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Old Posted May 12, 2010, 5:45 PM
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Hamilton Croatia FC

Set to tackle CSL season
Hamilton Croatia new to league

Larry Moko
The Hamilton Spectator
(May 12, 2010)

Hamilton's newest semi-professional team is making final preparations for its debut in the Canadian Soccer League.

Hamilton Croatia, which practised at Burlington Central Park last night, will open the regular season Saturday at 6 p.m. at Toronto's Lamport Stadium against the TFC Academy.

It's been five years since soccer fans have been able to support a Hamilton pro team. The Thunder was a member of the Canadian Professional Soccer League before it ran into financial difficulties and had its franchise revoked.

Enter Hamilton Croatia. Its 12 home games will be played at Brian Timmis Stadium, beginning May 28 at 9 p.m. against the York Region Shooters. Other entries in the 13-team league include the Brampton Lions, Brantford Galaxy, London City, Milltown (Milton) FC, Montreal Impact Academy, North York Astros, Portugal FC, Serbian White Eagles, St. Catharines Wolves, and Toronto Croatia.

"We're looking good," said Hamilton Croatia head coach Ronnie Davidson. "The guys are fit and we had a good preseason. We'll be competitive in the CSL for sure."

Davidson said HC went undefeated in seven exhibition games, including three against CSL rivals. In 2009, Hamilton Croatia captured The Spectator Cup and enjoyed great success in the Ontario Soccer League's Provincial division.

"Our target is to make the playoffs. For us to be successful we'll have to get experienced players and the guys on the team will have to be dedicated."

A recent international addition to the lineup is Ivan Razumovic, 24, who comes from the Croatian Third Division pro side, NK Belisce. Said Davidson: "He's an excellent defender. He reads the game well, is very composed on the field and is a smart passer of the ball."

The Hamilton squad will also feature the brother combination of midfielders Rhian and Jamie Dodds.

"Rhian is going to bring a wealth of experience, having played for the Canadian national team and seven years with Kilmarnock of the Scottish Premier League."

Younger brother Jamie has pro experience, too -- with Toronto Lynx of the USL First Division. He's a four-year Croatia -club veteran.

Other key players for Croatia are defensive stalwart Antonio Zupan, goalkeeper Cameron McKay (returning from a stint with Cowdenbeath in Scotland), and a promising pair of Hamilton newcomers from Hamilton, Adam Leggett and fullback Sandro Rajkovic.

Striker Said Ali, who led the team in pre-season scoring with five goals, comes over from the rival Hamilton Serbians. Also on the roster are Alvin Hudson, Tomislav Bilic, Niko Jelicic, Andrew Saulez, Ivan Grubisic, Jason Crnic, Silvano Rajkovic, Dan Jirta, Daniel Niksic, Kostas Dekaneas, Jerko Grubisic and Jason Shannon.

"Everybody over the years kind of knows how I play," Davidson said of his coaching style. "I play a high possession and high pressure game. And there is a lot of movement."

Admission to games is $15. A season pass is $80; a family pass, $110.

Allan Perin, Hamilton Croatia's vice-president, said: "As a club, we've been around for 53 years. This is a big step forward for us. But, also, we're looking to promote soccer in Hamilton, not just within our club."

Hamilton Croatia also has a CSL reserve team, coached by Anthony Giaitzis. For more details about the squads, call Perin at 289-880-2958.

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