With nine veterans in camp the RDC Kings have a solid nucleus heading into the Alberta Colleges Men’s Soccer League season.
But it’s one of the new faces who’s drawing the most attention.
Geng Thain, who played with the ACAC champion NAIT Ooks last season, gives the Kings a quality player in the midfield.
“He played in the national championships and automatically improves our team,” said Kings head coach Steve Fullarton. “He’s a defensive midfielder, who scored a few goals (four) as well.”
Thain, who is one of nine new players on the roster, left NAIT after last season and was looking for a program which suited him academically.
“He had several options, but we’re glad he came here,” added Fullarton, who has the majority of his key players from last season back.
The back end could be strong with all-star keeper Brad Hughes returning along with defender Greg Reddekopp.
“Greg will anchor the defence, but we expect a couple of the younger guys (Logan Grenier and Dillon Lehman) to fit in nicely,” added Fullarton, who also expects rookie Andrew Jevne of Sylvan Lake to step in on defence when he returns from ankle surgery.
“Andrew is working his way back and will be a big, big player for us.”
Striker Joe Ziebart returns after leading the Kings in scoring last season with six goals.
“We expect Joe to be one of our leaders up front. It’s his final season and he’s working hard and looking to have a good season.”
Hayden Slaymaker and Haydn McLean, both out of the Lindsay Thurber program, are expected to give Ziebart some needed help at striker.
“They’re both young and I expect they’ll learn from Joe,” said Fullarton, who also has Dallas Hughes, Connor Kiddey, Gurjit Sandhu, Tor Seitinger and Patrick Sweiger returning.
The majority of the newcomers are from Red Deer with Tye Doll from Calgary and Grenier from Olds.
Midfielder Malcom Martinez of Red Deer should step in as a starter after playing with Calgary Southwest during the summer.
Other rookies are Cale Jacobs and red shirts Colton Alexander, who has a knee injury, and Kamal Jamaluddin.
The Kings finished fourth in the ACAC’s South Division last season, missing the playoffs by one point. Fullarton feels this year’s squad has more depth.
“No disrespect to last year’s team, but I feel we’re definitely stronger,” he said.
Just how much better will be seen this weekend as they open ACAC play at Medicine Hat Saturday and Lethbridge Sunday.
“I don’t mind starting on the road, but there won’t be any easy matches. Both Medicine Hat and Lethbridge are improving.”
What Fullarton does want to see is a better home record.
“We didn’t perform at home last year. It’s something we have to address as it cost us a chance to make the playoffs.”
RDC opens at home Sept. 17 against SAIT.