BY CASSIDY DANKOCHIK
There will be a new face on the sidelines at Red River College soccer games starting Sept. 10, as Charles Mrena takes over coaching the men’s team.
Mrena brings a high level of coaching experience to the team. He has led the Bonivital Premier Division team in the Manitoba Major Soccer League and spent time coaching in England.
“The difference between North American soccer and Europe is the professionalism,” said Mrena before a pre-season game.
“That carries into the way the players train, that carries into the way the games are officiated. As a result, there’s an expectation for coaching to be at a better level, because people want results,” said Mrena.
Mrena said he will look to instill that respect and professionalism into the Rebels in 2017, making conduct a priority.
Red River College finished undefeated in the regular season in 2016, but lost in the playoffs.
Eight players return from that squad, hungry to take that last step. Mrena knows how to instill the right attitude into his players. He’s coached teams to sportsmanship awards and league titles in the same season.
“It’s a reflection of the coaching attitude,” said Mrena. “If you permit players to be abusive, if you look the other way when they’re being disrespectful, that’s a choice a coaching staff has made.”
The eight returning players should help Mrena deal with the challenges of collegiate athletics — according to Mrena, RRC faces a unique problem — the teams don’t know who will be playing before the season starts.
“We really don’t know who is going to come out until the last week of August,” said Mrena. “Compared to the universities, they know who their students will be and they have access to them months before we do.”
Mrena won’t be coaching alone, as Anderson Pereira makes the jump from the pitch to the sidelines, finishing his three-year collegiate soccer career for Red River College in 2016. Pereira explained the coaching staff is starting from scratch to build the squad.
“It’s hard to have a philosophy for a team before you know the players,” said Pereira. “We are even trying players in new positions.”
The Rebels men open their season on Sept. 10. They take on the Canadian Mennonite University Blazers at 8:15 p.m. at the Winnipeg Soccer Complex. Fans will get a chance to see the team on their home field on Sept. 17, as the Université de Saint-Boniface Rouges visit for a matchup on the Norm Konowalchuk fields at 2:00 p.m.