The Queen’s Gaels soccer team no longer plays at the highest level in Kingston. That title now lies with Kingston Football Club (Kingston FC), which competes in the Canadian Soccer League (CSL) against teams from across Ontario, as well as Montreal.
Management operates out of the nation’s capital, and the team practices there.
“I understand it’s not ideal for the Kingston community or for me,” said former Gaels midfielder Jordan Brooks, who’s currently completing his master’s in biology at Queen’s and training with the team year-round. “I know it makes sense from a team and management perspective. I’m fine with it.”
It’s abnormal for any pro soccer team to practice two hours away from its home stadium, but Kingston FC is different.
Club president and head coach Jimmy Hamrouni coached Ottawa’s Prospect FC from 2010 to 2011. Both Prospect FC and Ottawa’s Capital City FC, a first-division CSL team, folded in 2011.
Without an Ottawa team, Kingston was the next-best market in Eastern Ontario. The construction of the Invista Centre’s artificial turf field coincided with Kingston FC’s arrival.
Many players from Ottawa’s former teams lined up for Kingston FC, which fields a team in both CSL divisions.
The club operates out of Ottawa under Hamrouni, due to his previous experience in the league. Nearly all of the club’s players are from the Ottawa-Gatineau region. Only a small handful — led by Brooks — are not.
After completing his fifth season as a Gael, Brooks signed a pro contract with Kingston FC two weeks ago.
“At the moment I’m the only [Kingston native] on this team, but I think in the next few weeks that could easily change,” Brooks said.
Two players from Gananoque and two from Belleville are currently on the reserve team. With Brooks, they travel a long distance for practices — costs which are covered by the club.
While the club may attract more players from across Eastern Ontario, the supporters will largely hail from Kingston. There were 700 fans at the home opener to witness a 4-2 loss to Toronto FC’s Academy. The following Saturday, 500 fans watched the team earn their first point in a 1-1 tie with the York Region Shooters.
“The level of play is the third highest in Canada, behind the NASL and MLS, so this team’s still just improving,” Brooks said, adding the quality of play between the OUA and CSL is difficult to compare because it’s a different style of soccer.
“[The OUA]’s not a technical league — it’s a physical, athletic one, not often pretty to watch,” he said.
Chairman of the club Lorne Abugov said the team has long-term plans in place.
“We’re looking to build this into more of a regional team, and affiliate ourselves with local clubs from all over,” Abugov said. “Across the region we’re building an informal soccer bridge.”
Abugov said expanding the region means there will be a greater quantity of higher-caliber players.
“It’s our objective absolutely to find as many players from the area as we can,” Abugov said.
Often referred to as a hockey city, Kingston’s soccer fans have thus far filled the bleachers at the Invista Centre.
Abugov said the team has performed well for these crowds, but there is still much work to be done.
Kingston FC won its first game last Sunday over Brampton City United, after suffering from a three game losing streak.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, so you know it takes time.”
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