St. Albert Impact FC is set to start their second season in United Women's Soccer (UWS). This year's squad features multiple players who were a part of the 2021 U SPORTS national championship-winning MacEwan Griffins, including St. Albert's own Anneke Odinga.
“I am so excited," Odinga said. "Especially with a lot of returning Griffins here ... we definitely want to make it to nationals and just have a good season with the UWS."
Odinga, who graduated from Paul Kane in 2021, also played for Impact FC in the team's inaugural UWS season last summer. In 2021, the team could only play four matches due to a shortened season and difficulties crossing the southern border to play teams in the United States.
Besides having a full season scheduled this year, the Impact also have a new head coach for the 2022 campaign: Dean Cordeiro. Last season's head coach, Troye Flannery, who was also the technical director of the St. Albert Soccer Association, recently accepted a new job as the technical director for Chilliwack FC.
Cordeiro was the associate head coach for Impact FC last year. He is coming off a historic season, as he coached the MacEwan University women's soccer team to their first-ever U SPORTS national championship.
“It was truly a remarkable and historic season for my MacEwan Griffins," Cordeiro said. In his first season as head coach of the Impact, Cordeiro will have the chance to coach a few of his MacEwan players again, including Odinga.
"It’s exciting to have a good core that I worked with at the University [now] rocking the blue and gold with the Impact FC," he said.
Odinga said she is thrilled to play under Cordeiro again, adding she is "excited for him for this amazing opportunity and I’m just excited because he knows how to win, you know."
Something Cordeiro does really well, Odinga said, is crafting a strong team culture.
"It’s just a matter of trying to get everybody on the same page," Cordeiro explained.
“Whenever you form a team, you have players from all different clubs, universities, local kids, out-of-town kids, and in our case, we have a couple of international [players] as well.
"We have a wide range of personnel that we have to understand what makes them click, how do they respond, what kind of training methods, what buttons to push, to get the most out of everybody," Cordeiro said.
"For me it’s always just been putting the pieces of the puzzle together and [trying] to put our best foot forward, and [trying] to come up with our best 11 [players] that’s going to get the job done on the day."
Other MacEwan University players confirmed to be on this year's Impact team include Samantha Gouveia (of Edmonton) and Grace Mwasalla (of Chatham, Ont.).
Cordeiro said the team can't announce its complete roster yet as some players still must complete their transfer agreements or return to Canada from their U.S.-based clubs and schools.
The season ahead
The Impact's first game of the season is against the only other Canadian team in UWS, Calgary Foothills FC. The provincial rivals will square off on May 28 in Riel Park.
Until the first match, Cordeiro said he's still focused "on shaping the team."
“The talent level is going to be through the roof," he said. "We’re talking the best of the best talent in North America."
"We’re going to grow one day at a time and we’re going to see what we’re up against."
The Impact will play 10 total games over the summer. If they make the playoffs, one more game is guaranteed. In the UWS system, the Impact are one of six teams in the West Division. They will play against teams from Calgary; Kaysville, Utah; Los Angeles, California; Santa Clarita, California; and Chandler, Arizona.
Santa Clarita's team, the Blue Heat, were not only the 2021 West Division champions, but also league champions.
Odinga said the team's travel-heavy summer schedule is one "of the most exciting aspects of joining the team."
“I think everyone’s so excited," she said.
Tickets for all five Impact FC home games combined are on sale for $65 each.