

MORWELL PEGASUS

Coach: Ben Cassar/Paul Hutchinson.

Last season: Seventh (in GSL South Division).

In: Leon Cook (Fortuna), Heydan Cook (NYU), John Cook (NYU), Ben Cassar (Fortuna), Damian Cassar (Pegasus metro), Shaun Bye (Skye United), Dustin Moos (Fortuna), Joel Baldwin (Fortuna), Airali Ismail (overseas), Orlanda Dopo (Traralgon City), Robbie Holmes (Fortuna), Salah Eliaser (Pegasus metro); out: nil.

AFTER spending a season in the south, Morwell Pegasus returns to the central division heavily reinforced.

Journeyman Ben Cassar has brought several troops with him from Fortuna to go with a string of solid signings as the Horsemen target a midtable finish.

Cassar said his squad’s height, strength, flair and natural ability could see Pegasus threaten more established sides, starting with its round one home clash against Morwell rival Falcons tomorrow to kick off the Immigration Wall Cup tie.

“We aim to be competitive, to contest the league finals and championships,” Cassar said.

“We hope to play a brand of football with a lot of possession, entertaining, high scoring and something the juniors can look at and try to emulate.”

FALCONS

Coach: Nick D’Alessandro.

Last season: Seventh (six wins, three draws, nine losses).

In: Adam Brooker (Trafalgar), Jordan Kennedy (Churchill), Tommy D’Alia (Churchill), Sammy Amaira (returning from injury), DJ Matar (Traralgon City), Kuiy Jiath (returning from illness), Jesse Maximix (Falcons juniors), Luke Price (Fortuna youth); out: Mauro DeLuca (Fortuna), Paul Storey (Traralgon City), Gianni Salvatore (Dandenong Thunder), Andrew Carbone (shoulder injury).

LAST season presented its challenges for Falcons as it worked to re-establish itself in the senior and under 21s competition.

“Losing a number of key players to injury during the year and continuing with a predominantly youth policy there were many ups and downs for season 2013; the side has given invaluable experience to many now established players,” coach Nick D’Alessandro said.

“We have had a big preseason and raised the bar across all four sides this year (including the women’s team) with a lot of hard work and dedication.

“With a number of key senior signings as well as some much needed depth injected into the squad for 2014, Falcons is expecting to be big improvers.”

NEWBOROUGH-YALLOURN UNITED

Coach: Tim Armistead.

Last season: ninth (three wins, one draw, 14 losses).

In: John Rooney (Traralgon City), Adam Batt (Traralgon City), Andrew Batt (Traralgon City); out: John Cook (Morwell Pegasus), Heydan Cook (Morwell Pegasus), Chad Shelley (Monash), Aiden George.

THE departure of 2013 best-and-fairest Chad Shelley will hurt the Combine’s engine room, however, returning coach Tim Armistead was confident his trio of Roosters recruits could cover the loss.

“We’re looking at building into a regular top four team and playing some good soccer,” Armistead said.

“Last year was a bit disappointing result-wise, but we built in the second half of the season and became more competitive.

“We built on our structures and the players we’ve got coming in are very experienced, so we’re looking at building on our structures and tempo and looking at returning to the top four.”

Newborough-Yallourn will have the bye in round one.