“We lacked the pointy end of the stick,” said head coach Dave Dew.
So he started whittling a sharper point of attack for this season and has signed a United Nations of talent from England, Northern Ireland and Japan.
Forward/attacking midfielder Eva Batousol is part of the Highlanders’ Sheffield pipeline as Dew has myriad connections with that part of England through development camps and exchanges. The six-foot-one native of London captained Sheffield Hallam University before joining Sheffield FC, which is in the Northern Premier League Div. 1, but which carries a rich pedigree as the world’s first soccer club.
“[Batousol] is very quick in attack,” said Dew.
So is Cape Breton University captain Stuart Heath, a six-foot-one native of Belfast, whose timely scoring powered the Capers to third place overall this season in U Sports.
“He is a big presence,” said Dew.
The Atlantic Conference of U Sports has proved a rich vein in the past for the Highlanders, netting the likes of former St. Francis Xavier star and current NASL Ottawa Fury pro Jamar Dixon, who has played for Canada and earned three caps. Dew is hoping for some more of that East Coast to West Coast U Sports magic from Heath.
Other 2017 Highlanders signees will help on the back end. Defender Sho Goto from Japan, a 28-year-old former J-League Second Division and Latvian league pro, is studying English at UVic and helped lead Vic West into the upcoming Province Cup during the VISL season.
“Sho Goto is trying to reignite his career to move up the ladder again to pro in the USL or NASL with maybe even an eye on the MLS,” said Dew.
Another Vic West player, Ryan McCurdy, has also been signed by the Highlanders.
Dew has also completed his goalkeeping tandem by inking Reynolds Secondary graduate Simon Norgrove from the University of Guelph Gryphons of U Sports and six-foot-three Japanese student Yuchiro Hayami from Iowa Western University, an all-tournament selection for the conference champion Reivers.
The PDL is a U-23 spring/summer league that allows eight over-agers per roster.
The Highlanders will hold an open trial on April 23.
The Highlanders will play in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference and open the 2017 season with five home dates, which are either Friday evenings or Sunday afternoons at Centennial Stadium.
The Highlanders commence the season May 14 against Lane United of Eugene, Oregon, followed by further home games against Seattle Sounders U-23 on May 26, Calgary Foothills on June 2 and June 4 and Portland Timbers U-23 on June 18.